Delta Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007
This wine has deep colour with lifted pinot noir aromatic characters. It has intense cherry aromas and lifted notes of violet. There are also underlying hints of rich savoury toasty oak characters. The palate has a silky start and a grainy, mineral-rich finish. It is juicy, but focussed.
The Delta Farm, first established in 1848, was purchased in 2000 by four partners. Winemaker Matt Thomson and London-based Master of Wine David Gleave are two of the partners. “The aim is to plant and work only with Pinot Noir, and to make the very best expression possible of Pinot from Marlborough,” explains Matt. With this in mind, Matt looked for a site on the low vigour clay soils to the south of the valley. ‘In the past, much Pinot was planted beside Sauvignon Blanc on the high vigour loam soils closer to the river,” explains Matt, one of the region’s busiest consultants. “This soil is ideal for Sauvignon, but not for Pinot.” His search drew him to the Delta site, where the vineyard was planted, using the best of the new Dijon clones, in 2002 and 2003.
VINEYARD & VINTAGE
The Delta Vineyard has 30 hectares of Pinot Noir. It is situated on the West Coast Highway in Marlborough in New Zealand’s South Island. About 25% of the vineyard is on the ‘flats’ while 75% is on the hills that rise to about 175 metres. The Delta Vineyard Pinot is made from the fruit grown on the 'flats', given extra depth by fruit from the hills. The Delta label comprises about two thirds of our production, with Hatter’s Hill making up the remaining third. Vertical shoot positioning is used to give the vines’ canopy the sunlight it needs, and to give the grapes the degree of exposure they require to ripen. The clay soil, combined with the elevation of the vineyard and the factors that make Marlborough such a successful viticultural region - warm days, the excellent quality of the light, cool nights and a constant breeze - makes this site ideal for the production of top quality Pinot Noir.
The 2008 season saw idyllic conditions for flowering which led to an excellent fruit set. The majority of the season was very dry, with warm days and cool nights, but later in the season there was some wet weather. Due to meticulous attention to the vineyard to reduce yield, and harvesting in the first half of the season, this fruit was picked in optimum condition, which is apparent in the concentration of fruit,and delicate aromatics of this wine.
A mixture of machine harvested and hand-picked fruit was destemmed (98%), but not crushed, into 4-8 tonne open-top fermenters. Open tops were used to reduce the amount of alcohol in the resulting wines, which in turn helped to improved balance, eliminating the hot, spirity characters of many new world Pinot Noirs. After a 4 day cold-soak to stabilise the colour, fermentation took place at temperatures of up to 34°C, with frequent gentle hand-plunging. Most of the tanks were pressed at dryness though about 20% of the tanks were left on skins for another week before pressing to stabilise the colour and to improve the structure.
After settling to remove solids, the wine was racked to French oak barrels (33%) and stainless steel tanks for malolactic fermentation and ageing on light yeast lees. The wine was then blended and bottled after eight months of ageing.
Matt Thomson - Winemaker
Matt has been making wine in Marlborough since 1993, after graduating with a Master’s degree in Biochemistry (yeast technology) from the University of Otago.
He is consultant winemaker to wineries including Saint Clair, Mudhouse, Lake Chalice, and Cape Campbell, all of whose wines have consistently won awards and trophies in recent years. Matt also makes wine in Italy every year, where he works in Verona, Friuli and Piemonte.
MATT THOMSON WINEMAKER OF THE YEAR
Matt Thomson, the co-owner and winemaker of Delta Wines, has won the highly coveted White Wine Maker of the Year at the 2008 International Wine Challenge awards in London. The International Wine Challenge judges almost 10,000 wines a year, so the competition for this award is particularly fierce. In order to be shortlisted for the award, all the wines entered need to do consistently well in the Challenge. The 2007 Delta Sauvignon Blanc won a gold medal in this competition, so was a key part of Matt’s success.
As well as being co-owner of Delta, Matt is also a consultant winemaker to others in Marlborough (including Saint Clair), and in Italy and France.
Julia Harding MW at www.JancisRobinson.com on Delta Wines
Having had more than my fair share of tasting Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and Chile in the last few weeks, I was delighted to come across this New Zealand Sauvignon that caught my attention – not for its extreme pungency but for a very attractive combination of distinctive, top-quality, ripe Marlborough fruit and a gentle subtlety that almost hid an underlying minerality and elegant persistence.
Delta Wines is a joint venture between Kiwi winemaker Matt Thomson and David Gleave MW, MD of Liberty Wines in London. Although Liberty now has a much wider portfolio, they began life as Italian specialists and it was in Italy that Matt and David met when Matt was working a vintage there in 1994. Matt is consultant winemaker to other top Marlborough wineries such as Saint Clair and Mudhouse, and he continues to make wine in Verona, Friuli and Piemonte.
Delta’s first wines – both Pinot Noir – were released in 2004, and this is only the second vintage of the Sauvignon. It comes from a single 25-acre vineyard in Dillon’s Point, just west of Blenheim, owned by Matt’s wife Sheena and planted with two different Sauvignon clones (for clone buffs: the quite widely planted BDX 317 and the Sancerre-derived CI1). Matt believes that the combination of the heavier soils and proximity to the sea creates one of the best locations for Sauvignon in New Zealand.
Some Sauvignon growers harvest at different times to obtain a range of flavours – grassy capsicum aromas due to the methoxypyrazines from the early picked fruit and the riper gooseberry, blackcurrant and stone fruit aromas due to the thiols from the fully ripe fruit. Matt prefers to pick all the grapes in a single phase and avoid those greener flavours, but the cooler nights of this subregion and the mineral-rich, well-drained soils ensure freshness and subtlety without the use of underripe fruit, and allow him to keep to moderate alcohol levels of less than 13%. The winemaking is straightforward but carefully controlled – as little skin contact as possible to avoid any phenolic flavour or grainy texture and cool, quite slow fermentation.
The result is a wine that’s distinctively Marlborough in origin, with plenty of lovely ripe citrus and restrained yet pure gooseberry and ripe green fig flavours, very fresh acidity but not an iota of harshness or over-intensity and a silky gliding texture. It’s long and more elegant than most New Zealand Sauvignons I have come across. A wine I want to drink not just taste.
Delta’s small but perfectly formed range includes a straight Marlborough Pinot Noir and the superior Hatters Hill Pinot Noir (£13.99 in the UK). All the Pinot fruit comes from the clay soils of Delta’s own vineyard just west of Blenheim, and Hatters is a selection of the best fruit from the hill blocks, further selected at blending. Low yields, hand picking and the inclusion of 10 per cent of stems and whole berries contribute to the structure. Matt is particularly keen on hand-plunging the open –top fermenters. 75% of the wine is aged for 11 months in French oak, including 45 per cent new barrels.
The emphasis is on purity and freshness of fruit – which explains his hawk-like attention when it comes to avoiding Brettanomyces (a common spoilage yeast, properly known as Dekkera, which can give very pungent stable or bandaid off-flavours or simply dampen the expressiveness of the fruit with spicy peppery notes that are often mistaken for oak influence). Brett is particularly damaging to aromatic varieties such as Pinot and Nebbiolo, though this is a whole other subject, and a topic of continued and heated debate in the wine trade, since in some circumstances and with some varieties, a little bit of brett can add complexity.
The current 2005 Hatters Hill Pinot Noir is still pretty youthful and oaky aromas are noticeable but underneath this fine veneer of sweet oaky spice the red fruit character is very pure, aromatic and fine. Like the Sauvignon, it has clear varietal definition – delicate red fruits in this case – but it’s also subtle and elegant with a lingering aftertaste of cool, very fresh pure fruit. You can almost taste the New Zealand climate in this – sunny and clear but not too hot. It’s a pleasure to drink now but will be even better in a year or so.
Both wines are sealed under screwcap.
Quite a high extraction on the nose with dark cherry and plum with a touch of mulberry, the palate soft and supple with a plush finish tinged with white pepper.