Spotlight on New Zealand: Sacred Hill Rifleman’s Chardonnay 2007
Hawke’s Bay is hot, for New Zealand – and that’s an important stipulation. On international standards Hawke’s Bay is at the climatic edge of ripening late season varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, Hawke’s Bay doesn’t get quite as warm a growing season as Bordeaux and as such the Bordeaux Blends that initially made Hawke’s Bay famous often have trouble ripening.
Just as in B.C., merlot plantings do far better here. But, it is mid-season ripening varieties such as Syrah and Chardonnay that seem to do best. And this wine is a perfect example of the quality that is possible with the right grape choice.
Soils in Hawke’s Bay are mostly alluvial, though there is a fair degree of variation within that category, ranging from silts to loam and gravel. This variation means that a vineyard manager must know his or her site very well in order to appreciate the unique ripening trajectory and flavour profiles created by the variations. This, luckily, means exciting diversity for consumers.
A Bit About the Winery
Sacred Hill was founded about 25 years ago by two brothers, David and Mark Mason. These two inherited the family farm from their father and travelled abroad studying in Bordeaux and Australia. As with many New Zealand wineries, Sacred Hill puts considerable effort into reducing their environmental footprint.
The grapes in this Chard were hand picked and whole cluster pressed, then fermented with indigenous yeasts and left to age for 12 months in oak barriques.
The Rifleman Vineyard is on a river plateau with volcanic soils overlaying limestone bedrock.
Voluptuous and Compelling Chardonnay
This is wonderfully cascading chardonnay with many layers of complexity. Pouring a pale straw in the glass, this tropically rich wine is yet lifted and enticing the more you sniff. Once proceeding to the first sip you will discover classically Burgundian acacia flowers, honey and hazlenut along with a seem of acid and mineral that seems to elude most New World Chardonnays – but this is not Cote d’Or. Rather, balance and freshness brings out fruit of a distinctly kiwi character – richer and more voluptuous than most Burgundy, even if also less sculpted and svelte. This by no means makes the wine any less delicious. This wine is an outstanding achievement and one that makes me pretty excited about the potential for New Zealand Chardonnay.
$50 at Everything Wine