18 December 2008

Kari Kari Estate _New Zealand's Most Northerly Pinotage

KariKari Estate is New Zealand’s most northerly. Located at the tip of the Kari Kari Peninsula the winery offers views over its vineyards to the sweep of the Pacific Ocean below breaking on a long white sand beach. Planting started with ten acres in 1998 when the land was purchased by US financier Paul Kelley. The property also contains a beef farm, golf course and villa accommodation at Carrington Resort. A further ten acres of vines has since been planted including Pinotage.

Winemaker Ben Dugdale said “at the end of this peninsula we are effectively island 21 kilometres from shore and have own weather usually missing the storms we can see back there on the mainland. Winds come straight across the sea and we’ve now planted windbreaks. Salt spray can be a problem – its our equivalent of frost damage and if salt gets on the tips or young flowers it burns them just like frost does.

Ben had lined up all of KariKari’s Pinotages.


This was the first Pinotage vintage at KariKari and just three barrels were made. It is soft and warm with gentle cherry flavours and some acid and tannins on the finish. No rough edges, pleasant mature light red wine, not noticeably Pinotage.


This was made by Ben’s predecessor Kim Crawford and was the first vintage from the young Pinotage vines. Mid red colour, dry, light bodied with some dry tannins on the finish from American oakand reminded me of a ‘luncheon claret’. It’s a pretty wine.


Ben’s first vintage at KariKari has a denser colour than the previous and a more complex nose. There’s dark cherry flavours and a dry finish. It’s a delightful wine. Ben said he used French oak for maturation but he during fermentation he bled off a little of the juice which he put in a heavy toasted American oak barrel to finish its fermentation before blending back with the rest. “It gives quite a blast, I wanted to see what happened,” he said. “But I felt it detracted a bit from where I wanted the fruit to go, so I didn’t repeat the experiment.” The previous two had screwcaps but Ben converted to Diam technical corks from this vintage. “I prefer them for aging reds,” he said


Dark garnet, Pinotage nose, good balance with restrained berry fruits, a touch of mocha and tang of soft grained tannins on finish. “I didn’t use any fining agents on this, but I removed some acids. It is still quite tight and needs some years,” says Ben.


This was a tank sample, it is due to be bottled in January ‘09. Good colour interesting nose offers coffee and coconut. There is some serious sweet fruits, it is plumy and spicy with black pepper and tannins kicking in on the black palate. “The key difference with this,” said Ben, “is that we got two and a half times as much fruit in 2007 than before. I was going to remove fruit but the vines were fine, not stressed or unbalanced.” Ben used a little egg white fining to remove some tannins.


This was a barrel sample. It had a most unusual and attractive nose like a scented honey. “Manuka honey,” said Ben and he went to the winery restaurant and returned with a pot of Manuka honey. Manuka is a local bush with white and pale mauve flowers and honey produced from them is prized and is a potent antiseptic. Kari Kari’s Pinotage vineyard is bordered on two sides with Manuka hedges which were in flower when we went to it.

There’s lots of sweet red berry fruits on the palate, some lavender and tannins. This wine has more ‘oomph’ and it is more intense than earlier vintages and it’s pretty amazing. “I think this would be perfect with smoked snapper with a dribble of Manuka honey,” Ben said.

Ben let this vintage ferment naturally using wild yeasts. “With wild yeasts we’re getting closer to a sense of place and I think it’s worth cracking on with it,” Ben told me. He will take it out of barrel in February ’09.

Ben is pleased with Pinotage, “to my mind it has a good future …. but it needs a PR campaign.” He has not tasted many South African Pinotages and would like to put up his Pinotage against the South African’s in the Top 10 competition where he thinks it has a good chance.

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