Owner Mark Kirby told me:
Topper’s Mountain is in northern NSW in a region known as the New England Tablelands which was recently granted a wine GI “New England Australia”. Being so close to the equator in viticultural terms at 29degS, the cool climate we experience is a result of altitude – the vineyard is at 900m above sea level. Being this far north in eastern Australia means our climate has summer dominated rainfall – we receive about 500-600mm in the growing season. This makes thin skinned, tight bunched varieties such as Pinot noir & Sauvignon blanc a bit of a challenge for us. This was the genesis of my selection of Pinotage – it has looser bunches and much thicker & tougher skins than Pinot noir (leading to less split from rain & fewer berries being popped off the rachis), but retains a lot of Pinot noir’s elegance & complexity.
I originally planted ~ 200 vines (1 row in our “Fruit Salad” experimental block or 0.1Ha) in 2003. Up until 2008 vintage we were using the Pinotage in various red blends. In 2009 our winemaker Mike Hayes and I decided to have a look at the Pinotage as a standalone variety and the initial results have been very encouraging; 91 points from James Halliday, a silver and a high bronze medal. On the strength of this potential I grafted another row over to Pinotage two months ago.
In the winery Pinotage doesn’t get much special attention other than extra effort to extract colour as it is like Pinot noir & Nebbiolo in that it can produce pale wines if you’re not careful.
It is a co-fermented wild ferment with less than 15% Viognier. We do wild ferment for the first 4-6 baume of all our wines & for the Pinotage Viognier & straight Viognier, we let the wild ferment go all the way. We did the co-ferment because Mike is of the belief that this is done a bit in South Africa with high end Pinotage to fill out the mid palate.