26 February 2015

House of Ball joins the Pinotage Family

While in New Zealand I heard a whisper of an estate called House of Ball growing Pinotage to use in blends, but found their  website showed they also made a 100% Pinotage. 

House of Ball is in the Waipara Valley north of Christchurch. As we were spending our last few days in Christchurch before flying home, and our route south from the Marlborough wine region would take us close-by, we decided to pay a visit. 

Armed with the address and Google maps we easily found their road leading out of Waipara, but after a while the tarmac ended and we were on dirt and gravel. Then the road divided – we took the one that was slightly larger and continued up the side of the valley. There were no signs and the road got narrower, then it divided again. We could see no sign of vines or building and so I called their number but got an answerphone. So we found a place to turn and headed onto Christchurch.

From our hotel I emailed the winery asking if I could buy a bottle of their Pinotage and have it couriered to our hotel before we departed. “Yes,” came the answer and, even better, owners Lynda and Julian Ball would deliver the wine personally.
Lynda and Julian Ball
The Balls run a boutique B&B alongside their vineyard and guests receive detailed  instructions on how to find the property, and they’re not open to casual visitors, which is why there were no signs but it turned out that we were quite close.

The estate covers 80 acres with two acres planted from 2004 with small quantities of seven different varieties. Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Pinotage, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay & Tempranillo.  There are 350 Pinotage vines out of a total of 3,000.
House of Ball Pinotage Vines
“So why Pinotage?” I asked. Because Lynda had previously worked as Vineyard Manager for Muddy Water on the opposite side of the valley where she cared for their Pinotage block planted in 1993.

Lynda and Julian do all the work in the vineyard and winery themselves. “We make wine in our garage the old fashioned way and we don’t like to get into science,” says Lynda. “We let grapes get to around 26 Brix, start picking at dawn and stop at 10am before it gets too hot. We take off stalks, let grapes sit cold for a week then we stomp them with our feet and put in a large plastic fermenter. We let it sit for a week after fermenting then age in a new French oak barrel for eight months. We make Pinotage like Pinot Noir.”
Pinotage vines at House of Ball
Lynda and Julian brought a bottle of 2011 Pinotage. There was no 2012 as they’d not been travelling in Europe. “2013 crop was made as a rosé (“Rosé is very popular”) as was 2014 (“There was too much rain”)

House of Ball 2011 Pinotage was one of a handful of wines I carried home to England.

This Pinotage is clear bright red, with an attractive nose and clean berry fruit flavours of plum and blackberry with a good finish. A really nice drinkable wine whose 14.5% abv is not obvious. House of Ball is a most welcome addition to the Pinotage family.

House of Ball   
Pinotage 2011
14.5% abv
NZD$35.00 at the cellar door

Photograph of Lynda & Julian Ball by Peter F May. All other images copyright  of House of Ball. Used with permission.

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