Where did your last bottle of wine come from, and do you care?
Sorry, we’re not asking the name of your bottle shop but a few steps before that. Where were its roots? What was its place?
If it danced on your tongue and waltzed closely with the food does it matter where it was made?
There was no place like home
For centuries the great wines of the Old World were known by their home addresses.
Not by the grape variety or the owner; it was the name of the vineyard, hillside, village, castle or manor that was the identifier and guarantee of quality.
It was all about the soil and the elements that enhanced it: sun, rain, wind.
In the New World, with much less regulation and more gung-ho adventuring, different varieties of grapes grown hundreds of kilometres apart from unidentified vineyards are successfully blended. You may be enjoying a bloody good drink but that sense of place is no longer with you.
We’re all for grabbing pleasure where you can, gathered and blended from every corner, but we are also inspired by a single-minded enthusiast striding one parcel of land. A person with a desire to identify and master the local variables to produce wine as part of an ongoing story.
100% Estate Grown. 100% Estate Bottled. 100% Kiwi Bloke
Isabel Estate is in the Wairau Valley in the heart of the Marlborough region on the north coast of NZ’s South Island. One of the first planted in 1980 with chardonnay, then pinot noir in ’84 and sauvignon blanc in ’86. All within one tidy estate.
Jeremy McKenzie is the man whose feet pace this plot. He grew up a bit further south in Canterbury, completed his wine studies then took his passion and knowledge to wineries in France, Australia, Canada and the USA, then came back to multi-award winning wineries in New Zealand.
Now settled at Isabel Estate, apart from his family his passions include competing in Ironman events, hunting wild boar and diving for scallops crayfish and lobster. Oh, and making wine.
As he talks he often uses words like “sense of place”, “home” and “defined”. You can tell he likes precision in his wines. Although precision in a farming context must allow for what nature brings every season. Very rare to have one vintage identical to another.
You sometimes welcome Nature’s humour, sometimes you just allow for it, sometimes you correct for it, but always you want your wines to present the singularity of site.
This bottle celebrates Isabel Estate, nowhere else.
Jeremy understands past vintages, he knows what his followers expect and his work each year is to give them the wines they will recognise and appreciate.
Closer plantings than usual in Marlborough give him a sharper edge to work with.
Lets look at the wines
2017 Sauvignon Blanc
True Marlborough with lime and passionfruit, but also with a persistent minerality that lifts it. Youthfully exuberant but with a good depth that predicts it should “drink well down the track”.
2015 Wild Barrique Sauvignon Blanc
Handpicked. 100% barrel ferment. 40% new French oak. Yes, it’s SB but not as you’d know it. Rich and complex on the nose. Some earthiness, herbaceousness, almost savoury characters. A more serious food wine.
2017 Pinot GrisTML often prefers Marlborough pinot gris to many of its SBs. This Isabel Estate is a cracker. Lovely pure fruit. Apple and quince notes. Touch of residual sweetness but acid to balance. “Longer on lees helps it pick up complexity and richness.”
Multi-award winner including Air NZ Trophy for Champion Wine of Show. 30-year-old vines bring gravitas and sturdiness. 100% indigenous yeast ferment. A rich mouthful of swirling fruit. Like biting into a ripe peach.
2016 Wild Barrique Chardonnay
Another Gold and Trophy winner. 100% Mendoza clone matured in larger format oak barrels. Deep, serious earthy nose. A generous wine with less obvious primary fruit but a hugely rewarding mouthful. Layer on layer of flavours keeps coming.
2017 Pinot Noir Rosé
Voted #1 in Cuisine and Dish magazines. A delicate touch of strawberry sweetness but tingles of lemony freshness. “All the work done in the vineyard. Made like a white for poise and balance.”
Absolutely refreshing on its own but enough character to thrill with food.
2015 Pinot Noir
Tight cropping with just 1.2 kilos of fruit per vine leads to an intense aromatic nose of violets and cherries. Herbs and dark plums on the palate. “35% new French oak gives it a powerful backbone.” Elegant and fine, a wine for pinot lovers to cellar.
The Last Word
Not sure if Jeremy wrote this, but it’s on the website and I’m sure it matches his sentiments.
“Respect the soil where the grapes grow and allow the unique characters of each vineyard and variety to be expressed in the final wine.”