A perfect chance last night to catch up the winemaker of the Pinot Noir that came top in the WineFolio Top 10 Tasting at the beginning of July – Austin Black from Terra Sancta. That wine was the Jackson’s Block 2018, and I’m here to see what’s been going on since I was at the vineyard in early 2020; but also to taste the other single block Pinot Noirs that are part of the family from the top-scoring wine. Their vineyard on Felton Road is one of the earliest vineyards of the region – read all about it here > www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=1228 and they produce a really wide range of wines, from classic Pinot Noir to quite serious Rose (where the fruit from their oldest vines is produced specifically for rose). We’re settled into La Fuente early evening to go through the wine but also to have a few tapas to tingle our tastebuds.
We start with a taste of the ‘Special Release’ First Vines rose, that is picked from the blocks that go into the single vineyard Pinots, just a little earlier and made in certain years. Dashingly dry, this is an elegant, structured rose, with a remarkable tension and purity. No flabby, sweet lolly water here. This would age wonderfully, and it’s already drinking beautifully as a mouth-watering aperitif. Speaking of which, they have their Apertivo Botanical with them, and I get to try it first as a little nip neat and then created into a ‘with tonic’ version that owner Mundo Ferrara creates with a little Prosecco, tonic, raspberry liquor. The Aperitivo has a spice and ‘bitters’ like note from the plants and berries infusion, with an intense aroma. I first tried this at the vineyard and it has a special sense of place in it’s DNA – as much so as any of the wines.
Shingle Beach Pinot Noir 2018 is from a densely-planted limestone block at Terra Sancta, and has a generous but elegant concentration to it. Vibrant, with a balance between acidity and tannin that gives a wonderful spine to the wine. Red fruits, spring flowers, provencal herbs. Wispy, flits across the palate into a silken, lightly spicy finish.
Jackson’s Block 2018 you can read about here > www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=3862 in the WineFolio Top Tasting report. “a vibrant, energetic wine” and it was instantly recognisable tonight, bringing back memories of the reaction when the panel tried it on the 7th July – just “wow”.
Slapjack Block 2018 is from the clay slopes that usually lend it a greater power and depth than it’s siblings. You’ve moved from red to black in the fruit spectrum now – black, almost sour cherry flavours backed up with plum, roasted spices. Savoury notes with umami, tapenade and black tea. Great harmony considering all that’s going on in this glass. The (rather unique) 2018 vintage does show this wine as a little lighter, and sleeker than usual – would I recognise it as a ‘normal’ Slapjack? The complexity would typically be up the levels on this top-tier wine, but tonight there’s not much between this and Jackson’s in terms of density, although the wines are still clearly defined in flavours and character.
We finish the tasting with The Italian – a confounding wine that is (beautifully) presented in a monolithic glass bottle, with cork and wax seal, and talks of multi-vintage solera-style winemaking. However, what’s inside the bottle emerges as a lighter style, playful and lively red wine – not what I’d expect from the presentation. Dolcetto and Barbera would be unusual plantings in a New Zealand vineyard, and along with a tricky-to-ripen variety like Lagrein, this makes for a collectors-piece of a wine. I like it. I’m not sure I’d have had it last, after the Pinots, since it’s a delicious, fresh and spritely wine. The fruit is pure and juicy, and there’s a lovely earthy spice to the finish.
Final mention must go to La Fuente, a perfectly-formed bar in the city, with some delicious and fabulous food – the ceviche was exceptional, and a mushroom and mole-sauced version of nachos a perfect match for the wines, alongside an exquisite plate of charcuterie. Look out for these wine tasting nights in the week for a gourmet mid-week sojourn in Auckland CBD.