NZ’s Luna Estate shrugs off cyclone-hit vintage

Reeling from the two devastating cyclones that hit New Zealand April during the April harvest, Pinot Noir specialist, Luna Estate, is nonetheless revelling in the quality of the vintage.

Luna Estate’s ‘Eclipse’ Range consisting of a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay, while its ‘Blue Rock’ range includes a Pinot and a Syrah

“The wines are tasting well with plenty of bright fruit and soft tannins. Very pleased with the results,” commented Joel Watson, winemaker of the boutique Martinborough winery, where Pinot Noir takes up 85% of its wine production.

Luna Estate makes two tiers of wines – its entry-level Estate range, a blend of different vineyards from its winery, and its more premium, single-vineyard collections of ‘Blue Rock’ and ‘Eclipse’.

The two cyclones that came roughly a week apart did adversely affected the harvest for many producers including Cloudy Bay, but preemptive measures such as vigorous de-leafing helped buffer impacts of an usually “cooler and wetter” vintage, according to Watson.

“In fact the whole of the growing season was cooler and wetter than usual, but you are also correct; we felt the impact of not one but two tropical cyclones in April. Most unusual! I took the decision well before harvest to aggressively de-leaf and thin out green fruit in order to obtain maximum sun exposure on fewer bunches,” he explained when interviewed by dbHK.

“This also helped manage disease pressure. Because of this our vineyards ripened earlier than usual and I was able to harvest 90% of the grapes before the first major rain. The rest came in just before the second and larger rain event,” he continued.

Its ‘Eclipse’ Pinot Noir made from 14 hectares of vineyards in the Martinborough terrace shows what Watson called “a masculine style”, thanks to its powerful structure, intense flavours and dried herb notes.

Its ‘Blue Rock’ range made from vines first planted in 1986 produces a more feminine style, the winemaker said, calling the ‘Blue Rock’ Pinot the Yin of Eclipse’s Yang.

Expanding on its more elegant nature, Watson explained: “The ’Blue Rock’ vineyard is located 11 kilometres south of the village of Martinborough. Unique in the region as it is a north facing hillside site planted over deep silty clay loam. The vineyard is frost free and is warmer than ‘Eclipse’. Pinot Noir from this site is elegant, intensely perfumed and silky. More feminine in style.”

Luna Estate’s Estate range

Although Martinbourough has established itself as a premier Pinot producing region, winemakers in most years still face occasional problems with ripeness, Watson noted, though not concentration.

“Martinborough experiences consistently high winds during the growing and ripening season. These winds reduce yields, which can have an economic impact, but these winds also concentrate flavours, delivering intensity,” he explained.

“The climate is cool and the growing season is very long, meaning an autumn harvest can turn bad when the weather is challenging. However, this long growing season enables grapes to ripen evenly, bringing acidity, tannins and flavours into harmony,” he stated.

In addition to Pinot, the winery also makes a Chardonnay for its ‘Eclipse’ range, a Syrah for its ‘Blue Rock’ range in addition to a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Meunier rosé, a Pinot Gris, and a Riesling for the Estate range.

Its wines are currently exported to Sweden, Japan and China. “Once we establish ourselves within Asia Pacific, we can then look further afield in traditionally strong New Zealand markets such as the US, UK, Canada and Western Europe,” said Rick Lindsay, who is in charge of the winery’s sales and marketing.

Having established a strong base in northern, central and eastern parts of China, thanks to its trading import business based in Xi’an called the Xi’an International Trading Co. Ltd, Lindsay revealed the next target for its China expansion would be southern region including Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macau.

The winery will be exhibiting at next week’s Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair at booth 3G-F14.

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