The Grapes

With our very southerly position on the globe, Shaky Bridge Wines focuses on cool climate grape varieties that thrive in the natural conditions of the Alexandra Basin. With a little help from some friends...

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a red skinned wine grape of the Vitis Vinifera species and is historically associated to France's Burgundy and Champagne regions.

Pinot Noir vines tend to perform better in drier, cooler winegrowing regions, enjoying shorter periods of hot temperatures. Central Otago is a brilliant locale for such conditions, creating expressive wines with distinct sub-region identities. Other regions where the vines and wines have gained top success include the Willamette Valley in Oregon, California's Carneros, Central Coast and Russian River AVAs and the Yarra Valley in Australia.

Pinot Noir can produce extremely high quality wine, but it is a difficult variety to cultivate. Tightly packed clusters make the variety prone to a number of viticultural hazards, requiring intensive labour to manage the canopy and control yields through such practices as bud rubbing and green thinning. Thinner skins of Pinot Noir grapes means they are more prone to splitting, potentially affecting quality. A lot of time, patience and care is required each vintage to successfully ripen and harvest a quality crop each year; "time is money" when it comes to Pinot Noir!

Clonal selection in Pinot Noir is an important step when planting new vineyards. Different clones of Pinot Noir inherently have different characters making them more suitable to one site than another. We have planted clones 5, 6, 115, 667 and 777, but continue to harvest fruit from the original rootstock of the 35 year old Home Block vines.

Useful Pinot Noir References

Wikipedia | New Zealand Winegrowers | Jancis Robinson, MW | Clones

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Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is a purple skinned wine grape of the Vitis Vinifera species and mutated cousin of Pinot Noir. While the grapes are used to produce white wine, the skin can vary in color from a grayish-blue to quite deep purple. The 'gris', French for gray, is testament to the different colours this grape chameleon can muster.

The colour of a wine is a function of the grapeskin, so Pinot Gris wines can be made in a variety of colours depending on the level of skin contact. Wines can be salmon copper in colour, lightly pink or brilliantly white.

Pinot Gris is known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, Malvoisie in France's Loire Valley but often called Tokay in Alsace. In Germany it is known as Rulander. Are you confused by this wine thing yet? No wonder! Let's just not worry about what they call this variety in Hungary! (Oh...Ok - Szurkebarat)

You would be right to assume that with all these names and myriad colour potentials, there are various styles of this wine on a global scale. You would be very correct! Alsace Pinot Gris is often a bit spicier and 'hotter' (higher alchohol) with lower acidity and an appealing oily texture that coats the mouth. New world regions such as Oregon and Central Otago are closely aligned with this style and the full bodied texture that results. Italian Pinot grigio is often lighter and crisper, taking advantage of higher acidity from earlier harvesting. Our flavours can range from nectarine, peach and apricot to tropical fruit flavours with citrus notes, combined with balanced acids and a wonderful minerally character derived from our schist bedrock, alluvial soils.

Useful Pinot Gris References

Wikipedia | New Zealand Winegrowers | Jancis Robinson, MW

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Gewürztraminer

Gewürztraminer is an aromatic pink, copper or even red coloured grape of the Vitis Vinifera species. The variety is descended from a green skinned grape known as Traminer, first seen in the north of Italy near the town of Tramin 1,000ish years ago.

At some point along the way, Traminer mutated in to the darker skinned variety, but an official name took a bit longer. It was not until 1973 when Alsace adopted the offical name of Gewürztraminer. Any translation book will tell you that 'gewürz' means spice in German and the characteristics of the variety certainly suggest this is a name well chosen; 'spices' can certainly be found in the aromatic profile of this wonderful grape.

Stylistically, and most certainly related to the naturally occuring high sugar content of the berries, Gewurz is often sweet and can be a bit much to sit down and enjoy a glass the way you might Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. This in itself has had the grape labelled 'second tier status' in terms of popularity on the international wine scene.

However! When you find 'the right' style (for us, that means off dry, beautifully aromatic and rich in ripe fruit with balanced acidity) and combine this with a finely prepared, complementary plate of food, there are few pairings that surpass the exotic, seductive flavors of well made Gewürztraminer.

Useful Gewürztraminer References

Wikipedia | New Zealand Winegrowers | Jancis Robinson, MW

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Chardonnay

Ahhh...Chardonnay...the grape that has coined such pop culture terms as 'ABC' (as in I'll drink Anything But Chardonnay) to being the white grape that can create some of the most delicious wines on the planet.

Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. For the most part there's no colour changes or pigment fascinations going on here. But it's a grape variety and pink-berried Chardonnay Rose has been observed. Chardonnay's origins are thought to be in Burgundy, though some would argue the true origin is middle eastern. And don't forget Champagne!

Chardonnay is a fairly neutral grape that is very open to exploitation. There are about as many ways to make Chardonnay as there are to prepare ground beef or mince. Single ferment in stainless steel, primary in stainless, secondary in barrel, age it on the less, age it off the less, use wild yeats, innoculate, big oak barrels, small oak barrels, malolactic or not. Unctuous is a term often used to describe the fat, creamy, oak filled styles of the wine that gained favour with wine drinkers in the 80s and 90s. It's exactly this style of wine that spawned the ABCers. Which is unfortunate, because you are missing out on one of the wine worlds true grape gems if you joined and maintained membership in that club!

The hallowed slopes of Chablis and the Cote de Beaune create stunningly beautiful wines from Chardonnay, while California has a long reputation of high quality wine from this grape as well. Remember Chateau Montelana and that French tasting a ways back? Here at Shaky Bridge we make our old world inspired Pont Tremblant in minute quantities and our fresh, zingy Pioneer Series Chardonnay - want to taste what Chardonnay tastes like?

Useful Chardonnay References

Wikipedia | New Zealand Winegrowers | Jancis Robinson, MW

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Riesling

The greatest of white grapes? The King? That depends on your perspective and preferences, but there are many who will attest to that fact that there is NO other white grape worthy of a seat above or beside Riesling.

Originating in Germany, Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling or White Riesling, has a plethora of synonyms; no doubt a direct correlation to the fact that it is grown in virtually every wine producing country in the world. A white grape variety, Riesling 'runs the gamut' of styles from bone dry, lean styles to mid-weight off dry wines and all the way to the brilliantly sweet, syrupy late harvest Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese styles. Ice wines are also often made from Riesling.

With such a breadth of styles, you can taste through a lot of Riesling to find your preference. Cool climate Rieslings can show orchard fruits such as pear and apple with firm acidity to balance out the natural sugars. Lime, lemon and a fusal character can often be found mingling with smoke and honey characters in Rieslings left to age. For aging is something that Rieslings can do better than just about any other white grape variety and aged Rieslings are an experience to add to that wish list of wine.

Useful Riesling References

Wikipedia | New Zealand Winegrowers | Jancis Robinson, MW

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