Monday, 26 December 2011

Pinot in all shades

I met Steve Farquharson, one of the owners of Central Otago’s Wooing Tree Vineyard in Hong Kong and found out we have a mutual friend who is running Adega do Cantor in the Algave. Pursuing the lead, we discovered that we both studied at Plumpton College. He graduated in 2003, a few months before I joined. What a small world.

Wooing Tree is a dream comes true. Steve and his wife Thea, sister Jane and husband Geoff were all IT professionals in the UK. They wanted to move back home to Otago, but doing something completely different, hence wine. They bought the land for Wooing Tree in 2002 and Steve, with no experience in wine apart from drinking, enrolled at Plumpton for the two years viticulture/winemaking course. Their first wine, Pinot Noir 2005, won the Open Red Wine Trophy at the 2006 Air New Zealand Award. Since then, their wines have won numerous medals and trophies in both national and international wine competitions, including the Best Pinot Noir in the 2009 Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition (HKIWSC), and Best Wine with Peking Duck in the 2011 HKIWSC.

Initially they planted only Pinot Noir, but this did not deter Wooing Tree from making a white wine called Blondie, made from 100% Pinot Noir (the grapes are pressed with minimum skin contact therefore the wine does not pick up the red colour from the skin), that won the Innovation Trophy in the 2008 Wine New Zealand trade show. A Pinot Noir Rose was soon to follow and the latest in the Pinot line up is Tickled Pink, a pink dessert Pinot Noir. Their three red Pinots are the easy drinking Beetle Juice, Wooing Tree Pinot Noir and Sandstorm Reserve. I asked Steve if there is a Pinot bubbly in the pipeline to complete the line, but he did not elaborate. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see one in a few vintages time. Right now, Wooing Tree also makes a Chardonnay and a Pinot Gris, though only a few hundred cases of each.

Central Otago wine is renowned for its fruit concentration and it shows in Wooing Tree. Both the Blondie and the Rose have about 4-5g/l residual sugar but taste sweeter because of their fruitiness. Both wines are refreshing with a good balance of acidity. I particular like the Rose for its structure, and I am convinced that it would win a medal for Best Wine with Dim Sum. The trophy winning Wooing Tree Pinot Noir is complex with a perfect oak integration. Its silky tannin matches well with the texture of Peking duck and the ripe fruit aromas stand up well to the sweet hoisin sauce.

No doubt Chris Foss, the leader of Plumpton’s Wine Department, is proud of Steve’s, and indeed other Plumpton students’ achievements. People sometimes laugh when I tell them I studied winemaking in England but we Plumptonians are making wine in every corner of the world from New Zealand, South Africa and Canada to Greece, Portugal, France and of course England. After talking to Steve and looking through the beautiful pictures of Wooing Tree, I am very tempted to just do the same.

Wooing Tree wine is available from At Style Wine.

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