Monday, 30 September 2019

Millton, not your typical kiwi wine

At the #DrinkChenin Day a few months ago, there was an impressive Chenin Blanc from Gisborne, New Zealand. Therefore, when I knew the owner of the winery, Annie Millton, would be in town to present the wine, I jumped to the chance.

Located in Gisborne on the eastern coast of North Island, Millton Vineyards was established by James and Annie Millton in 1984 after their stint in France and Germany. They started by replanting most of Annie’s father vineyards and practised organic farming. Just after two years, the Milltons turned to biodynamic viticulture in 1986, the first vineyard in New Zealand to do so. Their winemaking philosophy is ‘Grown not made’.

New Zealand wine is mostly single varietal or Bordeaux blend and that 98.6% of the total vineyard area (36,680 ha) is made up of 11 varieties. Gisborne is the most diversified region with the most ‘other varieties’ planted (159 ha of 1,180 ha, equivalent to 13.5%). This is reflected in Millton Vineyards where over 10 varieties are cultivated.

There are only 22 ha of Chenin Blanc in New Zealand. Millton Te Arai Chenin Blanc 2016 was fermented and matured in old 600l barrels. It has pleasant aromas of citrus and white fruits supported by fresh acidity. Clos de Ste Anne Naboth’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, its flagship wine, is elegant with multi-layered flavours.

The intriguing wine at the tasting was the Libiamo Field Blend 2017, a blend of Viognier, Marsanne and Muscat fermented and aged on skin for a whopping 200 days! The wine is slightly cloudy but it has fresh fruit and herbal aromas. I love the structure and texture on palate. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it has character and is definitely a clean, well-made natural wine. Apparently the Libiamo blend is different every year. The 2018 vintage was a blend of Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Muscat with only 48 days of skin contact.

Millton’s Chenin Blanc may make one associates it with South Africa but I think it is its Libiamo that carries the South African winemaking creativity. James and Annie also make a Libiamo Amphora Chenin Blanc and Crazy by Nature white and red blends but these wines are not available in Hong Kong yet.

The winery stands out from the other New Zealand wine producers and shows to wine lovers that New Zealand is more than the mainstream wines. I hope we can see more diverse New Zealand wine like Millton’s in the market.

Millton Vineyards is represented by wine’n’things in Hong Kong.

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