Palliser Estate has been a firm favourite of mine in the New Zealand wine scene for the past couple of years. I've had the privilege of sampling their wines at tasting events and have consistently been impressed by the top-notch quality and fantastic flavours they offer.
Palliser Estate is nestled in the heart of New Zealand's Martinborough wine region and is a renowned winery celebrated for its exceptional commitment to crafting fine wines. With a history dating back to 1984, Palliser Estate has consistently impressed wine enthusiasts with its high-quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and other varietals.
Notably, Palliser Estate is at the forefront of the organic winemaking movement, demonstrating a strong dedication to sustainable practices and producing wines that truly reflect the unique terroir of the region. With a passionate team led by winemaker and viticulturist Guy McMaster, Palliser Estate continues to produce wines that eloquently express the land and deliver a remarkable sense of place.
Recently, I had the honour of attending a vertical tasting of their single-vineyard 'Om Santi Chardonnay' from 2019 through to the current 2022 vintage, as well as their 'Hua Nui Pinot Noir' spanning the same vintages. This remarkable tasting event was organised by Palliser Estate and their national distribution partner, Negociants, and took place at Origine.
The informative and enjoyable presentation was led by Palliser Estate's winemaker and viticulturist, Guy McMaster.
In recent years, Palliser Estate has been making significant strides by transitioning its vineyards towards organic winemaking practices. In the next year, they plan to complete this transition, fully embracing the principles of organic viticulture.
"Transitioning to organic production is a non-negotiable step for us in crafting authentic wines that truly reflect the land and express a sense of place," Guy explained.
Om Santi Chardonnay:
Despite facing challenges such as early frost and poor flowering during the harvest, the production remained average. The grapes were harvested on the 12th of March. This vintage saw the use of 25% new oak, wild fermentation, no filtration, and fining. The result was a Chardonnay with a rich, deep, and heavier texture, complemented by spiciness from the oak. It exhibited a higher alcohol content and aged beautifully in just four years. With a luscious texture, and notes of butter, vanilla, hazelnut, and juicy citrus flavours, it was truly exceptional.
This year marked a promising early season, with even berry sizes and lower intensity, body, and a more pronounced oak nose compared to 2019. It focused on purity, boasting less texture and body. Harvested on the 7th of March, two weeks earlier than the previous year, and hand-picked, it featured lower alcohol and the use of sulphites.
A wet, cold, and challenging season led to the adoption of different oak. This vintage delivered a higher concentration, more oak influence, juiciness, and a long lingering finish. This vintage boasted an alcohol content of 13.5%abv and remained unfiltered.
With a commitment to organic production, this year brought challenges with heavy rain in February and the risk of disease. Harvested earlier, this vintage offered a 13%abv alcohol content, 5.8 TA, unfiltered, and 23% new oak. It was characterised by less intensity.
Hua Nui Pinot Noir:
Moving on to the Pinot Noir wines, Guy shared insights about the influence of the region on the characteristics of the wines. Central Otago, with its shorter but hotter summer, produced structured, fruity Pinot Noir with an average tannin content of 180mg/L. In contrast, Martinborough, with a longer and less hot summer, had 160mg/L tannin, similar to Burgundian wines, and a more savoury profile.
Marlborough, which featured a tannin content of 220mg/L.
Purchased in 1998, this vineyard featured both Abel (115) and Dijon clones, with 25mm of river soil on the low terrace. It showcased savoury red fruits, high alcohol, a long lingering finish, no fining, no filtration, subtle intensity, and a 5% whole bunch press. The tannins were gentle, soft, and silky, with less body and concentration, and notes of cherry and redcurrant.
Featuring a 10% whole bunch press, this vintage had higher concentration and fruitiness. The tannins were more pronounced, making it powerful, but perhaps the tannins and oak were slightly overpowering. It showed great aging potential.
With 49% whole bunch press, this vintage was well-balanced and acclaimed, possibly earning the title of "Best in Show" in 2023. The oak usage was more controlled, revealing a floral, herbaceous, and savoury character. No pumping over or punching down was done, highlighting the wine's savoury qualities.
This vintage faced challenges similar to the Chardonnay, with heavy rain and disease pressure. It featured 33% whole bunch fermentation and the addition of new oak, resulting in more pronounced tannins.
Notably, the winery used a different oak from 2021, which added a unique dimension to the wines.
Palliser Estate's commitment to producing authentic, terroir-driven wines was evident throughout the tasting. Their journey towards organic production and their dedication to showcasing the unique qualities of their vineyards are truly admirable. I eagerly anticipate the future vintages that Palliser Estate will bring to wine enthusiasts like me.