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Blackenbrook Vineyards new release wines

If you follow this column you may remember I wrote about the 2022 wine grape vintage a couple of times earlier in the year; the first time was about how fantastic the growing season had been over the spring and summer months and then, a week or so after that column it rained. And it rained and rained just as harvest was getting underway.

Rain has been a very familiar theme in 2022, from the 50 to 100mm plus of rain at just the wrong time for some grape varieties (pinot noir in particular) to one of the wettest and warmest winters I can remember followed by the region being absolutely dumped on in the last couple of weeks, excess water has certainly been a challenge for a huge number of people in the region.

Last week was particularly challenging for home owners across the region and the clean-up and damage repair will last for many months, even years when it comes to stabilising the many slips and repairing roads around the entire Nelson Tasman region.

While we can’t avoid the reality of the impact climate change is having we can celebrate some fantastic things in this region, from the way the community rallied together to help each other to the wonderful food and beverage products being made here.

You may have noticed a number of 2022 vintage wines on the shelves of your favourite wine retailer or, if you’re like me and subscribe to a number of winery newsletters, you will have been receiving emails promoting wines from the 2022 vintage.

Last week, just before the rains arrived, Ursula Schwarzenbach from Blackenbrook Vineyards dropped in some samples from the 2022 vintage for me to try. I took the opportunity to have a chat with her about the vintage and she told me that despite the weather challenges she and Daniel are really happy with the wines they made this year.

Ursula and Daniel Schwarzenbach of Blackenbrook winery say the fruit is ripening earlier than normal, but there was concern about heavy rain forecast

According to Daniel “it started off like a dream: a warm spring, mild conditions for flowering and a strong fruit set, lots of blue skies and just enough rainfall to keep the vineyard happy and working at its best.

“But 70mm of rain followed by two weeks of warm, humid weather in February had us deeply worried about our crop. The weather recovered, but the grapes were now very fragile and wouldn’t survive another big rain event.

“And where would we find pickers? Covid 19 was raging and the borders closed. But the community support was absolutely amazing with lots of people offering their help. We ended up bringing in a beautiful harvest with the best pricking team ever – such a relief!”

Ursula told me they had put a huge effort into vineyard management to ensure the significant rain events didn’t ruin their crop. “Daniel and the vineyard team, including Thomas and Isabelle, our children, worked hard on leaf plucking and shoot thinning to keep the vine canopy open so the grapes below the canopy were exposed to gentle winds and lots of sun to dry them out after the rain and avoid disease pressure.”

The wines Ursula dropped in for me to taste and review are clear proof that the Blackenbrook Vineyard location on a gentle sloping hillside at Tasman along with their hard work has resulted in some delicious wines, wines you should hunt out.

Here’s my thoughts on the three wines Ursula dropped in for me.

Blackenbrook 2022 Pinot Rose – RRP$26 

Bright with light sparkling in the glass the pale raspberry juice colour hints at the style of the wine, it is off-dry with intense aromas of red and black currants complemented by background red berry fruit notes. Taste the wine and the first impression is of a rounded, creamy texture with flavours of currants that mirror the aromas. A beautiful, delicately spiced finish with a touch of crisp, ripe acidity round out the flavours making this a fantastic wine, in fact one of the nicest rose wines I have tried for some time. Watch for this wine to rack up five-star reviews, including this one from me.

Blackenbrook 2022 Pinot Gris – RRP$25

One of the hallmarks of wines made by Daniel and Ursula is the purity of varietal flavour, particularly in their aromatic varieties, and this wine is a perfect example of that. A delicate pale straw colour with a hint of lime. Spiced pear and quince aromas are classic for Pinot Gris but the intensity of the aromas entice your tastebuds to try the wine. The flavours are layered and complex, ranging from lightly spiced pear when you first try the wine that quickly evolve into a lingering finish that has a nice juicy ginger kick. A touch of almond gives a richness and roundness to the mid-palate. This is a complex Pinot Gris that deserves to be enjoyed with food rather than just consumed by itself – you can do that too of course!

Blackenbrook 2022 Gewurztraminer – RRP$25

As luck would have it I had pulled a bottle of the 2014 version of this wine from our cellar the weekend before Ursula dropped in the latest release, it is drinking stunningly well right now so I was keen to compare it with the latest version.

Almost clear in the glass the pale straw colour belies the deliciousness of the flavours. Rather than being packed with rich Turkish delight characters this is another Blackenbrook wine with flavours and characters that evolve on the palate. The Turkish delight characters are there but are nicely balanced with a touch of spice and ripe, juicy acidity in the long finish rather than being too intense.

Trying the 2014 wine beside the 2022 vintage you can taste the familial relationship and get and a hint at what the future offers the 2022 version. Buy a few bottles to put in a dark cupboard or in your wine cellar and keep your hands off it for 5-10 years. While the 2022 Blackenbrook Gewurztraminer is drinking beautifully right now this is a wine that will evolve and develop lovely secondary characters with time in the bottle. Another perfect aromatic wine from Blackenbrook.

Published in the Nelson Mail 2022-08-24

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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