Wines of the week… First hillside vineyard comes of age

It seems fitting that a trio of German brothers should be the ones to make New Zealand’s biggest selling Riesling, even if it is a miniscule trickle of their total wine production. I’m talking about the Giesen bros, who arrived in New Zealand from Germany in 1979 and started making wine on a whim in 1981, bottling their first wines in 1984.

They made Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc right from the start, even though they were based in Canterbury, so it’s no surprise that they later moved their winemaking, lock, stock and all the oak barrels up to Marlborough. It was a smart move for a savvy (if you’ll excuse the intentional pun) bunch of brothers. Theo, Alex and Marcel later decided to bid for Marlborough’s first hillside vineyard and that has turned out to be one of the best moves they’ve ever made.

In 2015 they acquired Clayvin Vineyard; the first hillside block ever to be planted in vines in Marlborough. It’s 100% certified organic with BioGro NZ, the country’s leading and best known  organic certifier.

Size counts…

Giesen may be a big name but like most large wine producers, there is a long history and steady supply of capital to underpin its production. This means there are plenty of resources to fund the exacting standards of organic certification and the high quality of relatively low priced wines, such as New Zealand’s biggest selling Riesling – Giesen Estate Riesling. A delicious drop, even if I do say so myself – and I say so not only as a wine journalist but as a wine lover and drinker who regularly purchases this wine.

One in every four bottles of Riesling sold in New Zealand is Giesen Estate Riesling and in Australia it is in the top five. That’s no mean feat in a country where Riesling now lags significantly behind the relatively neutral but safe gateway provided by Pinot Gris. 

Last month, the Giesen team invited me down to look around the vineyards, taste through their entire production and learn more about this big and impressive winery. It was a chilly day standing on Clayvin Vineyard, sipping on the 2014 Clayvin Marlborough Pinot Noir, but the cool temperatures were more than made up for by the greatness of this wine, which puts forward a strong case for high quality Marlborough Pinot Noir.

Bargain buy

2018 Giesen Estate Riesling $14 to $15

Lime zest, green apples, fresh, fruity, refreshing, lingering… Every box of good taste is ticked in this youthful Riesling from Giesen, which was made from a single vineyard in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley this year. The source of grapes changes each year and the aim is to produce a consistent, concentrated and refreshing Riesling. It succeeds in all those things and more – it’s outstanding value for money. The style is medium dry.

Treat of the week

2017 The Boneline Wai-iti Pinot Noir $32.99

Hand harvested grapes and fermentation in small vats are the story of this outstanding Pinot Noir from the tricky cool weather of the 2017 vintage. Not that you’d know it was a tough year because this wine walks a tasty tightrope of beautifully balanced red fruit flavours with refreshing high acidity, a full body and a long, succulent finish. The grapes were grown on a terraced vineyard on the Glasnevin Gravels in North Canterbury. The winemaker is Paul Goodege. This is a stunning North Canterbury Pinot Noir.

Reaching for the stars

2014 Clayvin Marlborough Pinot Noir $55.99

This top shelf Marlborough Pinot Noir was made from hand harvested, organically certified grapes grown on Marlborough’s first hillside vineyard. It is full bodied but elegant thanks to the balance of zingy acidity that adds freshness to every lingering sip.

Worth it? Absolutely.

A total stunner that drinks well now and has another eight to nine years up its sleeve; possibly longer.

 Clayvin vineyard fast facts

Now owned by Giesen – purchased in 2015

Previously owned by Fromm

Certified organic vineyard with BioGro NZ

Planted by Mike Eaton

Low planted vines at high density

Marlborough’s first hillside vineyard