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NZ wines that stopped Parker's critic in her tracks...

17 February 2015|Cellar Journal

"Pyramid Valley was my most impressive visit this trip to New Zealand and indeed of all my Australia/NZ visits this year."

Coming from the woman whose full time job is covering fine Australasian wine - and who holds the key to their ultimate success or otherwise - these words are an emphatic statement.

Perrotti-Brown MW made these comments last month in Wine Advocate Issue 216. The moment it was published there was a huge surge in orders from overseas and Pyramid Valley were all but cleaned out of remaining stocks.

Fortunately we were able to secure an allocation to bring to Cellar Journal readers.

With Pyramid Valley wines, it's easy to talk scores, quotes and ratings since there are plenty who are gushing about their rapid ascent to the top of the Fine Wine world.

But in a way, such fixation on criticism misses the point entirely. The wines are the antithesis of the numerical 100 point scale. They're the very embodiment of bottled poetry - fluid, distinctive and living expressions of the North Canterbury vineyards and the inputs of their wonderful custodians, Mike and Claudia Weersing. With such small production, only the top critics get to taste them, anyway, and we at the Fine Wine Delivery Company tasting panel were among the lucky few.

These wines are extremely limited production - the entire Home vineyards are only 2.2 hectares on 4 separate blocks, which includes the Earth Smoke and Angel Flower Pinot Noirs. The vines are extremely densely planted at 10,000-12,000 vines per hectare - a technique that forces the vines to compete for nutrients and extend deep tap roots into the clay-limestone soil. The sites are all individually selected and the soil is mapped to obsessive degrees. Each site makes wine of distinctly different characters. The Lion's Tooth Chardonnay comes from a vineyard where there are lots of dandelion weeds (good for biodiversity I'm sure). The French term is dent de lion, which means Lion's Tooth. Field of Fire takes its name from the couch grass known as twitch or quack, whose Latin name is Agropyron repens, which of course translates to Agro-pyro - Field-Fire.

This connection with the land is more than just clever marketing. The Weersings are committed practitioners of bio-dynamics - every wine they make is fermented with its own yeast starters, cultured every year from the vineyard itself. These natural ferments are very long and regular; with most of the whites taking more than a year to complete fermentation (contrast that with the normal couple of weeks). During this time, the wine is protected, so no sulphur is added - and after such a long time, the wine is stable so the wine is bottled, unfiltered and with little or no sulphur.

They describe their wine as "the bottled breath of a certain place, in a certain moment in time." Tasting the wines is an incredibly authentic and unique experience. If we're honest, it's the reason we all came to fine wine in the first place anyway...

But if we are going to talk about how they are regarded critically, the wines have astounded the world's leading wine scribes. This acclaim has created much demand, especially in the United States, where Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator included both the 2006 Pyramid Valley Earth Smoke and Angel Flower 'Home vineyard' Pinot Noirs in his 'Top 7 Wines of the Year'. Kramer says; "If New Zealand has created a finer Pinot Noir than these two single-vineyard wines from Pyramid Valley Vineyards, I haven't tasted it. They are among the finest out-of-Burgundy experiences I've ever had. And this is just the first vintage, no less."

Curtis Marsh, wine writer for the Asia Sentinel, has been driving demand in Asia. He named the 'Field of Fire Chardonnay 2012 as his Must Have Wine for Christmas 2012, saying: "Clearly, I am a big fan, but I want to say it louder, to the whole world wine stage - that Pyramid Valley is the quintessential new generation New Zealand vineyard - that evolution in the New Zealand wine industry is moving fast and there is a 'coming of age' with bountiful exciting wines, complex wines with organic and biodynamic vineyards exemplar, and Mike and Claudia Weersing are at the forefront."

Mike Weersing gained extensive experience in Burgundy working at Domaines such as Hubert de Montille, Pousse d'Or, and Nicolas Potel. He has worked with Jean-Michel Deiss and Marc Kreydenweiss in Alsace, Ernst Loosen in the Mosel, Russ Raney at Evesham Wood in Oregon and Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley. This international experience, gives him deep insight into how to grow and handcraft truly great wine in a wide variety of conditions.

Not surprisingly, given their inherent food-friendliness, Pyramid Valley wines are in high demand in the finest restaurants in New Zealand and overseas. As such, we were delighted when Mike and Claudia Weersing gave us a small allocation of their current releases exclusively for Cellar Journal readers. With the passage of time, we expect that Pyramid Valley will be spoken of among the world's very best wine producers, so great rewards await those who get in at the ground floor.

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