Viticulture & Winemaking
Viticulture at Te Whau Vineyard has one aim: to produce grapes of the highest possible quality that fully reflect the characteristics of the site.
Our red grapes – two hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec – are grown on a steep (20 degree) north-facing slope just back from the point of the Peninsula. The vineyard’s topography ensures shelter from the prevailing cool south and sou’west winds as well as extra ripening potential from the steepness of the slope and its orientation towards the sun. However, the site requires a special tracked tractor (the only one of its type in New Zealand) to negotiate the slope safely. Only copper and sulphur spraying, botritis control, and inter-row sward maintenance is done by machine. All other activities, such as pruning, cane training, leaf plucking and canopy trimming are done by hand.
Our Waiheke vineyard was the first in New Zealand to be established from the outset according to the Sustainable viticulture approach now being adopted widely by the industry. This methodology is dedicated to environmentally sustainable vineyard management practices that seek to protect the vineyard and surrounding ecosystem through minimal-impact viticultural techniques.
Our vines are recently released clones grafted onto low-vigour rootstocks. The plantings are densely spaced. The vines are cane-pruned, and trained according to the traditional Bordeaux Guyot method, with six to eight buds per cane to ensure low yields. To further enhance fruit quality, some two months prior to harvest a significant proportion of the fruit is taken off the vines and discarded. This promotes concentration of flavour in the remaining grapes, and ensures optimal ripeness at vintage time. Just before the grapes start to ripen, the entire vineyard is netted as protection against birds.
We also have a small vineyard of three clones of Chardonnay in a very sheltered site just above Te Whau Bay, which yields tiny quantities of superb fruit.
Our winemaking approach is simple: strict fruit selection, gentle handling and minimal intervention.
Harvesting is done by hand into shallow bins to obviate any premature crushing or oxidation, and then quickly delivered to the winery. Some fruit selection takes place in the vineyard. However, once in the winery each bin is tipped onto a sorting table where we examine individual bunches and discard any under ripe or imperfect fruit, prior to gentle crushing and de-stemming. The sorting, crushing and de-stemming takes place on the mezzanine level of the winery directly above the fermentation tanks on the lower level. Simple force of gravity carries the must, via a stainless steel funnel, through the floor and into the tanks below, without the need for a must-pump. This has the effect of reducing the astringency of harsh tannins that may come from crushed stalks or grape pips.
Each varietal is vinified separately in small stainless steel tanks. Following fermentation the wine undergoes extended maceration to extract colour and flavour. The free-run wine then goes directly into barrel, and the pomace of skins and pulp is pressed in a small basket press.
The wine will then spend between 12 and 18 months, depending on the vintage, in a mix of new and one-year-old French oak barrels, undergoing malolactic fermentation during its first winter. Our underground barrel cellar ensures a low, even, year-round temperature and perfect humidity conditions for the development of the wine. Prior to assembling and blending of the finished wine, each barrel is tasted, and any that fails to meet the highest standard is not included in our flagship wine, simply called “The Point”. The wine is not fined or filtered prior to bottling.
The wine remains in our cellar for a further six months prior to release. Production is between 500 and 800 cases a year, depending on the seasonal conditions.
Sales are by mail order; at the cellar door; and at the winery restaurant and tasting-room.
Our Chardonnay is again hand-harvested, and then whole-bunch pressed, cold-stabilised and fermented in new French oak. Lees stirring by hand adds complexity, and our aim is to produce a wine of elegance, subtlety and restrained varietal flavour, with gentle oak. Production is very small, and largely sold through our restaurant and wine-tasting room.