Working with the wines of Seresin Estate is a true pleasure. These are most definitely some of the best examples of authentic Marlborough wines I have ever come across.
I believe Seresin has truly become an iconic producer for the region that has elevated the quality of Marlborough wine. They have achieved this by making brave decisions in the vineyard and sticking by their convictions in the cellar. To paraphrase renowned British critic Jancis Robinson, they have raised their head above the parapet of mediocrity.
It is commonly known that most wineries founded by movie industry folks lack authenticity or shall we say - enological inspiration. Many are very commercial projects that simply pump out generic wines in very rigid, manipulated styles. However, heralded cinematographer Michael Seresin (known for works such as: Bugsy Malone, The Midnight Express and Harry Potter – The Prisoner of Azkaban) who founded this estate of the same name, clearly had more ambitious, engaged and dynamic visions for his vinous adventure.
The principles of Seresin are literally grounded in organic and biodynamic viticulture. They take the truly holistic approach to grape growing with a strong belief that natural balance and health in the vineyard will ultimately produce the truest expressions of place and vintage. The estate operates a full farm producing their own compost and biodynamic preparations. Beneficial cover crops, Goats and Chickens take the place of modern herbicides and pesticides. Their own cows fertilize the vines, and horses are used to do much of the labor in the vineyard reducing soil compaction from tractors etc.
I have previously written at length about the erroneous application of Old World / New World labels. I much prefer to talk about producers using the terms Traditional vs. Modern. Seresin is a perfect example of this debate being that they are certainly geographically located in the “New World” but most definitely philosophically located in the “Old World.” These methods, carefully applied by winemaker Clive Dougal, have resulted in a line up of characterful wines, each an honest and vibrant representation of vineyard and climate. Every wine is a product of passion and dedication to healthy vines and delicate yet precise winemaking.
Seresin’s wines are loosely divided into two programs with the upper tiers of “Seresin” wines and the lower tier of “Momo” wines. “Momo” meaning “offspring” in the native Maori pays homage to Momo’s place in the larger Seresin family. I believe the Momo range has long represented some of the best values in the category. The fruit is still largely estate grown and soon to be even more so. The fruit is farmed organically and some biodynamically. The 2010 Momo Pinot Noir is taken mostly from the flat parcels of Seresin’s estate vineyards that lay on the floor of the Wairau Valley. Here the vines grow in deep alluvial gravels, producing bright fresh Pinot Noir. The Momo Pinot is hand picked, hand sorted and gently de-stemmed. The ferment is open top and uses only wild yeast. Post ferment, the wine is gently transferred to French Oak barriques, mostly older wood, for eleven months maturation. The wine is then bottled with very minimal, if any, fining or filtration, mercifully leaving the texture and authenticity of the wine intact. This wine represents way more true Pinot character than any other sub $20 contender I can think of from anywhere around the world.
The wine exhibits beautiful aromatics of crushed dark berries, plum skin, poultry herbs of sage and rosemary, earthy, fresh cut mushrooms. On the palate the wine is medium bodied with nice ripeness and moderate extraction. Again gently crushed berries and herbs take center stage with nice spicy French oak tones chiming in at just the right moment. The wine has great energy and life, with the freshness of the acidity and moderate extraction lifting the finish elegantly. This is serious wine at twice the price.
The 2012 Momo Sauvignon Blanc also has dynamic drive and freshness. Snappy acidity of citrus and grapefruit with some tropical notes typical of the warmer areas from which these grapes are grown in the Wairau Valley. There is only a subtle hint of that “greenness” more commonly found in Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is very dry, very refreshing, quaffable with nice chalky minerality and little more substance than most of it’s competitors. A great seafood wine for oysters etc.
Moving now into the Seresin upper tiers, everything is Biodynamically certified fruit. Again everything is very carefully hand picked / sorted and wild yeast ferment. The 2011 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc is surely up there as one of the most impressive wines I have tasted from New Zealand. The grapes were sourced from the upper terraces of the Home vineyard, which are comprise of varied Waimakiriri type soils of alluvial origin. This was supplemented with portions from the Tatou vineyard which is made up of a mixture of alluvial shingles, and the clay rich Raupo Creek vineyard. All in all twenty different individually fermented vineyard parcels of Sauvignon Blanc are painstakingly blended together to make this wine. The finishing touch is two small parcels of Semillon added to the blend. 15% of the wine is fermented and aged in neutral French oak barriques to give texture and complexity. The wine has such exotic, floral aromatics and yet tremendous restraint and balance to boot. Fresh cut herbs, freshly grated citrus rind and tropical flowers. The palate has phenomenal texture and persistence that is quite remarkable. Fine minerality runs through into the finish that is immeasurably long because it will still be there when you are reaching for another sip (or bottle!) Truly special wine, and exactly what Jancis was talking about when she noted how Seresin have set about separating themselves from the plethora of others good producers in the area.
The 2010 Seresin “Leah” Pinot Noir is named after Michael Seresin’s daughter. This beautiful wine is created from carefully selected parcels of fruit coming predominantly from the clay rich soils of the Raupo Creek vineyard in the foot hills of the Omaka Valley. The remainder coming off the alluvial soils of Tatou vineyard and the Home vineyard. The fruit underwent a long cold soak. During the native yeast ferment the cap was gently punched down by hand. Post-ferment came another two weeks of carefully observed maceration. The Pinot was matured in French oak barriques, 20% new, for 11 months. It is bottled completely unfined and unfiltered. This wine has a stunning perfume of crushed rose petals, red fruits with darker cherry notes. Savory elements are also on show with tree bark, moss, and warm toasted spices. This wine has a fantastic density and saturation on the palate whist remaining poised and bright. The tannin structure is super fine and silky as you would expect from the clay based soils. Succulent and rich, fuller bodied than the Momo with a rounder feel on the mid-palate and a touch more extraction. The wine finishes long and supple with invigorating acidity and excellent concentration of flavor.
Seresin also make some fantastic single vineyard wines that we hope to make available to K&L customers through a special direct purchase deal. Please keep an eye out for more Seresin wines coming soon. For now I implore you to try any of these wines. The Momo's are perfect to make your everyday drinking a little more interesting or the Seresin tier to really give you an extra special experience with these magic wines. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or leave comments below.
- Ryan Woodhouse, NZ / Aussie Specialist
Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!