North Canterbury’s Waipara region is a kind of wine rebel’s paradise. The birthplace of some of New Zealand’s most ambitious wines, it’s also home to Dom Maxwell, winemaker at the acclaimed Greystone Wines. An analytical and impressively-awarded wine producer, Dom was the perfect person to ask for tips on the unique colours and flavours of North Canterbury.
It’s all about the place
The region is home to a clutch of winemakers forging their own paths and attempting to remain as true to the land they work on as possible.
In the case of Greystone, and Dom Maxwell specifically, this is exemplified in the practice of vineyard fermentation. “Standard fermentation practices bring the wine into the building and ferment it there. What we started doing in 2012 was fermenting the fruit out in the vineyard. We were wanting to up the ante as far as expressing our site, and how the yeast is fermenting the fruit has got a part to play in that.”
Vineyard fermentation is rare, and the way they are doing it at Greystone may well be one-of-a-kind, but that’s what makes it so special. “Wine is like anything else – it’s increasingly competitive, and projects like these bring people together,” Dom says.
Truth and ‘elegant power’
Dom loves wine descriptions, but loathes ones that don’t speak the truth. “I don’t really mind how people describe an aroma, or a flavour, that’s how people are describing their own experience, but anything that’s misleading, I don’t like.”
It’s this commitment to truth and purity that is reflected in Dom’s winemaking practices, which is probably why his own descriptions are vivid – and honest – when talking about his ‘favourite child’, Greystone’s Thomas Brothers Pinot Noir.
“Not every year, but maybe two years out of three, we do a single block Pinot off our highest-elevation spot on the vineyard. It’s where we’ve got our most limestone-dominant area and I just love the sort of elegant power that you get from that block. We make it in a fairly traditional way, but it’s a wine that will age, and I think it’s been surprising how it’s aged. We’re still fairly young, but we’ve enjoyed some bottles that have been tucked away for a few years and they are still bringing a lot of interest and unfolding a lot of different layers as they get older.”