Terroir is a term where French dictionaries list both a narrow
meaning that equates terroir to soil, and a broader
interpretation that includes the physical environment and it’s
If there is a dominant variable then it is climate rather than
soils. Master of Wine Jancis Robinson calls Pinot Noir a "minx of a
variety", partly from the difficulty in producing interesting wine
from it in warmer climates or wet seasons.
Many regions can get Pinot Noir to physiological ripeness, but
only when grown in cool climates does it make truly pleasurable
wines with fragrant aromas, silky mouthfeel and a luscious lingering
Situated at similar latitude to Burgundy, our Central Otago
vineyard is located 250 meters above sea level in the rain shadow of
New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Being inland we get hot dry summers,
long sunshine hours and crisp cool winters.
On the edge of where Pinot Noir will ripen, our cool autumn, with
considerable diurnal temperature variation, slows the loss of grape
acids during ripening providing the wines with better balance, more
aromas and better colour development. The long slow ripening period
also allows for the accumulation of more flavor constituents.
Our semi-arid soils are shallow sandy loam over gravel and
stones. These lean soils reduce vine vigor and will produce small
crop loads with resulting concentration of the berry flavors.
Our low rainfall and free draining soils makes irrigation for our
vines essential. In many of the traditional wine growing areas in
France irrigation is illegal and some French display abhorrence
towards its use. Irrigation’s bad rap stems from the fact that on
hot, vigorous sites it can be used to pump up grape yield,
increasing wine volumes, but giving wine with a corresponding
dilution in flavors.
Research in France (Seigrist & Legisle 1982) reports that the
quality of Pinot Noir wine is affected by the amount of juice
extraction, which varies from 55% in a dry year through to 80% in a
wet year. Sensory panels in Burgundy found the best wine was made
when the juice proportion was 60%. Wines that were made with juice
proportions of 65% - 72% (normal vintages) were found to be of good
quality however wines made above 72% were found to be of poorer
Terroir includes the cultural and philosophical approach
taken in the vineyard. We use a neutron probe to accurately monitor
the soil moisture content. As our summer and autumn is very dry,
with judicious use of irrigation we will be able to delivery to the
winemaker fruit in optimum condition to make fine wine.
The regions low humidity and rainfall also helps prevent vine fungal
infections, again providing better quality of grapes at harvest
and removing the need for fungicide sprays.