Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand
The Skeggs family were among the first people to buy and plant vineyard land in Central Otago in the mid-1990s, so were lucky enough to acquire a superb north-facing site in Bannockburn. Planted in 1996, this 50 hectare site has since provided the backbone of the Akarua wines. Due to the short growing season in Central Otago, site selection is one of the key elements in making a great wine, and Akarua has a site that is among the very best.
Sustainability in the vineyard and winery is integral to the Akarua ethos. Water conservation, recycling, the use of lightweight bottles, fully insulated barrel rooms and energy efficient lighting in the winery are a few of the initiatives taken by Akarua to guarantee their accredited status as a sustainable producer.
Winemaker Andrew Keenleyside ensures that the fruit is well balanced. He avoids the raisiny flavours that some in Central Otago seem to obtain, and produces wines with lovely aromatic lift and fine tannins, which are perfectly illustrated in the ’RUA’. The grapes for the ’RUA’ are cold soaked for five days before fermentation commences, and are punched down twice daily and given another six days on the skins post fermentation to provide the wine with the tannic backbone it requires. The result is a remarkably attractive and great value Pinot Noir from Central Otago. Their Akarua Pinot Noir, made solely with fruit from Bannockburn, has similar treatment to the RUA but sees 30% (instead of 10%) new oak. The wine has an extra dimension of richness and depth, and real class.
We were introduced to Akarua by the late Tony Jordan who was the first to make their sparkling wines. Tony built Domaine Chandon in Australia and was one of the world’s leading experts in sparkling wine production. He had always believed in the potential for Central Otago to make top quality fizz and finally realised his ambition to make premium sparkling wines here when the first Akarua sparkling wines were released in 2011. The Brut, a blend of 54% Pinot and 46% Chardonnay, is crisp and clean with lovely balance and complexity. The base wines go through full malolactic before being blended with 15% of reserve wine. The wine is aged in bottle on its lees for 18 months prior to disgorgement. The Rosé is a blend of 68% Pinot Noir and 32% Chardonnay. It has a lovely fresh perfume of strawberries and redcurrant and great zip on the palate.