Pyramid Valley New Releases

I still remember the first time tasting Pyramid Valley wines with Mike Weersing many years ago at a wine store I working at in Brisbane. At the time there were a couple of winemakers here in Australia dabbling in wines which we might today call ‘natural’ which were thoroughly interesting, but not quite captivating. So when this American making wines in Canterbury pulled out a bunch of cloudy wines in bottles adorned with floral illustrations I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

To my great surprise and pleasure wines were thrilling. Mike spoke with quiet confidence about his patch of limestone-rich dirt at Waikari in North Canterbury, his passion and belief in biodynamics. The wines soared out of the glass, perfumed and ethereal in style but not lacking for intensity and drive. These were a far cry from the rustic natural wines I had tried to date and spoke more eloquently of their place and to the competence and delicate touch of the winemaker.

That was a number of years ago now but in the years ahead Mike and Claudia continued to push their small operation onwards to greater heights and I have had the pleasure of enjoying a number of great wines from the estate. A few year back though Mike’s health began to fail him the pair made the decision to sell their life long dream. They had a number of suitors but eventually chose to hand over the keys over to Steve Smith MW, a highly regarded viticulturist who was instrumental in the success of Craggy Range and Brian Sheth, a vinophile from Texas with deep pockets. Steve knows more than little about seeking out great vineyards and saw the biodynamic blocks that the Weersings has toiled over for many years as a gift from the gods. Mike and Claudia saw the pair’s offer as a chance to ensure their legacy.

The final pieces of the puzzle included luring highly regarded winemaker Huw Kinch from Martinborough’s Escarpment to manage the estate and make the wines. This doesn’t seem to have been too hard a sell though, when tasting the wines over Zoom with Huw this week he described the chance to carry on the Weersing’s legacy at Pyramid Valley as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Viticulturist Nick Paulin also came on board after working in Central Otago for a number of years where he had tended the vineyards at a number of well regarded wineries including Felton Road where he received a masterclass on biodynamics from Blair Walter.

BUT HOW ARE THE WINES LOOKING! It is still early days for the new team but they look to have already found their footing. The releases in today’s offer come from what was previously the Growers Collection and now are the Appellation wines. The team work with carefully selected group of growers from sites in North Canterbury and Central Otago to showcase exceptional sites outside of the home estate. The estate releases will come later in the year.

From North Canterbury there is a sauvignon blanc that is perhaps closer to Sancerre than Marlborough in style. It comes from some of the oldest vines in New Zealand and is delivers intensity and energy without that ripe and raucous character you find down the road in Marlborough. A lovely savoury finish rounds the wine out beautifully. The Chardonnay, the highlight for me, delivers richness and power skewered with a spear of acidity that only cool climates like this can deliver. It’s incredibly savoury and saline and while you will find your more classic stone fruits and white flowers in the mix, there’s so much more going on.

The reds and whites are spliced with an orange wine that is nod to the Pyramid Valley of old although made in a cleaner more linear style. It’s pretty and floral on the nose and the skin contact has been artfully applied so as not to crush the purity of the fruit. Think fruity iced tea with a splash of citrus. A great place to dip your toes into the style and very easy to get past the gums.

That brings us to the pair of pinots; one from North Canterbury and one from a new outpost in Lowburn in Central Otago. The former has plenty of spice, anise, earth, plum and dark cherry. It’s fleshy, but with plenty of savoury lining and sinewy structure to tie it it all together. The latter is a little riper and more gregarious. Juicy and moreish, but Huw has built some wonderful texture here and given it a dusting of savoury spice to keep it more than interesting.

This is a wonderful collection of exceptionally well made wines. They are not mirror images of the wines made by Mike, but nor are they trying to be. They will provide great enjoyment for those who love more traditionally made wines, while still delivering excitement and intrigue for those who fell in love with Mike’s more esoteric offerings. The future is bright here at Pyramid Valley.