Wooing Tree Vineyard in Central Otago, New Zealand, is famous for its award winning Pinot Noir. The site is also famous for its Tree. To ‘woo’ means to court or seduce someone in old English. The 80 year old tree was where local lovers would meet and had the name of the “Wooing Tree”. Once the new owners heard this story the Wooing Tree was saved and the problem of coming up with a vineyard and wine label name also solved. This week I interview Steve Farquharson, Director of Wooing Tree, about his vineyard and his wine.
1. Can you tell us a little about New Zealand varietals and where they are grown?
This is a generalization of what the following regions are known for:
Waiheke Island has the Bordeaux varieties.
Bit of everything round Auckland
Hawkes Bay, Bordeaux varieties and now increasing known for Syrah
Martinborough, Pinot Noir
Marlborough, Sauvignon blanc
Waipara, Pinot Noir
Central Otago, Pinot Noir (70%)
Most regions will grow a bit of everything.
2. Where is your vineyard and why did you choose that site?
Right in the heart of Central Otago, next to the town of Cromwell, in fact Michael Cooper mentions it in his book as the central most vineyard in Central Otago.
We were looking for a north facing slope, in Central Otago we don’t need the slope for sun exposure, but for frost protection. We ended up a vineyard on the flat, so had put in a frost protection system, in our case water. We were looking for a good central site, with water for both frost fighting and irrigation. We ended up with the bonus of being right beside the town of Cromwell and right on the intersection of State Highway 6 and 8, which gives us great tourism advantages.
3. What makes Otago Pinot Noir different from other Pinots in New Zealand and the world?
The main difference is the pure fruit intensity, we are able to ripen up the grapes very slowly with hot days and cool nights, sometimes with a temperature diurnal shift of 30 degrees C. This retains the acidity and builds up the fruit intensity slowly. We also have very little rain and humidity, so little disease pressure, perfect for Pinot Noir. Our wines have heaps of pure fruit expression and even with 100% French oak, say 40% new the fruit still really shows through both with beautiful perfume and fruit on the nose and palate. This makes the wines very approachable early on. Whereas with other Pinot Noir’s you have to wait a few years to drink them.
4. What successes and challenges have you had making your wine?
We have had and incredible run of success, just last week we won the trophies for the best Pinot Noir and best New World Pinot Noir at the International Wines and Spirits Competition in Hong Kong, this has capped a great year of 7 gold medals. In our first year we got off to the best start ever winning the top red wine in NZ at the Air New Zealand Wine awards!
We have had plenty of challenges, the main one on the vineyard is frosts which can happen anytime during the growing season. Currently it is quite tough selling wine, with a surplus of NZ wine out there and the global credit crunch, this has tightened up the market, however I am already seeing an improvement in both these areas.
5. What New Zealand Wines go well with Asian food?
Well the NZ aromatics Sauvignon blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer all go well with Asian food generally. We sell quite a lot of Pinot Noir rose to Asian restaurants and Asian countries, so this is a growing match. Pinot Noir is a very versatile variety
wine style and would be perfect for many Asian dishes featuring duck, lamb and beef for sure.
6. What food would you match with your Pinot Noir?
The main matches are duck, beef, lamb, venison and mushrooms, but it is also a wine that can be drunk without food on its own.
Written by Joshua Hall
Map copyright Nick Nose Knows. Photography courtesy of Wooing Tree.