New Zealand’s Huia Vineyards – Why Not Wednesday

This week friends we bring you a great winery with a strange name: Huia. Huia Vineyards, in fact. But what’s that first word all about? Well, let us inform you! The Huia was a legendary bird native to New Zealand with exceptional dimorphism where there was extreme difference in the shape of the bill between sexes. Male Huia had a short, robust bill and a strong muscular skull structure suited to ripping open rotting wood. Female Huia had long, thin, curved bills suited to extracting grubs. This meant the birds paired for life, using their complementary abilities to feed each other and their offspring. This distinctive feature along with the birds’ beautiful plumage made it highly prized by international collectors and the Maori, who believed wearing Huia feathers an honour. Huia feathers are said to represent wisdom, elegance and great dignity, and at Huia Vineyards, our winery of the week, they share these philosophies to grow and make our selection of organic wines.

Now, back to the basics. Huia Vineyards is found in the Riverlands Southern Valley region of New Zealand’s Marlborough Province. Where’s that? North coast of New Zealand’s southern island, of course!

Owners Claire and Mike Allan, native New Zealanders, were highschool sweethearts. Their winemaking story begins in Australia, where they were studying in Adelaide in 1990. The two decided to head to Australia as there was no oenology school near home. Shortly thereafter they scored vintage positions back on home turf in the Marlborough Province, Mike at Cloudy Bay and Claire at Corbans.

“Very quickly we fell in love with it,” recalls Mike. “It was very energised. We just realised that Marlborough had an amazing climate and it just had everything that we loved doing right smack on our doorstep.”

They saw an ad in the local rag for a block of land on an old apple orchard in Rapaura that “looked to us like heaven.” They stretched themselves to the limit and bought it. That place is now Huia, and Marlborough has paid back its promise in spades.

Speaking to the spirit of the winery and the bird, Mike says “within the wine community there’s a lovely joie de vivre of wine and food and that sort of thing. Malrborough’s not just great for wine, it’s great for growing anything.”

It’s clear the Allans are spurred on by friendships borne of Marlborough Natural Winegrowers, a collaborative in which they participate. Known as MANA, the group was founded around 2009 and comprises winemakers Huia, Te Whare Ra, Hans Herzog, Seresin, Clos Henri, Fromm and Rock Ferry. These producers are either certified fully organic or were on track to achieve certification by the end of 2016. MANA was conceived in the wake of “a perfect storm” for Marlborough: the planting frenzy of the early aughts culminated in a massive 2008 vintage that the world couldn’t soak up. A lot of smaller producers struggled to survive–not least when they’d already been finding it hard to get their voices heard over the noise of the giants.

The MANA solution was to pool marketing resources, chip in for visits from international wine writers, consolidate buying power, share biodynamic preparations and trade knowhow on the fast-moving world of organics.

“Our early aspirations are exactly as it’s unfolded,” says Mike. “We thought we’d be able to share and grow and learn together and that’s precisely what’s happened. There’s no inter-winery competition; it’s very collaborative and a hell of a lot of fun.”

Other fun facts: Huia is the principal winery that Claire and Mike own, and a Hunky Dory, per the bottles listed below? That’s a name they use for a second label they created for the playful side of the winery. What is a dory? It’s a small, shallow-draft boat, about 5 to 7 meters, or 16 to 23 feet, long. It is usually a lightweight boat with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows. They are easy to build because of their simple lines. For centuries, dories have been used as traditional fishing boats, both in coastal waters and in the open sea. Oh, and hunky dory is a popular phrase in New Zealand!

No matter the wording, though, the proof is in the bottle. This week, we bring you the following selection:

2013 Huia, Marlborough, New Zealand – Pinot Gris :: $18 sale $15

The Pinot Gris is grown in both the clay soils of the estate Winsome vineyard and the stony soils of the estate Huia vineyard. During the winter, vines are spur pruned to reduce crop potential; through the growing season, bunches are thinned for the evening ripening.

After hand harvesting, pressing and settling, the juice goes to tank for fermentation. Two thirds of the juice awaits natural fermentation before being moved to neutral French oak barrels for the fermentation and maturation with lees stirring. The remainder is inoculated with wine yeast and fermented through to wine in tank.

A mixture of honeysuckle, pear, apple and quince aromas abound on the nose, followed by white peach and some spice on the well-balanced and smooth, dry palate.

2016 Huia, Marlborough, New Zealand – Sauvignon Blanc :: $21 sale $18

Two estate vineyards provide grapes for the Huia Sauvignon Blanc. The stony sandy loam soils of the Huia vineyard offer a tropical fruit profile while the clay-based soils of Winsome vineyard provide herbaceous notes, lime and minerality to the wine.

Around ten percent of the juice undergoes natural fermentation in a mixture of neutral to new French oak. The wine is fermented through to a dry style. Elderflower, red bell pepper, and nettles lift the nose; the palate is fine, well balanced and shows classical minerality.

2016 Hunky Dory “The Tangle,” Marlborough, New Zealand – Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer :: $16.50 sale $14.50

Hunky Dory’s “The Tangle” is the only wine in the Hunky Dory range that is Estate grown. It is grown on Winsome Vineyard in the Riverlands Southern Valley region of Marlborough. In this region soils are clay based with some areas of sand and occasional stones. These clay soils respond well to the aeration provided by under-vine weeding. The vines display low vigour and are planted five vines to a bay to create greater density in the canopy.

A sunny and warm growing season ripens the grapes fully. The grapes are destemmed and crushed before being pressed. After settling, the juice is racked to tank for fermentation. The blend is 10 percent Riesling, 55 percent Pinot Gris and 35 percent Gewurztraminer.

On the nose honeysuckle, jasmine, quince, lime and lemon abound. Lovely ripe apple, lychee and mandarin flavours fill out the palate giving a delicious dollop of fruit. The full-flavoured wine is slightly spicy with a lingering smooth, balanced finish.

2015 Hunky Dory, Marlborough, New Zealand – Pinot Noir :: $24 sale $20

Hunky Dory Pinot Noir is sourced from the Strawlodge and Andahlane vineyards running off the West Coast Road in the upper Wairau Valley area of Marlborough and Tobermore Vineyard in the Rapaura region. The grape vines grow in a mixture of glacial outwash–soils exhibiting a mix of clay and stony gravels. Our Pinot Noir is hand-picked and then destemmed to tank for fermentation. Once the wine is racked off, it settles spending ten months in French oak barrels before being blended and bottled.

The bouquet is expressed with dark plum and cherry, spice and some vanilla. The palate has soft dark cherry and berryfruit flavours with some savoury and spice notes. The vanilla pod from the French oak melds well with the grape tannins and the wine is very drinkable.

HuiaThis Saturday, friends, come visit us for a scotch tasting! Which scotches, you ask? Benromach 10 year, Benromach Peat Smoke, Springbank 10 year and Kilchoman Sanaig. Hey, as with our wines, we know in our store there’s never a bad bottle!

We start sippin’ and tastin’ at 4pm. Hope you can make it! Tag your pics #pickitupatpearl so we can CHEERS! 

Discover why 5280 Magazine Readers and Editors voted Pearl Wine Company Denver’s BEST BOTTLE SHOP. PWC takes pride in being Denver’s best wine shop–a craft liquor specialty store. Conveniently located on South Pearl Street in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood.