Akarua Wines - Celebrate their 20th Vintage:

In 1996 in a daring and visionary move, a South Island family known as the Skeggs, planted their first Akarua vineyard on Cairnmuir Road in Bannockburn - Central Otago. By September 1998 some 81,000 vines had been planted over 34.5 hectares and the first wines were bottled from the 1999 vintage.
The name Akarua was chosen to honour the establishment of the estate: it is the combination of two Maori words together meaning ‘two vines’ - with Aka = vines & Rua = two, which refers to the original two varietals planted, those being Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The New Zealand Mountain Daisy indigenous to the region, and can be seen covering the vineyard terraces and surrounding farmland - was chosen by the Skeggs family as Akarua's emblem-logo proudly printed on all their labels & packaging, anchoring the estate to the drama and beauty of Central Otago. David Skeggs *(pictured below with his parents) became the Managing Director of Akarua in 2008. And the brand and quality of wines crafted by the passionate team at Akarua continue to grow.

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Akarua Pinot Noir - The Vertical Tasting:

On Thursday the 29th of October, I was invited by the team at Akarua to an incredible opportunity to review the short but intense learning curve & accomplishments of one of the worlds' most dynamic & engaging wine regions - Central Otago.
With Pinot Noir as our narrator & guide to give understanding to what has been achieved across terraced vineyards in challenging conditions since the first vines were planted.
Wine is an incredibly tactile time-machine, capturing & sharing in all dimensions - allowing us to look back at a year / growing season and with skillful, respectable hands from a confident winemaker express something worth sharing.
At Hotel deBrett's in the CBD of Auckland - it was great to catch-up with the team from Akarua whom had toiled, crafted and designed this event.
• Kathryn Pettit - General Manager
• Andrew Keenleyside - Winemaker *(since 2015)
• Zoë Ladyman - Domestic & International Sales Manager
• Mark Naismith - Viticulturist

It does not happen that often in New Zealand - being able to look back on a chronological representation of a single grape varietal from one winery and review, reflect side-by-side the nuances that only a well-crafted wine can deliver to the senses.
We could have talked for hours... *(and we nearly did) - thanks again to the Akarua Team for making this happen, sharing so much and creating new memories that I can pass on to others.

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Here are some short notes on the 10 wines we tasted:

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2009

• Winemaker: Matt Connell
• Viticulturist: Gillian Wilson
Holding its colour, but giving you a prelude to the maturity in its calm aromas and maturity of confident preserved cherries and dried herbs. The excellent balance it had in its youth has held this Pinot Noir in good stead - not the loudest at the dinner table - but with a voice that has regional qualities to share when listened too.

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2011

• Winemaker: Matt Connell
• Viticulturist: Gillian Wilson
Good colour - and it still has a clarity to its aroma, leading you to a lively palate - as the confident varietal acidity that this vintage brought to the cuvée when first bottled, has given this wine a vibrancy all these year on. As the tannins that were slightly overwhelmed, now give structure and balance to a compact Pinot Noir.

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2012

• Winemaker: Matt Connell
• Viticulturist: Gillian Wilson / Mark Naismith
Again good colour - this challenging vintage has resulted in resilient varietal characters in this Pinot Noir. This vintage has a textural softness, though nicely supported by mature tannins which give this wine good length and poise.

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2013

• Winemaker: Matt Connell
• Viticulturist: Mark Naismith
Good colour - this vintage is now at its peak, but definitely not a fading violet, proudly showcasing ripe dark cherries and sun-dried meadow herbs and wild brambles. The rich, full and engaging palate retains all that is asked for in a well-balanced Pinot Noir - and the silky tannins leave your taste-buds wanting more.

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2014

• Winemaker: Matt Connell
• Viticulturist: Mark Naismith
Still a youthful colour - the delicate aromas allude to the feminine touches showcased in this expression from a challenging vintage - and the age of the vines now 18 years - have the stage, with a little more focus on dried herbs, lavender, violets and the varietal acidity gives the wine a clean well defined full stop.

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Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2015

• Winemakers: Matt Connell / Andrew Keenleyside
• Viticulturist: Mark Naismith
Excellent colour - this vintage is a collaboration both in the vineyard with the Felton parcel coming into the mix and with Andrew joining Matt to conduct the orchestral parts to this expression. This wine still has so much to contribute over the coming years - but right now, rich morello cherries, spice with a youthful heart that will beat strong for years to come - please put your name on my dance card in another 2 - 3 years.

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2016

• Winemaker: Andrew Keenleyside
• Viticulturist: Mark Naismith
Good colour - this has a new signature to both the aroma and palate - with a deft, more controlled approach to showcasing the 2 vineyards in nearly equal portions in the cuvée - resulting in bright red fruits at the core of this Pinot Noir, with the oak notes playing more of feature an with a well-balanced controlled crescendo.

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2017

• Winemaker: Andrew Keenleyside
• Viticulturist: Mark Naismith
Excellent colour - if you were looking for a quintessential style of Central Otago Pinot Noir to show someone - this is it - look no further - concentrated dark morello cherries, dried herbs, wild brambles with dovetailed oak, tannins and varietal acidity giving your taste-buds clear directions back to the heart of this classic Pinot Noir.

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2018

• Winemaker: Andrew Keenleyside
• Viticulturist: Mark Naismith
Good colour - with the vines now 22 years of age, Andrew and Mark are listening and responding as they thought best, subtle new curves to parts of a well-known varietal expression and signature. The smallest portion of Felton added to the Cairnmuir parcels in the cuvée and with 50% wild ferment has added a depth of spice to this wine - counterpointed by a defined elegance, resulting in an early drinking well-balanced Pinot Noir.

Akarua ‘Central Otago’ Pinot Noir 2019 - *(20th Vintage)

• Winemaker: Andrew Keenleyside
• Viticulturist: Mark Naismith
Stunning youthful colour - this was my first look at the 2019 vintage from Akarua - and the confident improvisations from the previous vintage have been amplified by the quality of the growing season, producing engaging ripe fruit - this wine has complexity, but all are dovetailed, so each knows it place and part to play in this wine. Which will as with previous Akarua Pinot Noirs' be approachable in its youth, and with subtle decanting drinking well this summer - but if you have patience or you loose a bottle in your spare-bedroom wardrobe wine-cellar, and you find it again in 3 - 4 years - share it with someone special.

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Where can you find Akarua Wines: 

Akarua Wines 'well balanced approachable expressions' are available in New Zealand and around the world from quality wine retailers, restaurants / wine bars and hotels. Or visit the Akarua Wine website - CLICK HERE.

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