Winefriend by David Way

Writing about the wines of Piemonte, Italy and France

Postcard from Millton

James and Annie Millton of Millton Vineyards and Winery are very congenial hosts.  They don’t draw sharp lines between their business, their views and their lives. They have created something special from their Gisborne base especially from the steep hillside named the Clos de Ste Anne.  

The coast here can be very beautiful even on a dry but dull summer’s day.  The beach is a mecca for walkers, horse riders, strong swimmers, surfers and kite surfers. We had the special privilege of staying with them in their beach house above the lively Pacific Ocean – we love the sound of the sea which is never absent here!    

But in the end, the wines are the real deal here and they express both the places they come from and their makers’ personalities. From the top range:

Clos de Ste Anne, Naboth’s Vineyard, Chardonnay 2013, 13.5% – grown in loam over volcanic ash and pumice; fermented in barrels 20% of which are new with bâtonnage at the full moon; malo is prevented.  Total acidity 5.7 g/l pH: 3.37.  We have tasted many excellent Chardonnays on our trip to S Australia and New Zealand but this was one of the best.  Complex fruit ranging from ripe green apple to peach, fine integration of smoke and clove from oak with the fruit, slight grippiness on the finish, very good length.  

Clos de Ste Anne, Chenin Blanc, La Bas 2013, 14.5% – dried apple skin, apricot notes, long and savoury, classic lively acidity.  Lightly developed notes on the palate from ageing on lees in demi-muids. The malo has been stopped: total acidity: 7.3 g/l pH: 3.56. As James says: ‘we want the wine to have the chosen nerve and a chipped stone minerality from the retained malic acid’. 

Clos de Ste Anne, Les Arbres Viognier, 2013, 14.5% – peach and peach blossom on the nose, savoury from warm fermentation, full-bodied and a relatively high phenolic content.  A further layer of interest and balance is added by picking in a couple of passes, early to boost the acidity (final wine is total acidity: 6.0 g/l pH: 3.65) and late for richness.  

Libiamo, Gewurztraminer, Gisborne, 2015, 13.5% – a real one-off, inspired or perhaps we should say infused by Verdi’s famous duet in La Traviata: ‘Libiam’, let’s drink!   Lifted and fresh nectarine notes, some dried green herbs, dry and spicy, with a real grippiness on the finish from long skin contact (78 days!).  

Clos de St Anne Pinot Noir, Naboth’s Vineyard, 2013, 14% – James says he looks to the old world for his Pinot and indeed the wine is subtle and savoury, properly but not overly ripe.  No stems, whole berries, the must stays on the fruit for one lunar month, soft pigeage, elegant wine with depth.  

With thanks to James, Annie and all your team – this was a visit that will last long in the memory, as do your wines.  

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