Wine: Time in a Bottle

Rock ‘n’ roll wines acknowledge fossil finds of the Waipara land, writes Jo Burzynska


The Boneline ‘Waimanu’ Waipara Pinot Noir; The Boneline Waipara Dry Riesling; The Boneline Waipara ‘Iridium’. Pictures / Supplied.

The Boneline will be a name new to some or just becoming known to others for its interesting range of Waipara wines. Look beyond the label and it has more history than is initially apparent, in the people behind it and its place, the latter shaped by a monumental event over 65 million years ago.

To put flesh on The Boneline story I head inland to the winery also known as Waipara West, whose name and approach have evolved in recent years. There I meet Vic Tutton and Lindsay Hill, who, along with Vic’s brother, Paul Tutton, and his partner, Olga Sienko, own the estate. We’re joined by respected wine consultant Jeff Sinnott who came on board in 2012 and has assisted in a process of reinvention that I was alerted to by the quality of the wines now emanating from the estate.

As the four of us jump into Lindsay’s car to explore the property and its environs, he explains how they decided to buy this far-flung farm back in 1989. “We were looking for a frost-free site on gravels in limestone country,” he says. “At that time it was further inland and higher than any existing Waipara vineyards.”

Lindsay — who has a background in horticulture — was attracted to the site’s heat and good airflow from its sloping terraces bordered by the Waipara River. They later discovered the farm had coincidentally been owned by Vic’s family some 90 years before.

We travel down through the terraces, starting at the upper tier that includes chardonnay plantings that are 27 years old. Then it’s down to the Hell Block, originally Well Block before its heat earned it the infernal moniker bestowed upon it by one-time vineyard hand and musician, Hamish Kilgour of The Clean. This warmth means that, unlike most areas of the South Island, The Boneline is able to ripen a red such as cabernet sauvignon.

The Kilgour reference results in the discovery that everyone in the vehicle is a music fan and a quick detour to the staffroom-cum-music studio. As Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten look out from the posters that bedeck its walls, I find out that as well as Jeff being a drummer, Lindsay is a veteran guitarist, Gary the foreman plays a ukulele and a seven-piece Boneline Sympathy Orchestra sometimes assembles here to serenade the vines.

From the rock ’n’ roll of the studio we move on to even more historic rock that the trio are keen to show me. Round the corner, on a section of the Waipara River, we are on The Boneline, the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary that offers evidence of the asteroid impact that ended the Mesozoic Era and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Since New Zealand’s first fossils were found here in 1859, a veritable ossuary of ancient bones have been unearthed: dinosaurs, giant penguins and teeth from ancient sharks, as well as “space dust”, iridium from the asteroid — findings referenced in names of The Boneline wines. It was later a significant mahinga kai and trading route for Maori.

“The things that excited me initially were the old vines,” says Jeff, when I ask him why he became involved in the venture. “But the more I’m here, I have a sense of awe about this piece of land on limestone. My challenge is to make things as transparent as possible so you can see that land in the glass. We also have some great people in the winery now too.”

“The philosophy of The Boneline is not just the land but the people,” Vic adds. “The Waipara River has hundreds of years of people walking through it. People are part of the terroir, so the bones we acknowledge here are not just those of dinosaurs, but of people too.”

The Boneline ‘Waimanu’ Waipara Pinot Noir 2014 $45
For me the jewel in The Boneline’s crown is the elegant Waimanu pinot noir. Its silken red cherry and cranberry fruit is infused with aromatic notes of sweet spice and florals, along with mineral and subtle savoury undertones, underpinned by bright acid and fine tannins.

The Boneline Waipara Dry Riesling 2015 $24
A beautifully perfumed dry riesling that’s fresh and pure with nuances of jasmine and honeysuckle on the nose and palate where they’re joined by crisp bergamot-like citrusy notes.

The Boneline Waipara ‘Iridium’ 2014 $36
The Boneline’s flagship red includes grapes sourced form some of the oldest cabernet sauvignon vines in the country, along with cabernet franc and merlot. Richness and freshness combine in its ripe and juicy blackcurrant liqueur fruit that’s overlaid with lifted notes of spice and violets, over a savoury earthy undercurrent and supported by good structuring tannins.

All available from Caro’s and theboneline.co.nz

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