Organic know-how part of Shane's skills
It is some time since I focused this column on individual wineries in the region. Sure, I write about one occasionally, but I am going to make it a theme for this year. I will be telling you about some of the people who make Nelson's wine industry the wee gem it is, as well as other special events and happenings during the year.
I want to start with someone who is relatively new to the local winemaking scene - Shane Munn from Woollaston Estates.
Shane joined Woollaston on October 1, 2011 (the day after the birth of his daughter) as its new winemaker, replacing Andrew Sutherland, who worked there during the establishment of the stunning winery facility.
With Andrew starting his own label and wanting to spend more time with his family, this opened the door for Shane.
Woollaston Estates planted its first vines at Mahana in about 2001-02, and in recent years has worked through a rigorous process to convert its operations to being fully organic-certified.
This was one thing that was particularly attractive to Shane when he was considering making the move from noted organic and biodynamic producer Millton Vineyards in Gisborne.
Shane has worked with organic winemaking for a large part of his career, and for him, it is just how you make wine, rather than it being something special or magical.
His aim at Woollaston is to take the fruit produced by the experienced viticulture team and make a wine as naturally as possible, allowing it to express the flavours delivered by the unique microclimate of the Mahana vineyards and the free-draining gravel-based soils of the Waimea Plains vineyards.
While he might be the winemaker, and is careful not to step on the toes of the experienced viticulture team, he will be working closely with viticulturist Julian Coakley, passing on the lessons he learned at Millton Vineyards.
He says working closely with the viticulturist means he understands what has happened in the vineyard so he can select the fruit he needs to create each style of wine.
For example, he says, the Mahana vineyard is capable of producing four distinctly different pinot noirs, depending on which clones of pinot are used in each blend, as well as which part of the vineyard the fruit is grown on.
Shane can also select small parcels of fruit from all over the vineyard to create an ultra-premium wine made from only the very best fruit.
Using other techniques, like fermenting a small amount of sauvignon blanc and pinot gris in barrels to add a textural component to the wines, and balancing ripe fruit residual sugars with finely tuned acidity in riesling - as well as not playing with the base natural flavours delivered by the vineyard - will see Woollaston Estates deliver a range of wines that are balanced, expressive and highly drinkable.
This will be the second vintage Shane has nurtured since his arrival - and based on the great wines produced from the 2012 vintage, I suspect we are going to see some outstanding wines from Woollaston Estates in the years to come. This is a winemaker to pay lots of attention to.