Located at the eastern end of Waiheke Island, Man O’ War is a stunning array of coastal hillsides with high cliffs and pristine beaches forming a ruggedly beautiful coastline. It was along this coastline that Captain James Cook came to anchor during his first voyage around the islands of New Zealand in 1769. Upon sighting the ancient stands of magnificent kauri trees ashore, Cook noted in his journals that they would make ideal masts for the Man O' War battleships of the Royal Navy. Thus, the name Man O’ War was bestowed upon this unique land.
Vintage 2017 began with a settled and dry Spring resulting in great flowering and a corresponding excellent fruit set. Dry drought like conditions continued into January providing terrific fruit flavours and tannins before a number of intense periods of rainfall, culminating in the arrival of Cyclone Debbie wreaked havoc with the vintage. Similar to 2016 careful attention to detail in the vineyard paid off in what was another challenging vintage!
Man O'War's Chardonnay vineyards are categorised by being either hilltop with volcanic deposits in the soil which are also cooled by a combination of elevation and sea breezes, or steep sheltered sites in the valleys which are warmer and rich in clay. The hilltop ‘volcanic’ sites are gently whole bunch pressed to preserve their minerality whereas the richer more powerful fruit coming off the sheltered hillsides are crushed by foot and left to soak on their skins before pressing.
Following pressing all the parcels undergo wild fermentation on ‘full solids’ without any racking of the juice. The temperature is un-regulated and they progress to dryness in less than 10 days. This fermentation style contributes interesting savoury aromatics while the juice solids contribute tannin to the wine. Following fermentation the wines are left in barrel on gross lees un-sulphured until late December where they will then get sulphured, left for a further month and then tasted in the New Year to confirm the blend and then bottled pre-vintage.
The balance that the two distinct groups of vineyards create is a wine that is powerful and rich (sheltered clay sites) yet tempered with fine acidity and aromatic high notes (volcanic), complemented by a certain level of savouriness, leading into tight pithy grapefruit-like tannin complemented with fine wood tannin selections. Lifted savoury aromas jump out of the glass followed by a ripe fruit bowl of nectarines, apricots and assorted citrus fruit overlaid with a lick of wild manuka honey. The palate is focused yet powerful with a spine of fresh acidity cushioned by generous ripeness and complemented by natural fruit and oak tannin. Valhalla 2017 is a wine built both for ageing and is extremely complementary to a wide range of cuisines in its youth perhaps Asian inspired spice dishes, rich seafood or a selection of cheese and dried fruits.