Skip to main content

Shane barrel tastingThere is some­thing going on at Wool­la­ston Estates in Nel­son; there’s move­ment at the sta­tion, word has got around. I recently spent a very enjoy­able after­noon with Shane Munn, the wine­maker, tast­ing wine from the bottle and the bar­rel. There’s a sniff of mad sci­ent­ist about Munn — unruly hair and a focused mind — and he has a com­pletely unaf­fected artist­ic look to him. All very apt as we tasted wine in Ren­ee and Glenn Schaeffer’s house at the vine­yard, a beau­ti­ful, mod­ern home, stuffed full of incred­ible art. In fact, there’s art every­where at Wool­la­ston. In the winery, tast­ing room, bar­rel room and vine­yard, won­der­ful sculp­tures and paint­ings abound. These art pieces have been placed on the estate, at con­sid­er­able expense, not to improve the wine but purely for aes­thet­ics. I like that.

In tast­ing the estate’s latest offer­ing I can detect a real change in the style and qual­ity of the wines. This could be due to a num­ber of things, not least that the vines are that much older and pro­du­cing more intense fruit, and the team has got on top of the vari­ous terroirs with­in the vine­yard and are using them to their best advant­age. How­ever, I think one of the major reas­ons is Shane Munn, the wine­maker. He has been at the winery for over two years and you can def­in­itely taste his touch with­in the vari­et­ies they produce.

As Wool­la­ston is an organ­ic vine­yard, Munn wants the grapes and wine to reflect place and time with min­im­al inter­fer­ence. One thing I really like about his wine­mak­ing is that he is try­ing to enhance the qual­it­ies of the grapes to make wines of char­ac­ter, essen­tially pro­du­cing a dis­tinct­ive Wool­la­ston brand. From what I have tried, he is succeeding.

As an example, we tasted an exper­i­ment­al bar­rel of Sauvign­on Blanc that had been fer­men­ted on skins and placed in an aca­cia bar­rel, under­go­ing malolact­ic fer­ment­a­tion. I really liked it, and while Munn admit­ted that this par­tic­u­lar exper­i­ment will not be pro­duced in com­mer­cial quant­it­ies, some of the qual­it­ies developed while mak­ing it may find their way into the main­stream brands.

As for the wines, I like the dir­ec­tion the vine­yard is head­ing in. The Rieslings, both the Mahana and Wool­la­ston brands, are excel­lent but are made in slightly dif­fer­ent styles. The Wool­la­ston 2013 Riesling is in the Ger­man style, with low­ish alco­hol con­tent and resid­ual sug­ar, and is fant­ast­ic. The Mahana Riesling 2013 is in a drier style with more min­er­al­ity, per­haps not as unc­tu­ous as the Wool­la­ston but still a great wine.

For me, the wines with the greatest prom­ise and excite­ment are the Pinot Noirs. Munn has man­aged to cre­ate Pinots that have body, with excel­lent fruit and tan­nin bal­ance. These are not the light, per­fumed quaff­ing Pinots that seem to be every­where; they are a more ser­i­ous, com­plex ver­sion. Drink­ing well now, they are only going to get bet­ter. The Sauvign­on Blancs have a dis­tinct French style to them; still obvi­ously dis­play­ing Nel­son char­ac­ter­ist­ics, with the bar­rel fer­ment­a­tion giv­ing them weight and tex­ture — excellent.

This is an excit­ing time for Wool­la­ston Estates, and while Munn may not have the wines exactly where he wants them, he has cer­tainly put them on an express train in the right dir­ec­tion. Buy your tick­et for this train now — it will cer­tainly be worth it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.