In recent years, Wellington has become known as a magnet for filmmaking talent from all over the world, but it was wine-making that brought two Hollywood producers to Marlborough to see if they could replicate California’s other great industry in New Zealand.
Joanne and Bruce Kerner both enjoyed successful producing careers in Hollywood, with involvement in projects as diverse as The Cosby Show and the Terminator movies. But it was while they were on vacation in Marlborough in the 1990s that these lifelong wine fans made the decision to move to New Zealand and start making wine.
Not wanting simply to replicate the local cash crop of Sauvignon Blanc, the Kerners were interested in growing Pinot Blanc, an alternative variety that Joanne had fallen in love with in California. “I started drinking Pinot Blanc when I got tired of the big, over-oaked California Chardonnays and was looking for something different,” she says. So alongside traditional varieties, the Kerners planted 5 hectares of Pinot Blanc and have created a unique Kiwi wine.
Pinot Blanc is a mutation of Pinot Noir and (like Chardonnay) has a reputation as a wine-maker’s wine — for the different ways the wine-maker can shape the end result. Pinot Blanc is often likened to Pinot Gris, but Joanne believes the variety to be superior in that it offers more complexity.
The success of the Kerners’ Pinot Blanc has probably surprised everyone except the Kerners. Joanne believes the variety grows better in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world and is surprised the variety is not more prolific here. She has a point. Pinot Blanc as a straight variety is not overly common anywhere in the world. Even in Alsace, where the grape is widely planted, the Pinot Blanc designation is usually a blend of Pinot varieties. This lack of a home region and a defining style prompted New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov to accuse Pinot Blanc of being a “phantom grape” and a “cipher”. Joanne Kerner thinks she has found Pinot Blanc a new home in New Zealand.[info]
Kerner Estate 2010 Pinot Blanc
Of appeal to Pinot Gris drinkers wanting a bit more, this fantastically balanced wine is characterised by a creamy texture with rich fruit flavours and a lovely crisp acidity. The wine is fermented in older oak barrels, adding richness and complexity to the wine but not overwhelming it.
Retail price: $30
Available in Wellington at: Centre City Wines and Spirits, Wineseeker, Thorndon New World, winesale.co.nz.