Dr. John Forrest is a New Zealand winemaker.
Since 1988, Dr. John Forrest, along with his wife Brigid, have been making wine. Together they own seven and manage a further two vineyards, along with their team they can produce over 20 different wines in a single vintage. Their labels include Forrest, The Doctors’, Newton Forrest Estate, The Valleys, Tatty Bogler, Stonewall, Field of Stones and The John Forrest collection.
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to meet John Forrest and have him talk me through the John Forrest Collection of wines.
It was illuminating to have him guide me through the thinking behind the individual wines and the collection overall. It was also mildly overwhelming. He’s an imposing figure, in stature and in character. With over twenty years experience, not only will John talk you through the work that went into selecting the vineyards, the grapes and the blend, he will tell you exactly what you’re tasting.
With the John Forrest Collection, his intention was to make wines that combine the best grapes from his best vineyards produced each vintage.
I listened with eager enthusiasm, the same approach I take to any tasting, and I was sure to quietly scribble my own impressions in a notebook. What follows is a mix of John’s descriptions and my own observations.
Wairau Valley Riesling 2007
The tasting started with the Wairau Valley Riesling 2007. A blend of grapes from the Wairau River Valley’s young, stony soils and older Brancott Valley’s free-draining clay soils. The combined blend mixes fine minerality and citrus notes with tropical fruits, weight and texture, respectively.
As with all wines in the Collection, the Riesling is dominated by a refreshing, noticeably sharp acidity brought about by the Brancott clay while the Wairau produces delicate mineral notes. A beautifully balanced, wonderfully round wine, showcasing buttery sweetness and zesty citrus and lime.
In future, the blend will disappear, to be replaced with two separate Rielsings with individual expressions of their unique region and soil.
Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Entirely free from ‘fiddly bits’, the Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 takes a minimalist winemaking approach with grapes hand-selected from the oldest vines and stoniest sites. Not only minimalist, it’s a discerning approach with Sauv produced only in the best vintages.
The expected gooseberry and flinty minerality was present as were some bright tropical notes rounding out this bone-dry fruit-first wine.
Waitaki Valley Pinot Gris 2011
John proclaimed you should be shot for picking this wine as anything other than a Pinot Gris. Grown on limestone soils, you experience a chalky minerality and a fresh acidity. Talking aromas and flavours, this delicate wine is vibrant, tropical and citrus fruits, ripe berries and intense aromatics.
This is the connoisseurs Chardonnay, meaning you’ll love it or hate it, without room for grey indecision. It has everything a truly remarkable Chardonnay requires: creamy texture, dry palate and oaky overtones.
The newly released 2010 Chardonnay was to be revealed as part of the Waitaki Wine Week.
This was the treat of the tasting for me. Blending Viognier from the Hawke’s Bay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer from Marlborough and Pinot Gris from Northern Otago. Blending so many grapes and regions has turned this wine into something of a chameleon. Changes in temperature, the addition of food or the introduction of oxygen, each of these elements subtly alters the experience.
The wine is entirely moorish, you can’t help returning to the aromas and flavours to see how they evolve and change. Aromatically intriguing, the acidity and tannins that are necessary for a balanced and interesting wine are present. But the more obvious elements are the lemon, lime impressions, sweet, dried apricot, spicy star anise and herbaceous thyme, all of these are linked by the distinct John Forrest Collection acidity.
The Pinot Noirs
Hand-picked grapes from Central Otago grown on north-facing terraces that provide natural protection from frosts and allow for a prolonged ripening time come Autumn. A full, rounded and weighty wine packing a herbaceous punch with notes of thyme and cloves. An intense dryness and stark acidity is softened with flavours of strawberry and plum.
An entirely different beast from the previous Pinot. The Waitaki limestone soils lends itself to a finely balanced acidity and up-front mineral characters. In the mouth you’re greeted with a chalky texture of drying tannins and an earthy, savoury presence on the palate. There is a hint of sweetness, but for me there was enough fruit to allow for balance but not much more.
Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2007
A big, rounded Gimblett Gravels Syrah. This was the seventh Syrah from the Newton Forrest Estate vineyard in the Hawke’s Bay and the third in the John Forrest Collection. A strong, meaty and black peppered Syrah, typical of its terroir. A complex wine with spicy notes of liquorice and white pepper. John talked about the challenge the vines have to face as they struggle to survive among the stones of the abandoned riverbed they call home.
Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Same abandoned riverbed where the Syrah is grown, same challenging growing conditions. Same small bunches of grapes. This is a wine made by those who know how to make wine Chalky texture, dark red fruit and black olive aromas, flavours of cloves and plenty of acidity. The fruit sits all on the nose with a more savoury and herbaceous experience in the mouth.
Brancott Valley Noble Riesling 2006
A well-layered noble Riesling that is structured based on fruity and floral components rather than just a base sweetness. Instead the sweetness is woven through the drink with floral aromas of rose and buttercup. In the mouth it’s a silky-smooth and weighty wine with flavours of lemon, banana and camomile tea. Of course no John Forrest Collection wine is complete without the mandatory acidity that helps keep the sweetness in check, all in the name of balance.