News & Media
Located within a lime quarry in the Weka Pass, North Canterbury, Bell Hill vineyard is modelled on the high density plantings of vineyards in Burgundy, France.
NEW ZEALAND CHARDONNAY
GISMONDI ON WINE.COM
2012 Bell Hill Chardonnay: Farmed organically and biodynamically, the limestone sloped North Canterbury site of Bell Hill is one of the most remarkable in New Zealand. Husband and wife Marcel Giesen and Sherwyn Veldhuizen farm and produce the wines in this 2ha site, tucked in an old lime quarry in the Weka Pass. Grapes were picked earlier phenological ripeness, crushed with stems and then basked pressed with 10 percent solids before racking into French oak (25 percent new) for a year, followed by eight months more in tank.
Earthy and savoury, with wild herbs, broken stones, fine spicing throughout the taut, lean and linear frame. Citrus, green apple, subtle quince, green fig and chalk vibrate in a focused core, while light salts and spices linger on the lengthy finish. Memorable and finessed now, and will be even more so with a decade in the cellar. 95/100
Dear Friends of Bell Hill,
We hope this finds you well. For ourselves, we are behind our normal timing and we thank you for your friendly emails along the way seeking our next release and wondering if you have missed out! The new season, spring growth, a few frosts, export market work, other jobs and the fact that there are not more than 24 hours in the day has prevented us from getting to this before now. I have been promising myself (and others) to write this letter for some time - it is the last piece of the puzzle in our mail-out to you. The way it works is…I get started and Marcel contributes and censures along the way. I needed a bit of a shake up and a few ultimatums – we got it over the last two weeks – an awfully long, rolling 7.8 earthquake quite unlike the others that have come before over the last six years followed by a very close to home 5.8 in the Scargill Valley.
Amazingly, surprisingly, and thankfully, even though we are close to the epicentres, we suffered no damage or loss. We checked the barrel cellar at 5am which is stacked three barrels high on wood chocks to find everything secure. There are other implications in terms of Marlborough wineries plus freight and road access for all in the South Island. Mostly, we think about the plight of those in Kaikoura, Waiau and Scargill/Greta Valley, very testing times and we empathise with their situation and emotions right now.
For our activities over the past year since we last wrote to you, how quickly time goes by. We’re currently very active in the vineyard with shoot-thinning, weeding (due to recent and regular rainfall giving the neighbouring farmers respite from our 3-year drought but more work for us with organic farming), and spraying (in France, they use the word “treatment” – I like that much better, sounds soft and pleasant, like a spa perhaps…). We’ve also just bottled our very small 2015 vintage (you may recall we had a devastating hail storm and cool spring temperatures that severely reduced our yields). The wine looks good however so we have to celebrate the small wins. Meanwhile, the 2014 wines are quietly having their time in bottle and the 2013’s have our attention for pending release.
We had some limited time visiting export markets, always good to do and helps with keeping connected to those interested in Bell Hill. This year, it was a flying visit to Melbourne in early October to introduce the 2013 wines with a line-up of the 2011 and 2006 wines at Banjo Harris’ Liberty Bar, also a trip to California and New York in July which was based around visiting our restaurant accounts and fine-tuning the distribution model going forward. Going back a little, last November Marcel attended the Robert Parker Matter of Taste Event in San Francisco on our behalf, which is good exposure and nice to be involved in. We’ve taken on our own distribution in the US, UK and EU which has some complexities and has taken a couple of years to settle into but we think we’re on the home straight now and it is good to have more control of who we are working with and where our wine ends up with restaurants and private customers still being the core of what we do.
Our team is doing well right now, we’ve said goodbye to a few people and welcomed some new members and we have more details about them on our website. Our journalistic reviews have been positive and we were amongst the 47 wines selected for the inaugural Air NZ Fine Wines of New Zealand Awards – with the Bell Hill 2012 Pinot Noir. Not that you will find this wine on any business class flight – the small print details that, due to small volumes or unsuitability to high altitude, some wines are not available. We have some passable reviews for the current release and previous releases and the short list is enclosed with this letter.
Looking at the 2016 season behind us, we had a great growing season and finally reached our full potential cropping level. This was a long time coming and pushed a few boundaries in terms of winery space (we had fermenters in our lunch room – yes, all health and safety measured were abided to) and now we are making plans for some winery space improvements before next harvest. Moving on to the 2013 release…volumes are much improved over the 2012 vintage for the Bell Hill Pinot Noir but the Chardonnay and Old Weka Pass Road Pinot Noir is still on allocation in order to share the wine around.
Thank you for reading our news. We wish you well for the coming year and thank you for being part of Bell Hill.
Sherwyn and Marcel.