September 17, 2013

Friday 13 September, KL

Wooing Tree Vineyard Masterclass was held at Hugo’s on 6, Best Western Premier Dua Sentral, organised by New Zealand Unlimited together with the Sommelier Association of Malaysia (SOMLAY)

Steve Farquharson is co-owner of the Vineyard along with his wife, sister and brother-in-law. It is a family-owned and run single vineyard site in Central Otago. It is named after the Wooing Tree, a prominent landmark lying in the middle of the property where lovers would meet and sometimes propose. It is now a popular location for weddings.

Steve started his presentation by introducing the area of Central Otago which boasts some of the southernmost vineyards in the World. It has a continental climate, it is surrounded and protected by mountains with very little rainfall (approx 350 mls a year) and low humidity, both of which lead to very little disease pressure and therefore hardly any need for sprays. Frost is a very real danger to the crop in the winter but they have developed various methods to deal with it.

The area has very small wine production compared with the rest of New Zealand but is now relatively well known for producing top quality Pinot. Last year’s Bouchard Finlayson Trophy for Pinot Noir at the International Wines and Spirits Competition in London was won by a local producer.

The family purchased the vineyard site and started planting the vines in 2002. The first vintage was in 2005, the Wooing Tree Pinot Noir won the Air New Zealand Trophy for the Open Red Wine (best red wine), not a bad start! Since then their wines have continued to wine Trophies and Gold Medals at various international wine events too numerous to mention here but they are listed in full on their website.  On to the wine tasting:

Wooing Tree Blondie 2012, a “white” wine made from Pinot Noir. The wine has, in fact, a very slightly pale pink tinge to it, the result of leaving the juice in contact with the red skins for the smallest amount of time possible. Quite an unusual wine, which won an innovation in winemaking award in 2008. Very crisp acidity with aromas and flavours of stone fruit, nectarines and peaches with a decent length finish. An ideal aperitif.

Wooing Tree Rosé 2012, a true rosé made from Pinot Noir. Using a very similar technique to the Blondie but left on the skins a little longer, which can be anywhere between 1-24 hours until they achieve roughly the same colour every year; they describe it as a vibrant pink, I thought it was more a deep salmon colour. Delightful floral aromas of rose petals along with strawberries and cream. Refreshingly crisp with flavours of raspberries and peach showing on the palate. This wine has proved to be very popular, aren’t all rosés frankly? They have seen increased sales all year round not just during the summer. The desire was to make a rosé very much in the Southern French style, something I feel they have successfully achieved.

Wooing Tree Chardonnay 2011, the only wine of the tasting not made from Pinot grapes. It is made very much in the traditional Burgundy style. It spends 11 months in French oak barrels. It has medium acidity and body, a very smooth texture with aromas and flavours of tropical fruits, and a hint of brioche with a nice long finish. Very much back in vogue in New Zealand, they have found it is very much sought after in restaurants around the country. Apparently it has recently won a gold award but the result is currently embargoed so Steve couldn’t tell us at which competition. Watch this space…

Wooing Tree Beetle Juice 2011, so on to our first of the red Pinot Noirs. This is their entry level wine which is the lightest of the three reds. Immediately approachable, aromas and flavours of raspberries, red and black cherries. It has a pleasant earthiness very much associated with this grape. It has spent 9 months in French oak barrels (28% of which were new). Nicely integrated tannins. Offers good value for money.

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2009, this is their main wine and has the largest production volume. I found it had more earthiness and deeper intensity of flavour with much more complexity than the Beetle Juice, which is to be expected as it spends a month longer in the barrel with a higher percentage of which are newer (34%) It does indeed have “big” flavours for a Pinot, something Steve told us is very relevant to this particular vintage, not so much so in other years. As well as winning silver awards in London for both the IWSC and Decanter awards. this is the wine that won the Trophy for the Best Wine with Peking Duck at the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits competition. Steve is hosting an evening of tasting his Pinot with Peking Duck in London in the coming few weeks.

Sandstorm Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, only limited amounts produced, their Ultra Premium wine (roughly translated as very expensive). Made from very low-yielding vines, mainly because they are thinned to only one bunch per shoot. It spends 18 months in oak barrels and is very powerful and concentrated, much more evidence of the oak treatment giving the wine smokey & spicey aromas and flavours added to intense black cherries and plums. Wow!

Wooing Tree Tickled Pink 2012, a little frivolity to finish the tasting. A late harvest sweet wine from Pinot Noir grapes with 105g of residual sugar. Aromas of candy floss, strawberries and cream, peaches and toffee apple. A dessert wine with a difference, Steve told us it is very popular at the Cellar Door.

After the tasting I asked Steve if he has considered producing organic wines as the climate seems ideal. He said they are looking at organics as they are very close already, they are in the process of lifting their irrigation wires up off the ground and that will enable them to control weeds via undervine mowing and taking away the need to weed spray and to follow organic practices. They are currently registered as a sustainable vineyard. For those interested, more information on this issue is available at

Wooing Tree wines are distributed and sold in KL by New Zealand Unlimited. The Hilton hotel already lists the three Pinots, however distribution is expected to be much wider in the coming months. Good news for us!


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