10 years after the founding of Rimapere in the Marlborough region, in the prestigious area of Rapaura, Edmond de Rothschild Heritage purchased Akarua, a 52ha property from the Skeggs family.
Located in the Central Otago region (Bannockburn), in the heart of the South Island of New Zealand, the estate comprises 34.5 ha of vines, nestled in in the foothills of snow-capped mountains, on the bank of the Kawarau River, upstream of Dunstan Lake and amid breathtaking scenery. Edmond de Rothschild Heritage was immediately seduced by Akarua’s exceptional terroir and potential, enabling them to expand their range with a great Pinot Noir.
Ariane de Rothschild, Chairwoman of Edmond de Rothschild Croup, explains the mineral complexity of Central Otago soils is widely known to provide excellent growing conditions to this grape variety. The terroir of Bannockburn shares similarities with Burgundy and the same potential to produce the best Pinots Noirs in the world.
« The international reputation of Central Otago gives us a unique occasion to get into organic winegrowing, one of the fastest growing categories right now.» Ariane de Rothschild.
« By purchasing this new estate, we are consolidating our position as premium wines producers, selling wines that are made exclusively from our own vines. » Boris Bréau, Managing Director of Edmond de Rothschild Heritage Wines.
Edmond de Rothschild Heritage already owns 9 vineyards in France, Spain, South Africa, Argentina and New Zealand, producing 3.5 million bottles a year. With Akarua, the group is entering the organic wine market for the first time.
« Central Otago, particulary Bannockburn, represents an ideal terroir for Pinot Noir thanks to its continental climate – rare for New Zealand – which is associated with a great deal of mineral complexity in the soil (loess over shale and sand). The Akarua vineyard is a unique site, nestled in the foothills of the moutains, offering more balanced conditions which will undoubtedly allow our wine to grow into one of the finest Pinot Noir. » Anne Escalle, Technical Director of Rimapere since 2019 and settled in New Zealand for 15 years, takes on the management of this new vineyard.
A historic terroir
Akarua was created in 1996 by Sir Clifford Skeggs, a New Zealand entrepreneur renowned in the fishing and tourism sector, along with his family. Together they turned it into a well-known brand which later became a household name throughout the country.
In Māori, the name ‘Akarua’ means two grape varieties. Pinot noir and chardonnay were the two varietals first planted on the estate. They now represent 78.5 % and 2% of the parcels respectively, and a small amount of pinot gris and riesling completes the offering. Drawing on the know-how of local teams and on its own international winemaking expertise, Edmond de Rothschild Heritage’s ambition is to optimise Akarua’s outstanding potential in order to produce the country’s finest pinot noir from a single estate, to create elegant wines and exceptional cuvées and to become the New Zealand benchmark in both domestic and international markets.
The Akarua vintages
The second most widely planted grape variety in New Zealand, pinot noir captures and reproduces the intensity from the terroirs of Akarua and the Bannockburn landscapes, resulting in extremely aromatic, fruity and voluptuous wines, underpinned by a taut structure and silky texture.
Akarua pinot noir is aged for 11 months in French oak barrels, a quarter of which have never been used. Floral and spicy, it delivers raspberry and blackcurrant aromas on the nose, while the palate is savoury, with black cherry notes. From now on it will be produced exclusively with grapes from the Cairnmuir Road parcels.
The Siren, Akarua’s super premium cuvée, is produced from the finest lots at Cairnmuir Road, harvested by hand. It is aged for 18 months in new French oak barrels (with a proportion in one and two year old barrels), then for 12 months in the bottle before release. The wine is full-bodied and complex, floral and spicy, and bursting with black berries. The aim is to double production volumes in the next five years from 70,000 to 150,000 bottles, while simultaneously consolidating the move to premium as a statement of Akarua’s new raison d’être: premium and super premium wines, all exclusively produced from vines on the estate.
The attention and care given to each and every vine will allow us to identify and optimise existing potential in order to create exceptional cuvées, selected from extremely high quality parcels or from special vinification. For the New Zealand market only at first, Akarua will also produce a rosé from the Cairnmuir Road pinot noir grapes, which will be pale in colour due to the pressing process, and still white wines made from chardonnay, pinot gris and riesling, as well as an Ice-style wine.
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