Claire and Mike Allen set up their company predominantly for export, hence the name 'Huia'. The name is taken from the distinctly New Zealand bird that was last sighted in 1907, a bird whose tail feather was prized by both the Maori and visiting European royalty. To wear a feather from the sacred Huia was regarded as a great honour. Click here to read more on the huia bird.
But we are not here to talk about the bird that lent this company its name even though it adds an interesting tangent. We are here to talk about the wine company and their portfolio of wines that I tasted on the last day of November 2004.
Claire, previously a winemaker at Lawson's Dry Hills from 1992-1996 and Mike Allen, previously at Vavasour, set up their company in 1996 to focus on high quality Marlborough wines for export. "Domestically there was a plethora of fantastic Marlborough wines. Focussing on the international market made it easier for a fledgling company", Claire said.
At first they made their wine at the Vavasour winery while developing their own vineyard and facilities. At one time the colour steel barn-like structure stood out on the Rapaura Road landscape but now it is surrounded by more majestic looking buildings. Their first full vintage on site was in 2001.
Their aim is to take Marlborough's bright fruit and hand craft the wines using classical techniques to add a rich texture and complexity without ruining the fruit. No aromatic yeasts or aroma enhancers are used, so often the wines are not as aromatic as others from the region. The Huia signature is a big palate that builds in the bottle as it matures.
The Roseworthy graduates had both worked in Champagne where they developed a taste for Methode Champenoise made in the traditional style. The Huia Brut, with the primary fermentation in old French oak, 40 months on yeast lees in bottling for the secondary fermentation, and hand riddling before disgorgement, emulates that taste. It was a fitting lead in to the tasting.
Huia Marlborough Brut 2000
Light mid-gold. Yeasty, full, bready scents with hints of rose petal lead into a soft, full, leesy, bready palate with oak adding complexity. The finish is lifted and toasty with lingering strawberry and peach giving a long, full and sweetly lingering aftertaste with a lovely bready richness. Drinking well now. 23% Pinot Meunier, 29% Pinot Noir, 48% Chardonnay fermented in old French oak with full malolactic fermentation. 40 months on yeast lees before bottling. 12.1% alc. 6g/l rs. 7.2g/L TA. 3.13 pH. $36. 30Nov2004.
Huia Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Wild yeast aromatics gives a smoky profile to this dry savoury style of SB which is not immediately what you expect from Marlborough. Grassy with lots of crisp grapefruit and lime acidity over a full bready palate with lots of yeasty influence, it opens up to become quite tropical on the finish with hints of pineapple coming through and then more classical peasy characters on the aftertaste.
12.5% alc. 4.2g/l rs. 7.8g/L TA. 3.3 pH. $22 30Nov2004.
Huia Marlborough Riesling 2003
Perfumed, musky, limey, earthy aromas with hints of honeysuckle lead into a crisp, talcy, quite steely palate where florals intertwine with limey citrus. The slightly oily texture makes it flow nicely, becoming just a little grainy on the finish where the honeyed yeasty flavours are cut by intense lime. Fresh, clean and fruit driven with a long dry finish.
11.9% alc. 7.2g/l rs. 7.35g/L TA. 3.06 pH. $25. 30Nov2004.
Huia Marlborough Riesling 2004
Bright citrine in colour, this is a bigger fuller wine than the 2003 version, offering much more on the nose with its juicy fruit, nectarine-like aromas. Technically drier than the Huia '03, the ripeness of the fruit with some botrytis influence makes it seems sweeter though nicely balanced by the fresh lemon/tangelo/line acidity. Nice density and weight with tropical fruit, honeysuckle and lovely citrus intensity and tartness on the finish. TBR March 2005.
13.2% alc. 5.7g/l rs. 7.7g/L TA. 3.18 pH. Tasted 30Nov2004.
Huia Marlborough Pinot Gris 2004
Pale coloured and quite neutral smelling with pears and yeasty aromas, still a little tight and phenolic at this stage, a little disintegrated mid palate and hot on the finish. Musky floral notes emerge on the aftertaste with stonefruit/pipfruit flavours lingering with a spicy lift to the finish making for a more satisfying conclusion to this full-bodied, slightly viscous wine.
14.3% alc. 4.1g/l rs. 5.5g/L TA. 3.56 pH. $26. 30Nov2004.
Huia Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2004
Light gold. Softly aromatic with tantalising aromas of musk, crushed coriander spices and rose petal, seemingly dry in the palate at first but with a pleasing off-dry, not too overpowering, finish. Asian spices, hints of lemon grass, ripe spiced stonefruit and just a touch of lychee characterise this beautifully balanced, silky textured gewurz with a muskiness and spice lift to the warm lingering finish.
14.5% alc. 7.8g/l rs. 5.3g/L TA. 3.59 pH. $25.30Nov2004.
Huia Marlborough Chardonnay 2002
Full and rich to the nose with mealy, toasty nutty scents Quite tasty and tangy in the palate with spicy polished oak and strong mealy influences. Peachy, creamy and nutty with a long flavoured, silky textured palate and butterscotch coming through to linger on the long, well-rounded finish. Pre-release sample.
14.1% alc. 2.0g/l rs. 6.4g/L TA. 3.28 pH. 30Nov2004.
Huia Marlborough Pinot Noir 2002
A little development to the pinky/red colour due to more time in the barrel before bottling, there's a lovely elegance to this pinot. Red cherry melds into the savouriness of the wine. Earthy, savoury, some herbal, floral influences, spicy oak to the finish. A meaty wine in many respects with a good tannin structure. Drinking nicely now. Try with duck, the acidity of this pinot will cut nicely through the fattiness of the duck.
13.6% alc. 1.8g/l rs. 5.6g/L TA. 3.65 pH. $35. 30Nov2004.
Huia Marlborough Pinot Noir 2003
There's a marked colour difference to the Huia 2002 tasted alongside it. Bright dense, purple red, aromatics scents of Asian spices alongside chocolate and cherries, abundant primary fruit, but just a little disjointed in palate at this stage with a marmite savouriness dominating (not, it is not due for release for another 4 months). Quite a robust spicy wine with good palate weight, firm tannin structure, spice and acidity on finish and rose petals lingering with spice cherries and polished oak. Needs a little more time.
13% alc. 1.4g/l rs. 5.6g/L TA. 3.65 pH. $35. 30Nov2004.
Visit Huia Vineyard in Marlborough any day of the year between 10am and 4.30pm at Boyces Road at Rapaura, west of Blenheim or click on the website for more info. www.huia.net.nz.
Copyright Sue Courtney