Region: North Canterbury
First Glance: textured and complex top Chardonnay
Pyramid Valley is a true cool-climate gem in North Canterbury, situated half way between the cold ocean on one side and snow capped mountains on the other. Originally started by Mike and Claudia Weersing in 2000, the estate has been fully biodynamic from the get go, and is operated with a great focus on biodiversity, to strengthen the natural resilience of the vines and ecosystem around them. The last vintage of the Weersings was 2016, after which the winery was bought up by the dynamic power-duo of Steve Smith MW and American billionaire investor Brian Sheth. With new investments in both cellar and vineyard, as well as the addition of plots in Central Otago, the future looks bright for this iconic address.
The grapes for the 2020 were foot-stomped in the original shed and then whole-bunch pressed. The juice fermented wild on full solids before spending 20 months on lees in high-quality, used French oak. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Steve Smith mentions in his release notes that “the 2020 Field of Fire will no doubt generate some conversations.” We should add that the tone of these conversations will be positive! In short, the seasonal pH at Pyramid Valley was exceptionally low (3.07 in this case), and despite gentle coaxing, the Field of Fire did not entirely finish malolactic fermentation. The final wine sits at a racy 8.9g/L. Yet, while the acidity is prominent in its steely and salty guise, the wine is flavour ripe with the richness, complexity and length to carry the rapier acidity.
The nose has a complex medley of fresh and pithy stone fruits, saline fringes and toasted hazelnuts alongside a wisp of smoky reduction. Driven by that tensile acidity, the powerful and densely packed palate combines lightness and breadth, flowing seamlessly through flavours of lemon curd, hazelnuts and a sourdough maltiness before finishing with great length and precision. It’s already a stunning Chardonnay and has everything in place to blossom over the next decade.