The unusual secret behind the biodynamic wines of New Zealand’s Pyramid Valley

“Craggy was such a glamorous, large project,” says Smith. “But I’m a Gemini: part of my brain has also always been about small parcels of land. We’ve planted some more chardonnay at Pyramid Valley, but it’s still only 6.8 hectares now. That’s not a lot of vines.”

After the 2018 vintage, Smith brought in Huw Kinch, formerly winemaker at Escarpment in Martinborough, who moved to Pyramid Valley with his family and now lives on and manages the site.

“This vineyard that Mike and Claudia founded is such a special property,” says Kinch, sitting next to Smith in the small Pyramid Valley cellar door. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come here. Hopefully I can make wines that have clarity of place and the season. At the end of day, we’re nurturing microbes in the vineyard and then picking the fruit and then nurturing microbes in the winery, all the while creating the best environment for each circumstance.”

The story took a sad turn in late 2020 with the death of Mike Weersing, who had been ill for some time.

“We held his memorial here at the end of February, during the full moon before vintage,” Smith says. It was a very special day: a collection of all his New Zealand winemaking and other friends. A lot of people who were close to Mike were suspicious of what our intentions were. But when they came on the property they saw how Huw and his family are now part of the place and how we’ve embraced everything that Mike and Claudia stood for.”

The new owners have made one significant change: they built a new winery in time for the 2021 vintage. Goodbye chicken wire, hello proper de-stemmer – along with a new press and temperature control.

Winemaker Huw Kinch, formerly from Escarpment in Martinborough, was brought in as winemaker at Pyramid Valley in 2018. Richard Brimer

“We’ve made sure Huw has got the resources he needs to make fine wine,” Smith says. “We can still do all the cool stuff like handpicking and wild yeast ferments that have always been done here. We’ve just made it a bit easier.”

In the early days, Mike and Claudia Weersing formed close relationships with vineyard owners in other parts of New Zealand and made non-estate wines from their grapes, bottled under the Grower’s Series label.

Under the new ownership, Pyramid Valley’s non-estate wines are now called the Appellation Collection, and five of the latest releases have recently arrived in Australia.

The 2019 vintage of the single-site wines from the original Pyramid Valley vineyard – the Lion’s Tooth and Field of Fire chardonnays, the Angel Flower and Earth Smoke pinots, collectively known as the Botanicals Collection – will arrive later in the year.

2020 Pyramid Valley Sauvignon + [North Canterbury]
Mostly sauvignon blanc with a tiny splash of pinot gris, muscat and riesling (the “+” in the name), with a small portion of skin contact and amphora ageing. This has gorgeously grape-pulpy aromas that lead on to a tight, mouth-watering, chalky texture on the tongue. $35

2020 Pyramid Valley Chardonnay [North Canterbury]
Like the other wines here, sourced from a couple of growers in the North Canterbury region, this chardonnay is super-complex and alluring, with some rich flavors of sun-yellow fruit and spicy oak leading to a long, tangy finish. $53

2020 Pyramid Valley Orange [North Canterbury]
Oh, if only all orange wines were as downright delicious and as beautiful as this. Predominantly pinot gris, with some muscat, riesling and gewurz thrown in for fun, fermented as whole bunches for three weeks and then aged in old barrels and amphoras for six months. Glowing amber colour, bright, juicy spicy citrus aromatics, slippery then gently tannic in the mouth. Wonderful. $53

2019 Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir [North Canterbury]
Really lovely pinot with great depth and weight without being heavy or over the top: dark fleshy berry fruit, some undergrowthy, savoury characters, all bound up in sinewy tannins. A 2019 Central Otago pinot ($66) in the range is very good, too: more ethereal, elegant, fine and powdery. $66

Pyramid Valley wines are now imported by

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