Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand
Biodynamic pioneers and Pinot Noir addicts
Central Otago has become a hotspot for premium Pinot Noir, second only to Burgundy, and Felton Road are much to blame. While committing to biodynamic practices and low-intervention winemaking, they make pure single-vineyard expressions of Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay. These have become world-renowned and highly sought-after by sommeliers, collectors and critics alike.
Location:Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand
Viticultural standards: Biodynamic certified
Interesting fact: The Elm in Felton Road’s logo is a tribute to Stewart Elms, the man that in 1991 identified the north-facing slopes at the end of Felton Road as being an ideal spot for premium viticulture. It was Stewart that first planted vines in the property – in the plot that is now called the Elms vineyard – thus effectively starting Felton Road’s wine legacy in 1992.
Felton Road Wines
Let a Pinot Noir addict from England partner with a quality-obsessed New Zealand winemaker and the result is an iconic wine range that has helped elevate Central Otago to Pinot Noir hotspot – a region to which all critics and connoisseurs now look up to as a benchmark for elegance outside Burgundy.
Blair Walter joined Felton Road in 1992 and has been head winemaker ever since. When Nigel Greening, an antipodean entrepreneur from Devon, bought the estate in 2000, they embarked on an exciting adventure together: converting all the estate to organic (2002) and then to biodynamic farming. Alongside in-house viticulturalist Gareth King and his dedicated team, Felton Road gained Demeter certification for all its vineyards in 2010.
Walter acknowledges that the full conversion has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences in his professional life.
Felton Road is located in the sub-region of Bannockburn, an old mining settlement nestled in a sub-alpine landscape, considered as one of Central Otago’s ideal sites for the production of premium wine.
Heat summation data and soil maps of the area, developed as a result of the construction of the Clyde Dam, provided some of the fundamental data to confirm this. The poor, free draining soils together with the unique climate, conducive to a slow and long ripening season, are ideal for the production of premium quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. All the grapes at Felton Road are hand-picked and handled separately in the cellar, for an accurate track record of quality differences within blocks resulting from clonal diversity, different rootstocks and vinicultural trials.
Greening bought Felton Road in 2000 along with its Elms vineyard. He combined the property with the impressive Cornish Point plot he’d acquired a couple of years before. These two prime locations provided the basis of his ground-breaking venture alongside Walter and King. Two other plots – MacMuir and Calvert – were later added to the estate. As a result of the teamwork at Felton Road, the names of these vineyards have become iconic in themselves, a synonym of the purity and specificity of the wines they parent.