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The Story Behind our 2011 Vintage Bubbles

The last decade has brought a fertile flourishing of minds, vines and wines at Gibbston Valley Winery. Like a slow growing plant that burst into flower, feverish growth occurs suddenly – this spring has seen an explosion of new wine releases, new buildings, a restaurant refurbishment, and all sorts of new experiences.

From the winery, it is thrilling to continue to make so many different wines. A decade ago, when I started here, we released ten different wines a year. A reasonable number for a small privately owned winery. This year we will release 27. This is quite extraordinary, showing our love of experimentation and investigation, no matter the size.

Perhaps the most noble and ambitious of our 27 have being released this month. After a long five years in the making, we are delighted to launch our vintage Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines, the 2011 Blanc de Blancs and Rosé.

We have had to be patient! The wines were bottle conditioned for so long that tasting them became remarkably intense experience. The anticipation and thrill of opening a bottle after five years of deep isolation is hard to describe. We poured the wine, eagerly watching the wine’s delicate descent into the glass, inwardly applauding its gentle foam, before being taken by its cool and elegant presence as it traced its way up in the flute.  I swear it exuded a sense of immaculate self – entitlement, as if saying “I’m beautiful, what do you expect?”

Sparkling winemaking is a folly really. Back in 2010 when we started talking about this project, I was not in favour of it. To me, the only thing crazier than having a winery was having one that makes sparkling. It’s frighteningly expensive to produce, and a great way for a winery to lose money.

However, our owner has a great love and appreciation of Champagne. You can guess the rest of the story. The owner has been right behind this the whole way. His advice to us was simple – make it good.  Make it the best (expletive expletive) stuff around.  So we set out to do exactly that. 

bubbles blog post

It didn’t take us long to get hooked on the idea and get right into the enjoyment of making it.  It is a fascinating process.  Central Otago gives us superb crisp and pure Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  We get to employ all the techniques required to make base wine: precise timing, a delicate touch and a whole lot of predictive understanding about what style will work.  Lastly, there are few cooler processes than bottle fermentation – the gift to the world from the Champenoise.  Time and patience are essential.  The wine sits on its lees in darkness, gaining richness, texture, complexity.

Then the vivid miracle of opening the stuff!

So, after five years in the making, including 56 months in bottle, we are releasing these two vintage wines.  As per Phil’s orders we have aimed high and spared nothing.  We have been patient and very careful to get them right.  They are our oldest, newest wines.  Fittingly, their history replicates the story of the very first GV Wine – one man’s seemingly crazy impulse facing off against external skepticism, leading to the production of something that we feel is top class.

May the bubbles have as illustrious future as our Pinot Noir.

Christopher Keys

enjoy here