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lundi, 02 mars 2015



Claude Gilois


There are times in our life when the beauty of the landscape or human construction is such that we become mesmerised, trying to fix in our minds this moment forever. Sometimes the two combine to enhance each other to provide a breath-taking landscape of beauty.


There are magnificent vineyards all over the world, but if I had to choose only one, it would be Rippon, in New Zealand as being the most beautiful vineyard site in the world.


You have to travel a long way to discover this little natural jewel only slightly tampered by man. The domain is located in the region of Central Otago in the central part of the southern island of New Zealand.



Viticulture in the Southern Hemisphere stops at Rippon, located at a latitude of 45o.  It is further south than Patagonia, which is located at a latitude of 36o, and is very often wrongly considered the most southerly region for grape growing.


It would take a poet or writer of the caliber of John Clare, Dorothy Wordsworth or Richard Jefferies to describe the beauty of the site accurately.


In the absence of such talent, hopefully a photo will speak for itself, though it does not reveal all the components that form this little jewel, and the slope in real life is slightly steeper, and from the top of the hill we get the impression that the vineyard is falling into the Wanaka Lake.

rippon vineyard.jpg

This lake is essential for the viticulture at Rippon as its temperature does not vary by more than 3oC throughout the year.  It acts as a thermal regulator for the local climate and also as a hot water bottle, which markedly reduces the risk of frost, which is not negligible in this part of the world.   We are not far from the ‘roaring forties’, winds sweep across the south island from west to east until they come to the Alps where clouds burst to produce torrential rain amounting to 6000 mm a year, while Rippon just 50 kilometers away only gets 600 mm, mostly in summer.  The wind, stripped from its humidity, continues to blow until it reaches Ruby Island, an old glacier,  (at the back of the photo) which acts as a barrier and markedly reduces its intensity. When the wind is strong, the lake produces layers of froths but the wind does not cause stress to the vines as it rolls up the hills gently.


Summers are hot and dry and the weather in the autumn is good with variation of temperatures, which can reach 25oC, between day and night allow long maturity of the grapes on the vine and extra complexity in the wine.

Winters are cold, but without extreme temperatures.  The snow that comes from the neighboring slope does not last very long.


The small island in front of the vineyards seems to have been added by nature as a final touch of beauty,  a bit like the cherry on the cake.


The vineyard has two distinct soils, which come from the same mineral (decomposed schist) that has been deposited at two different times and is covered by a layer of loess brought by the wind.


Rolfe Mills who planted just about anything he could lay his hands on created the domain in 1982. From his experiments he concluded that Pinot Noir and Riesling were the two best varieties from the terroir. Since 2003, Nick Mills has been in charge of the domain, which is farmed biodynamically.

Nicj mills de Rippon Vineyard.jpg

With the passing of time and with experience the vineyard is now divided into several single vineyards, which are fermented separately. Depending on the vintage, a certain proportion of the grapes are vinified as whole bunches, this can vary from 0% to 100% with an average of 40-50%.


The wines are extremely elegant. It is infusion of Pinot Noir and under this latitude it would be difficult to do otherwise. The style is a little austere for New Zealand Pinots but it does not take away any of its quality. They are sold under the Rippon Vineyard label but there are two single vineyard bottlings that produce about 80 cases each.


Rippon labels.jpg

The Riesling is elegant and it is not lacking in depth  either.






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