Bell Hill Vineyard, Chardonnay


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About the wine



Wine type




Bottle size


The Bell Hill Chardonnay is a select barrel blend from the Shelf, Limeworks (2009 & 1999 blocks), and Roadblock. The fruit was a combination of whole cluster pressed and crushed but not de-stemmed, depending on block, in our tank press followed by 12 months in French oak (20% new) and 7 months in tank. The wine was bottled on the 3rd of November 2017 with a pH of 3.30, TA of 6.3 g/L, and alcohol of 13%. 3,240 bottles were produced. We kept a portion of the Limeworks block aside and have bottled this separately as a single block blend which we plan to give more time and release with the 2017 vintage.

Tasting note

The nose has intense but refined aromatic lift combining vibrant wildflower, grapefruit and white stone fruit notes, followed by chalky, flint expression and a fresh lift of oak. The palate holds a delicious depth of fruit centred on those stone fruit and yellow citrus notes, underscored by the palate texture which reveals a long and refined drive, accessible all along but held in check by the chalkiness of texture and mineral, salivating effect on the finish.

About the producer

Bell Hill itself, so named for its bell-like shape on its southern side, was first surveyed in 1917 by Charles Trounce, who went on to establish a lime quarry that operated until the late 1930s. However, the history of the area goes back much further than that. Maori first explored Weka Pass around 1,000 years ago, when the area was still forested and rich in birdlife. A large overhanging limestone shelter in the pass was used as a temporary overnight camp and early Maori rock art decorates its walls.

Bell Hill Vineyard, so named for the bell-like shape on the southern side of its hill, was established in 1997 by Marcel Giesen and Sherwyn Veldhuizen. Situated in an ancient, north-facing limestone quarry in Waikari (adjacent to Weka Pass Historic Reserve), North Canterbury, the vineyard now covers 2 hectares of high-density plantings. The Weka Pass area was previously unplanted with grapes, but Marcel and Sherwyn were drawn to the pure chalky limestone soils and calcareous clays. With a delicate touch and focus on excellence, Marcel and Sherwyn are passionate about using Burgundian techniques to craft their stunning range of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.

The ‘Roadblock’ and ‘Slope’ vineyard blocks are rich in dense, calcareous clays bringing another influence to their wines. Marcel and Sherwyn have been farming organically and biodynamically since the 2007/ 2008 growing season and see this as paramount to increased soil and vine health, as well as fruit quality and expression. The Bio-Gro Organic Certification was granted on 1 March 2015.

All wines are under screwcap closures and decanting recent vintages is to be encouraged, including Chardonnay.

Regions Vintage Report:

The 2016 vintage season started with a moderate frost cycle – the wind machine was used only 3 times and water twice. A warm, dry season followed throughout, resulting in very even flowering and good fruit-set, also taking us into the second year of regional drought. Rain in January brought some relief and prevented our dry-farmed vineyard from experiencing drought stress and a light top-up in early March kept the vine momentum going. Overall, NZ experienced on average a 10% increase in crop load, mostly due to late increase in berry size as a result of the later rains and, for us, also a likely vine response to the very low yield the previous year as a result of hail. A relatively long harvest ensued, lasting from the 1st to the 21st of April. On April 1st we made a start with the Shelf Chardonnay, moving to the Quarry Rootlings Pinot Noir on the 6th and back to Chardonnay with the Limeworks 2009 on the 7th and Roadblock 2008 on the 8th. Pinot Noir harvesting continued with the Shelf 1998 and Roadblock on the 11th, Westbank on the 13th, Slope on the 14th, Shelf Long Rows (2006-2008) on the 16th and, a return to Chardonnay Roadblock 2009 and Limeworks 1999 on the 19th before, the Quarry 10/5 Pinot Noir on the 20th to 21st. Our winemaking philosophy is simple, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blocks are multi-cloned and are typically harvested, fermented, pressed and put to barrel separately as individual blocks. This allows us to follow the evolution of the wine for a year before making our blending decisions and gives opportunities to evaluate single block potential. When we have good volume, we can split a block or two in half and do winemaking trials. The yeasts are natural, coming from the vineyard, we make small natural starters from each parcel after the fruit has been processed into its fermenting vat (PN) or pressed into tank (CH). Malolactic fermentation is 100%, also natural. We don’t use fining or clarification agents and filtration is minimal – coarse filtering for Chardonnay, the same for Pinot Noir from the racking valve down, or not at all. For Chardonnay, our first addition of sulphur is at 12 months when the wine comes out of barrel and into tank. Pinot Noir sees an addition of sulphur to protect the fruit during its cold maceration time and acid adjustments in the fermenter to stabilise pH for long term stability, colour and ageing. The wine is then left alone and sulphured in tank after barrel ageing for 12 months. Small sulphur adjustments are made, if necessary, just before bottling.

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