Our last acquisition (2013), located in the very heart of Central Otago wine on Felton Rd. in Bannockburn. Another superb site, now giving us fruit from all three major Central Valleys. It is six hectares, all Pinot Noir.
The Fusilier is situated in Bannockburn and on Felton Road. Right in the heart of what some call the “Dress Circle” of Central Otago wine. In fact, the new vineyard is pretty much right next door to the esteemed Felton Road Vineyard itself, so close we could put a hole through Nigel and Blair's windows. Only our innate sense of fair play, and our lack of a decent catapult, prevent such nonsense. Anyway, we had been on the lookout for a good site thereabouts for quite some time, an additional string to the TP bow, so to speak. So late 2013, when the opportunity arose to acquire the former Desert Heart vineyard from our friends Denny and Jane, the Prop jumped through several circus-sized hoops to seize the day.
Now the new vineyard at the western end of Felton Road is renamed THE FUSILIER. Our other neighbours are Terra Sancta and the western Akarua vineyard. The Fusilier consists of 5.6 hectares of prime Pinot. It takes its name in memory of the old Fusilier himself, the late Major Dermot Neill, latterly Wine Merchant and Convivial Wine Drinker of Dunedin. A man who always knew there was a future for wine in Central Otago.
We believe this makes us the SOLE Central Otago wine producer to own vineyards in all three major sub-regions, the three valleys (Gibbston Valley, the Alexandra Basin and the Cromwell Basin). We are therefore following perhaps the Burgundian model, a small but carefully placed foot in various camps of excellence in our superlative region.
This is the first vineyard we own that we have not developed ourselves, but it immediately came under the tender ministrations of our team under Mike Wing, and fruit from the Fusillier is an important component of Two Paddocks Pinot Noir from the 2014 vintage on. In addition we release a premium single vineyard wine - The Fusilier Pinot Noir, the first vintage of this was 2014. Both are extraordinary. Onward and upward!
We are now fully back into our organic programme. Philosophically we are not at all keen about agrichemicals and the rather regrettable industrial aspect of wine production we see elsewhere. Admittedly we are rather fortunate in some ways in that the Central Otago is well favoured towards organics -- the low humidity for instance means we are seldom challenged by fungi in the way some other regions might be. But we are, without being wild-eyed about all this, believers in a natural and healthy environment for our vines, for our staff and for you, the imbibing client. Soil health is essential as well.
This is an ongoing process -- we have in the past been certified organic, but we gave up our certification for a short time while we addressed weed problems in establishing new vineyards. Having crossed those bridges, we have, since 2013, been fully back into organics again and will be fully under the BioGro programme from 2017 vintage onwards.
So, while it's now considerably more work and investment to produce Two Paddocks wine, we think it worthwhile. Of course it's necessary to consider when you buy a good bottle of organically produced wine, that the bottle you are holding will have cost considerably more to produce than its conventionally farmed counterpart. Organics are by necessity labour intensive. It therefore should be no surprise that the wine will cost a little more.
On the subject of cost -- let's address the question of why a good bottle of Pinot costs somewhat more than some other reds. To paraphrase our friend Nigel Greening once more -- anything these days can be made on the cheap. That doesn't mean it will be any good. Pinot is more demanding of hard work than any other wine. A lot more hard work has gone into that bottle than its neighbour, the one made by machines in the vineyard. A good Pinot vine is by definition and by design the lowest yielding vine of all -- to produce the optimum ripe fruit, alive with profound fruit flavours balanced with smooth tannins and lively acids, it is regrettably necessary to drop more fruit on the ground as the season progresses than any sane man would consider sensible. The vine needs more attention by hand than you can credit -- at least fourteen visits a year each vine, pruning, shoot thinning, leaf plucking and so on. The list goes on. It is not a sane person's business -- Pinot. This is why we Pinot producers look at one another with empathy, sympathy, admiration and utter disbelief. What courage, what foolhardiness, what a nerve, what genius.