Pyramid Valley

One of the New World’s Most Exhilarating Producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Pyramid Valley founders, Mike and Claudia Weersing, were driven to create one of the New World’s great cool-climate vineyards and it took 15 years and a quixotic global journey that included a lengthy stopover in Burgundy. Mimicking the aspect and soils of this region, the Weersings finally found their special place in the southern hemisphere, within a barren chain of limestone-rich scarps at Waikari in North Canterbury. Inspiring all who came into their orbit, over another 15 years Mike and Claudia emerged as New Zealands pioneers of both biodynamic practices and high-density viticulture. Their minute scale and exceptional dedication to their soils and vines led to some incredible wines being produced.

In 2017, Mike and Claudia were moved to make the tough decision to put their magnum opus on the market. Steve Smith MW (previously of Craggy Range) was one of the many affected by what he describes as one of the most compelling and unique vineyards he has ever visited—he and his partner Brian Sheth acquired the estate in late 2017. Pyramid Valley had no shortage of suitors, and that Mike and Claudia chose to accept Smith’s offer speaks volumes. Smith’s blueprint from the outset has been to honour the Weersing’s vision and to build on the authenticity and integrity of the vineyard’s origins.

Building on the vision and authenticity of founders Mike and Claudia Weersing, the new owners look like a dead cert to cement this exceptional estate’s reputation as one of the New World’s most exciting producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Smith brought in Huw Kinch from Martinborough’s Escarpment as Estate Manager and Winemaker. Kinch was already a huge fan, believing that Pyramid Valley’s Chardonnays were among the most profound examples he had tasted. Nick Paulin then joined from Central Otago, where he had been introduced to biodynamic viticulture under Blair Walter at Felton Road (before stints at Peregrine and Lowburn Ferry).

Since joining the team in the winter of 2018, Kinch (who lives on-site with his family) has spent much of his energy expanding the original blocks, which now extend to 6.8 hectares (still not a lot of vines). Following Mike Weersing’s original vineyard map—which he never got to complete—the new plantings are all on Pyramid Valley’s mid-slope. To add clonal complexity, the new Chardonnay cuttings have included some clone 845 (in addition to the existing Mendoza and 95). The vines are spaced at a slightly lower density of 8,000 vines per hectare to allow more cover cropping and increased soil biodiversity. Kinch is particularly excited about expanding the existing, tiny 0.4-hectare Lion’s Tooth Block.

Pyramid Valley now releases three collections annually. The emblematic, 100% estate Botanical Collection will be released on allocation. For more general release is their Pastures Collection, which sees Pyramid Valley working with a roster of exceptional growers in North Canterbury, Central Otago and Marlborough. This collection is the Pyramid Valley’s negociant arm—a vital part of this project, with the aim to create a set of wines that share the same sense of somewhereness as the wines from the home vineyard. Finally, the Colours Collection comprises the Sauvignon+, Orange and Rosé.

The Range

Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Chardonnay 2021
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Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Chardonnay 2021

The wine comes from two vineyards: old-vine Mendoza Chardonnay grown on the Omihi clay soils of Waipara Springs, planted between 1982 and 1986, and Clone 5 and Mendoza Chardonnay grown on Three Sisters Vineyard on Mackenzies Road in Waipara, planted between 2001 and 2002 on Rangitata gravels. Harvested by hand between 12th and 23rd March. The must fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged in 20% new French oak barrels for 12 months before settling in stainless steel on light lees for another four months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. It opens with an alluringly reductive and toasty mineral nose before unfurling on the palate in ripe stone fruits, hazelnut and grilled almonds supported by a complex, mouth-filling structure and classic North Canterbury salinity. Burgundy drinkers will feel right at home.

“Impressive chardonnay with grapefruit/citrus, oyster shell, nutty yeast lees flavours and a smattering of spicy oak. Intense wine with power and a pleasing texture that provides backbone and promotes longevity. Delicious wine.”
95 points, Bob Campbell, The Real Review
“Nicely done, even and flowing, quite a square chardonnay if anything, classic stone fruits, cinnamon and nougat oak seasoning elements, a bit of Brazil nut savoury-sweet bitterness and a light floral element that also feels slightly botanical, gin-like maybe. Soft texture, long finish, quite a luxurious wine that feels very primped and preened. Classy stuff, and generally ‘nice’.”
93 points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
“This is an intense and beautiful chardonnay with lime, ginger, lemon zest and hints of raw pie crust with ripe apple undertones. Full and layered with lots of flavor yet vivid and energetic. Wonderful now but even better in the future.”
96 points, Jamessuckling.com
“Lifted aromas of grapefruit pith, struck match, white flowers, green melon and briar. Generously flavoured, pointed and long. There's a drive of just-ripe stone-fruit flavours along with nougat, citrus and melon. There's lovely texture and length and the acidity has some real ping and zip to it.”
95 points, Aaron Brasher, The Real Review
Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Chardonnay 2021
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Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Rosé 2022
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Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Rosé 2022

100% Pinot Noir from the Waipara Springs vineyard in Waipara, North Canterbury, which is sustainably farmed with no artificial chemicals or fertilisers. Old-vine 10/5 Clone Pinot Noir was planted in the early 1990s, and the site is managed by Pyramid Valley. The fruit was picked on 11th April. The grapes were pressed as whole bunches before fermenting with indigenous yeasts in a combination of concrete tulips and old puncheons. The wine aged on its ferment lees without sulphur for six months before blending in November. The notes below do not oversell this outstanding wine—we haven’t tasted a more exciting rosé from New Zealand. Structured and vinous it may be, yet it is also seriously addictive. 

“The 2022 Rosé North Canterbury is produced from old vine 10/5 Pinot Noir clones planted in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Dry farmed, managed organically, whole-bunch pressed and fermented in concrete and old puncheons before spending six months on lees, the resulting wine is dry, full and savory. Unlike most rosés, it doesn’t focus on fruit but texture. It is complex and concentrated, firm and serious.”
95 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous
“Pale, pretty rosé with delicate cherry/berry, raspberry and wildflower flavours. Dry and delicate wine with appealing purity and a crisp, lingering finish. Serious, sophisticated rosé.”
94 points, Bob Campbell, The Real Review
“Good colour, orange-y, ruddy hue, though flavours are lighter than expected if not suggestively tinged with blood orange tang over red cherry and pomegranate juice. The perfume is attractive, more cherry, some flinty mineral notes, a touch of dried herbs. It has a nice, sinewy chew to it all, fine tannins finish the wine, a little juiciness mid palate for some added bandwidth. Decent drinking, but doesn’t deliver a more complex expression, though that’s sometimes not the point too, of course.”
91 points, Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
“A medium-bodied rosé with crab apple and pear aromas and flavors. Some flint. Fruity and straightforward.”
Jamessuckling.com
Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Rosé 2022
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Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2021
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Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2021

This wine brings together three vineyards in North Canterbury: Three Sisters on Mackenzies Road in Waipara, planted on Rangitata gravels; the Porters family vineyard on Mackenzies Road in Waipara, planted in 2004 on Domett Clay soils on an east-facing slope; and the Springs vineyard planted in the early 1980s on Omihi clay soils. The grapes were picked by hand and fermented with indigenous yeasts in open-top fermenters, with 20% whole bunches included. The wine aged in French oak barrels (20% new) for 12 months before settling in stainless steel on light lees for a further six months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, the wine opens with a layered aroma of red plum pit and pretty, lifted floral, spice and dried herb notes. The palate is deep and silky, flecked with ripe plums, liquorice, and more dried-herb flavours perfectly framed by graceful, plush tannins. The finish has a lovely structure, which tapers to a long, savoury and moreish finish.

“Rich, concentrated, fleshy pinot noir with ripe plum, cassis, savoury/dried herb and subtle dark chocolate flavours. Bold, complex wine that is accessible now but has the structure to get even better with bottle age.”
94 points, Bob Campbell, the Real Review
“A brilliance and sweetness of fruit on the nose with cherries and lightly dried strawberries. Orange peel undertones. Medium- to full-bodied, with a tightness and firmness in texture from the linear tannins that hold the wine tight and focused. Very pretty already but needs a few years to fully come together.”
95 points, Jamessuckling.com
“The 2021 North Canterbury Pinot Noir is densely colored in the glass and leads with a far more brooding and saturated nose than the cool 2022 tasted beside. In the mouth, the wine is complex, deep and expansive, with black cherry, tapenade, hints of clove, dehydrated star anise and a hint of salted licorice through the finish. This vintage saw smaller crops, smaller berries and a warm season. There’s also a small amount of whole bunch here, which creates the capacious mid-palate. Also, the 2022 has no whole bunch, yet it tastes spicy and “bunchy,” while here, the whole bunch is aromatically invisible and evident in the exoticism through the finish, the structure and the mid-palate openness. A different expression for a different palate to 2022, but both are wonderful. 13.5% alcohol, sealed under screw cap.”
92+ points, Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate
Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2021
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Pyramid Valley Central Otago Manata Pinot Noir 2021
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Pyramid Valley Central Otago Manata Pinot Noir 2021

Pyramid Valley opened a new chapter of its story in 2018 when it purchased Jean and Roger Gibson’s highly regarded Lowburn Ferry vineyard in Central Otago’s Lowburn sub-region. Already winning national awards by 2003, the site was planted in 2000 on a gentle, north-facing slope with 30% own-rooted vines and a mix of clones—some of the oldest Pinot vines in Otago. A supplement of higher-density Pinot Noir was planted on a lower terrace in 2018 by Pyramid Valley’s biodynamic specialist, Nick Paulin, who lives on and manages the property. Now renamed Manata, paying homage to a romantic Māori legend of this region, soils are predominantly loess over deep silts that have developed pedogenic lime deposits. 2021 was the final year of organic conversion; as of 2022, the site has been certified organic by BioGro NZ. There are two wines made from this vineyard. The Manata Pinot is a selection of blocks, while a single-parcel Pinot Noir called Snake Tongue now forms part of the Botanical Selection. The grapes were hand-picked and fermented with indigenous yeasts in open-top concrete and oak fermenters, with 15% whole bunches included. The wine aged in French oak barrels (25% new) for 12 months before settling in concrete and wooden cuves on light lees for a further six months. All parties involved are clearly besotted by this “special” vineyard whose wine manifests the dark berry plushness and energy of Central Otago, allied to silky structure and impressive ageing potential.

“Manata is a vineyard in Lowburn, Central Otago which has been cultivated as a market garden for 150 years to produce soils that are high in organic matter. Dense, rich and concentrated pinot noir with cassis, ripe plum, and mocha flavours. Seductive, accessible and tantalisingly complex wine with development potential.”
96 points, Bob Campbell, the Real Review
“Sweet cherry and strawberry with cedar, light tar and stone aromas along with some vanilla bean that follows through to a full body with round and polished tannins and a crunchy finish. A savory tone to the fruit makes this very attractive and enticing. Fine and firm tannined finish.”
94 points, Jamessuckling.com
“The 2021 Manata Pinot Noir is distinctly soft, rolling and round—it sort of flows across the palate in a liquid kind of way (despite the fact that it is, actually, liquid). It's all dark chocolate, cocoa, coffee grounds, black pudding, dark cherry, plum skin and bay leaf. This is a soft, pillowy wine that has magnitude and gravitas through the finish, which is a pleasurable offset. A red apple core at the heart of the wine keeps me coming back for more ... a good attribute in a wine. “Those dark characters may be the impact of the last five days of harvest, where we had strong warm northwest winds. It hit 30 degrees occasionally," says Steve Smith, MW. 14.5% alcohol, sealed under screw cap.”
93 points, Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate
Pyramid Valley Central Otago Manata Pinot Noir 2021
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Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2020
Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2020
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Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2020

The sources here are four vineyards which include the most northerly vineyard on the Omihi saddle, a site called Top Block located on the ‘Golden Mile’, Three Sisters and the Porters vineyard. The fruit was hand-picked and fermented naturally in open-top fermenters with 25% whole bunches. It was then aged in 20% new French barrels for 12 months before being settled in tank and aging on fine lees for a further six months. There’s delicious perfume with some sappy notes and pure red fruit to intensity kick things off, alongside touches of bramble, florals and a lick of blue fruit. The fine boned structure screams cool climate with powdery tannins and delicate oak supporting a palate that suggests ripe, intensely-flavoured grapes picked at the perfect time, with good acidity. The finish possesses real class and impressive purity. It’s tighter and more coiled than the Central Otago Pinot—if you can’t give it time to unwind, a good decant will work wonders.

There’s delicious perfume with some sappy notes and pure red fruit to intensity kick things off, alongside touches of bramble, florals and a lick of blue fruit. The fine boned structure screams cool climate with powdery tannins and delicate oak supporting a palate that suggests ripe, intensely-flavoured grapes picked at the perfect time, with good acidity. The finish possesses real class and impressive purity. It’s tighter and more coiled than the Central Otago Pinot—if you can’t give it time to unwind, a good decant will work wonders.

There’s no mistaking the sense of place with aromas of white soil and wild flowers, the varietal signature of red berries with cherry and old strawberry sitting nicely alongside moments of plum then spice. Fine tannins and acidity salivate and coat the palate with texture and finesse while red fruits and wild flowers are at the core and mid-palate. Youthful and new, complex and varietal, a wine of place and time, complexity and charm.
96 points, camdouglasms.com
"A perfumed nose of rooibos tea, crushed strawberries, rose petal, grated nutmeg and moss. Medium-bodied with silky tannins. Textural and vibrant with an array of floral notes that combine and add depth to red fruit, herbs and spice, culminating in an impressive finish. Long. Drink or hold."
94 points, James Suckling, Jamessuckling.com
"The very ageworthy 2020 vintage was hand-harvested at four sites, fermented with indigeous yeasts, matured for a year in French oak barrels (20 per cent new), and then aged in tanks for four months on its light yeast lees before bottling. Full, bright ruby, it is fragrant and mouthfilling, with generous, youthful cherry, plum and spice flavours, refined tannins, and excellent complexity and harmony. Already delicious, it should be at its best 2024+." 4.5 stars
93 points, Michael Cooper, Michael Cooper's Buyer's Guide New Zealand
"There’s delicious perfume with some sappy notes and pure red fruit to intensity kick things off, alongside touches of bramble, florals and a lick of blue fruit. The fine boned structure screams cool climate with powdery tannins and delicate oak supporting a palate that suggests ripe, intensely-flavoured grapes picked at the perfect time, with good acidity. The finish possesses real class and impressive purity. It’s tighter and more coiled than the Central Otago Pinot—if you can’t give it time to unwind, a good decant will work wonders."
95 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous
Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2020
Pyramid Valley North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2020
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Pyramid Valley Marlborough Sauvignon + 2022
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Pyramid Valley Marlborough Sauvignon + 2022

This year’s blend is 98% Sauvignon Blanc with 2% Pinot Gris, sourced from three certified organic vineyards. The primary source is the Weaver family’s Churton Vineyard in Marlborough, supplemented by the Porters (Bellbird) and Good Family Vineyard in North Canterbury. Two-thirds of the fruit was fermented in tank, with 15% in concrete tulips and 17% in old barrels. Some 2% was fermented on skins. Skin fermentation and partial malolactic conversion were used to naturally balance the Sauvignon’s acidity while celebrating its innate freshness and vibrancy. It’s a cracking release: textural and racy with savoury meadow herbs woven throughout and a lovely dry, saline finish.

“Mostly from the biodynamically farmed Churton vineyard in Marlborough, with a touch of pinot gris. Mellow and quite sophisticated sauvignon with gooseberry, green capsicum, and green apple flavours. Distinctive wine with a character all of its own."
90 points, Bob Campbell, The Real Review
“Sliced limes and papaya on both the nose and palate, but not overpowering. Flint and gunpowder. Medium body, mineral and aniseed highlights. Flavorful finish.”
92 points, Jamessuckling.com
Pyramid Valley Marlborough Sauvignon + 2022
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“You may think you know New Zealand wines but I can assure you that until you have tasted Pyramid Valley, you have no idea. The results speak for themselves: astonishingly good, terroir-expressive wines that will challenge all your preconceptions.” Lisa Perrotti-Brown, The Wine Advocate

Country

New Zealand

Primary Region

Canterbury, Waipara and Otago

People

Winemaker: Huw Kinch

Availability

National

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