Founded in 1996 by Sir Clifford Skeggs, Akarua is Maori for ‘two vines’ (Aka = vine, rua = two). Sir Clifford Skeggs started out as an oyster fisherman in his hometown of Bluff and worked his way to becoming one of the region’s most successful businessmen.

He’d always had a hankering to run a winery and loved Chardonnay, which was then New Zealand’s wine du jour. However, scientific data showed that the Bannockburn region had similar temperatures and weather characteristics to Burgundy, suitable for growing Pinot Noir vines.

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Upon acquiring 49 hectares in the Bannockburn region, Sir Skeggs decided to plant Chardonnay and “some of that red shit,” the two vines of Akarua. He was one of the first in the region to commit to Bannockburn on a large scale, so secured a fine, North-facing and elevated site. In 2014, under the direction or Sir Skeggs’ son, David Skeggs, Akarua purchased another 50 hectares in Felton Road and Lowburn.

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Akarua’s Pinot Noir first won the Air New Zealand Wine Awards in 2002 and since 2009, each vintage has won a trophy. Wine Life decided to try one of Akarua’s more youthful vintages, the 2015 Pinot Noir. We talked to award-winning winemaker Andrew Keenleyside to find out more.

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Snobby Wine Description

It’s rich with dark fruit, blueberry and bramble flavours. The complexity comes from using a mix of inoculated and wild ferments. On the palate, it’s bright, upfront with fruity, chocolate, mocha, brambly characters. It’s got a nice long savoury finish with forest floor and mushroom aromas and fine and full tannins.

The full tannins are a characteristic of the Home block, they’re generous wines with a fullness across the palate.

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What went into making this wine?

Heart, soul, blood and tears… there’s not much left to give after that.

We have a very dedicated vineyard crew. Our company vision is to be one of the most successful wine families in New Zealand. Akarua is driven by people, pride and family. Two of our staff have been there since 1996 and many have worked here for at least eight years. We all want to come to work, everyone is very involved and we all celebrate trophy wins together as a ‘family’.

This extends to our outstanding Cellar Door club, our consumers and suppliers too.

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When, with what and how should we drink this?

Drink NOW and for a long time into the future. The 2015 Pinot Noir has a good acidity and a fine structure, it’ll be great in 10 – 15 years.

How? Whenever the moment takes you. Good wine needs no defined moment. Have it exactly when you feel like it, no need to wait for an occasion. Whether that’s drinking it with a pizza on your own, whatever, so long as the moment feels right. Personally, I like to eat venison with blueberry sauce and mushrooms with this wine.

I’m not too fussy about temperature either, so long as it’s not too warm. Drink at 13 degrees to taste the minerality, but it’s not essential.