“If Central Otago wine producers think they can produce premium quality wine, they are seriously deluding themselves.” - famous winewriter, quoted in 1993 - now anonymous
It is safe to say the founder of Chard Farm was up against heavy criticism for trying to plant a vineyard in Otago. Arriving in Queenstown in 1987, when local wine was virtually non-existent, Rob Hay put his wine-making studies from Germany to good use, and set about transforming Chard Farm into a vineyard.
Rob became one of the first wine-making pioneers of the region, alongside his friends at Rippon, Black Ridge and Gibbston Valley, which he helped shape and start. Now, Central Otago is one of the top Pinot Noir producers in the world.
But if you expect to get your run-of- the-mill Otago wine tasting at Chard Farm, you’re mistaken. It’s a unique vineyard, thanks to the historic location. If you drive down Chard Road, a dusty track that clings to the mountain and falls away into a piercing blue Kawarau river, you’ll be ready for a drink by the time you reach the beautiful farm at the other end.
We meet up with Rob to learn more of his favourite Chard Farm wine, the Mata-Au Pinot Noir 2014...
What do you aim to create with your wines?
We go for elegant wines, our style isn’t big or heavy. We prefer to showcase the taste of Otago, using grapes from our Estate owned vineyards in Cromwell. It’s a big basin that’s warmer, so the fruit is riper. There aren’t many vineyards this far south, so we like to push the limits!
Give us a snobby wine description of the Mata-Au Pinot Noir 2014...
It’s a very special signature wine, where we’ve tried to put our best foot forward to showcase the Lowburn region. We blend the fruit from two of our Cromwell vineyards to show off the opulence of Central Otago. It’s floral, spicy, with strong red berry fruits and dried herbs.
When should we drink it?
It’s good as an earlier wine, about 3 - 5 years. We make wine to show off high notes as well as low notes - we’re about the treble as well as the bass! I think 2014 is one of our best vintages so far, it really shows off the high notes of that summer’s fruit.
What do you like to eat it with?
Pinot is a elegant, thinking red wine, so you can’t pair with something heavy like charcoal steak. You should have it with a subtle meat, not gamey or strong, like rabbit or venison.
My wife’s venison backstrap is something else - she makes it with blueberry and mustard sauce and it works perfectly with the Pinot.