Huia Blanc de Blancs and Marlborough Memories
The Huia was a native New Zealand bird with beautiful plumage. In particular, its distinctive tail feathers, now extremely rare, were highly prized, both by the Maori and by milliners. Sadly, this species hasn’t been seen since 1907 and is now almost certainly extinct.
Huia is also the name of a winery. In 1994, winemakers Claire and Mike Allan planted their boutique vineyard is in the heart of the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. They named it Huia, after the now legendary bird.
Both of them already had excellent winemaking experience. In Marlborough, they had worked at Cloudy Bay, Vavasour, Corbans, and Lawson’s Dry Hills. Also, both had worked in Champagne at Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot, respectively.
Huia was organic from the outset and fully certified since 2011. They also employ biodynamic practices as well. And there’s more to this than winegrowing, with animal grazing, encouragement of biodiversity, and composting winery and vineyard waste. It’s green and clean.
So here you’ll find artisanally-made varietal wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. They also produce this Blanc de Blancs from Chardonnay and a small amount of Brut Rosé from Pinot Noir.
I was fortunate to try the Huia wine range at the recent annual Wines of New Zealand tasting in London. In short, all the Huia wines are excellent. However, if had to pick one out for exceptional praise, it would be this Blanc de Blancs. It’s one of New Zealand’s best examples for sure. Moreover, this is a world-class wine.
Huia Blanc de Blancs Brut, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2016, 12.5%
Huia Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay. For the base wine, the grapes are whole bunch pressed and then fermented in old French oak with wild yeasts. That then goes through the secondary, malolactic, fermentation to soften and broaden the acidity.
The fizz is then created in the bottle by the Traditional Method, with a long period of 32 months on the lees. This 2016 vintage was then disgorged on 15/16 October 2019, given a low dosage of 6 g/l, and so creating a dry Brut style.
As for the vintage in Marlborough, 2016 was a classic year, producing ripe, healthy fruit without any significant issues. This vintage of Blanc de Blancs reached the UK only in February 2020.
The bottle announces itself with a loud welcoming pop. There are bubbles aplenty, firstly the vibrant foaming mousse, settling down with long and persistent bubble streams. Next are the aromas of freshly baking bread from the lees ageing. The palate is predominantly citrus, followed by toast with a little peach. In texture, it’s broad and mouth-filling yet still elegant and incisive, with a mineral edge. Finally, there is a long and dry finish.
Delicious drinking right now, with no need to wait. However, I’m also curious to see what a little more bottle age might bring, perhaps some ginger notes? I look forward to finding out!
For the Maori, the tail feathers of the Huia still have high status; they represent beauty, wisdom, elegance, and dignity. In short, those words are also an excellent description of this wine.
Sparkling wine should always be a wine of celebration, yet the best of them are spectacular with food. For example, I recall a big bowl of steamed green-lipped mussels eaten while overlooking the ocean at Havelock. While I fully intend to repeat that experience someday, I settled for moules marinière at home with some fond memories on the side. Of course, other seafood such as oysters would be a great match, as would smoked salmon and gravadlax.
Huia is a founder member of the MANA winegrowers collective, a group of Marlborough organic winemakers. They are also a member of Organic Winegrowers NZ, which has rightly been gaining ground in New Zealand.
I like to put my money where my mouth is, and so taken was I with this sparkling wine that I ordered a case of six in advance from The Solent Cellar, for £29.99 each. Contact the importer, Bibendum, for other UK stockists.
Huia Vineyards Ltd.