Pyramid Valley releases 2020 Botanicals Collection
The boutique New Zealand producer in North Canterbury stuns with striking wines.
Pyramid Valley has long been an almost mythical name: the estate was created in 2000 by Mike and Claudia Elze Weersing who found this unusual and rare spot of limestone and clay in North Canterbury.
The Weersings were pioneers of both viticulture and biodynamics in this inland region of New Zealand’s South Island. In 2017, the Weersings – due to Mike’s ill-health – sold the estate to Smith & Sheth, a partnership between Steve Smith MW and Brian Sheth. As is often the case, fans of the unusually pure and haunting wines crafted at Pyramid Valley feared what would now become of the estate. But they need not have worried: the wines from the 2020 vintage that Steve Smith MW presented in London in late October are striking, individualistic and in the same, pure vein.
Tiny parcels in a nirvana
The four single vineyards wines that make up the original Pyramid Valley estate in Waikari add up to just 2.2 hectares. Altitude and cool climate – ranging around just 1,000 growing degree days – mean that yields are naturally low. “The climate is genuinely cool here,” says Smith. “You’d think it is not warm enough to ripen Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but moderate climate, high humidity and high UV light is like nirvana for vines in a cool climate.” Despite being spread across a relatively small space, the four sites are distinct, and so are the wines.
High care & low addition winemaking
“All wines are made with the same philosophy,” Smith says: “All wild yeast, 100% malo-lactic fermentation, no additions, no sulphur added until just before bottling.” He calls this – in defiance of the much-overused term “low intervention winemaking” – aptly “high care and low addition winemaking.” For the Pinot Noirs, he says the winemaking is “mere infusion and no real extraction.” The wines thus have beautiful translucency and purity.
A bright future
“It is the first time we have been able to show a collection of wines that were entirely made by our hands – wines that were made entirely made on our property, for us, this is a real barometer of where Pyramid Valley could be in the future,” said Smith. It appears that the much-needed investments made by Smith & Sheth at the property helped these singular wines become even more of themselves. Sadly fans will have to wait a while for more wine, as in 2021 most of the harvest was wiped out by spring frosts.