The key to wine quality is superior grapes. This results from both what the site provides and the viticultural techniques used.

Iron Hill Vineyard:

So called due to its red volcanic ironstone soil. Underneath the gravelly soils is a broken granite pan. This is the predominate source of SERINE Syrah. Located just off Kapiro Rd in the heart of the horticultural area surrounding Kerikeri.

The Syrah vines are predominantly the original clone alternatively known as the Stonecroft clone or MS, that orginally came from the Te Kauwhata Research station. Rootstock is mainly 420A with some 3309. The 420A gives us a very long growing cycle and very good flavour development without high brix.

It faces due north and drops away strongly. The soils are gravely friable loam over a broken pan of granite. The soils are noticeable red. The absence of fertile soils and no clay gives a site that is low in vigor. So the leaner almost metallic soils produces a wine unique to the site.

One of best attributes of the site are the established shelter belts especially those that protect the site from the cooler southerly winds. This together with the true north aspect makes for a hot sheltered site and the temperature is frequently in the mid 30’s during the growing season. Additionally the slope and the granite base provides for very good runoff in the event of rain.

Planted in 1997 we first produce wine in 1999. Experimental wines were made but none were released.

Rushbrook Vineyard:

Planted in Viognier and Syrah this site again is on a north facing slope and some of the Syrah dates back to 1997. The soil mix is different from Iron Hill in that while some iron stone is present there is more soil and a little clay in the mix. This produces a fatter style of wine. This site is the predominate source of Iron Hills Syrah and from 2007 Viognier.

Site influence on the wine:

SERINE reflects the characteristics of the Iron Hill Vineyard.

  1. There is always a strong raspberry backbone to the palate of Serine. Even in the very good years with stronger tannins and blacker fruits its always there. In lesser years red fruit characters prevail. Some how those red gravels gives us red fruit characters in our wine.
  2. Secondly Serine is always elegant even when heavily concentrated due to our low cropping rate. The gravels produce a tall, leaner or longer wine with style rather than a fatter shorter style. We cannot produce a huge blockbuster even if we wanted to as the absence of clay and fertile soils mean that we cannot get a fatter style. NOTE this is not to say our wine isn’t plush or very full on the palate – it is – but its always elegant rather than punchy.
  3. Serine will last. Our experimental wines are all still alive and in fact show best at about three years of age.
  4. Absence of black pepper due to warmer nights (see opposite)

Iron Hill Vineyard

Discussion on Black Pepper:

A cracked black pepper finish is often associated with Syrah. We don’t have black pepper in our wine although there is always a hint of white pepper.

We note the neither do the best Rhone wines have any black pepper and that’s a style we wish to emulate. Being in the North means we can.

Black Pepper is due to a low level of cumulative heat units. This though has nothing to do with brix levels. You can have a high brix and alcohol wine that is still heavily peppery – the high heat during the day gets brix levels up but not cumulative heat units. More often though black pepper is associated with lower brix and less (un) ripe grapes.

The warm growing conditions of the north and particularly the much warmer nights than the rest of New Zealand experiences means that the grapes do not cool down much and the vines keep working at night rather than slowing down. Ripening continues, especially flavour development. Those extra heat units mean that our grapes lose the black pepper characteristic before picking, usually before 20 brix is reached.

The cooler nights in Hawkes Bay and further south means the Syrah from these regions will have more pepper in all but the longest hottest vintages.

The issue is that while there will always be good wines from the Southern North Island, that cool climate style does not define all NZ Syrahs.

Northland Syrahs will have their own style reflecting their own climate. If there is a chance to emulate the Rhone style then its going to come from Northland but its still dependent on good sites and viticulture practices as always!


Syrah Vines