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The wines of Seresin Vineyards, Marlborough, New Zealand

Michael Seresin is one of those rare people who has managed to make a name for himself in two quite distinct fields: filmmaking and wine. His first career was as a cinematographer: born in Wellington, at the foot of New Zealand’s north Island, he left New Zealand in 1966 to forge a successful career in the movies, which he continues to this day. He’s famous for the nine films he’s made with British director Allan Parker, as well as working with Alfonso Cuaron on the third Harry Potter film, The Prisoner of Azkabhan.

When Seresin first left New Zealand in the late 1960s for Italy, he found it a real culture shock. 'How people lived was opposite to how I'd lived in New Zealand', he recalls. After a spell in the UK, he moved back to Italy once more, and clearly was captured by the culture of food and wine he experienced there. 'I like what wine embraces', he says, and when he decided to turn his hand to making the stuff, his first thought was to do it in Italy, before settling on his home country as the destination. 'I didn't think I'd be smart enough to do business in Italy', says Seresin. 'Besides, you are free to do a lot more in the New World than the Old'.

Seresin began his Marlborough winery in 1992, and this estate is far from being a vanity project, or a plaything for a wealthy retiree. Seresin is a serious player in Marlborough, and quite early on he decided he wanted to go against the grain and farm organically. He’s now working with biodynamics, too, for part of his vineyard management.

As befits a filmmaker whose attention is frequently on the quality of the light, as much as what is in the shot, the Seresin wines have a transparency to them. There's almost a quality of lightness that brings a sharp focus on what is present in the wine (does this sort of synaesthetic description work, or does it just sound pseudy?).

The time Seresin spends in New Zealand varies, but is typically blocks of 2–6 weeks two or three times a year. He has a small but good cellar, mainly featuring northern Italian whites, central Italian reds and high-end Burgundy.

Of the wines, for me the standouts are the focused, precise Sauvignon Blanc and the two wonderful, complex, balanced Pinot Noirs. Perhaps it's the influence of organics and biodynamics that Seresin practices, or the fact that everything is done by hand, but this is an impressive set of wines. And the cinematographer influence came out when I asked Michael if I could take his picture. 'Don't use the flash,' he advised. 'The natural light is good in here.'

UK agent: Armit www.armit.co.uk – retail prices in the UK are given in brackets

Seresin Riesling 2004 Marlborough
Aromatic, limey nose. Bone dry palate with crisp fruit and a nice lightness, with a mineralic finish. Stylish and transparent. 90/100 (£13)

Seresin Gewürztraminer 2006 Marlborough
Flowery and aromatic, with fresh lychee fruit on the nose. Plump, rich-textured off dry palate with nice softness. Nice example of NZ Gewurz. 90/100 (£14.50)

Seresin Pinot Gris 2006 Marlborough
There’s a freshness here, but also a rounded, rich texture to the wine. Quite plump. 89/100 (£16.30)

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Marlborough
Bright, focused, precise nose is limey and grassy. The palate is expressive and forward with high acid and some minerality. Very tightly focused style. 92/100 (£1.95)

Seresin Marama Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Marlborough
Smooth, toasty, intense nose with minerality and bold, herbal fruit. Nice depth of aroma here. The palate is concentrated and bold with lots of toasty oak and bold herbal fruit. Remarkable stuff that has some complexity, and which shows that the marriage of Sauvignon Blanc and oak sort of works. 91/100 (£16.45)

Seresin Reserve Chardonnay 2005 Marlborough
Lovely complex, bready toasty nose. Refined, creamy and bready. The palate is soft, supple and bold with well integrated oak. Full flavoured and classy. 91/100 (£16.55)

Seresin Raupo Creek Pinot Noir 2005 Marlborough
Brilliant effort. Smooth, elegant, complex nose with cherry and red fruits, and meaty, spicy complexity. The palate has lovely acidity and great elegance, with complex spicy fruit and smooth tannins. 94/100 (£21.80)

Seresin ‘Leah’ Pinot Noir 2005 Marlborough
Wonderful complex nose: bright, perfumed meaty red fruits dominate, with a smoky edge. The palate is concentrated and elegant with delicious meaty, spicy fruit and real presence and poise. 93/100

Wines tasted 01/07
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Below is an earlier report on Seresin, from November 2003:

Seresin Estate, Bedford Road, Renwick, Marlborough, New Zealand
Phone: (03) 572 9408  Fax: (03) 572 9850
Email: seresin@xtra.co.nz
Website: www.seresin.co.nz

A chance to revisit the wines of Seresin, a Marlborough producer whose offerings impressed me more than a year ago. I wasn’t disappointed: these are really superb across the board, with the highlights being the Marama Sauvignon and the Pinot Noir.

I had a chat with viticulturalist Bart Arnst, previously of Montana. He explained the lengths they went to with their viticulture, such as pruning the shoulders off the bunches of grapes (these are usually less ripe than the main part of the bunch) and ploughing alternate rows to simulate the effects of partial root drying (a viticultural technique that aims to make the vine think it’s suffering drought when it isn’t, resulting in better quality grapes for lower water input).

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Marlborough, New Zealand
This Sauvignon displays a really forward, grassy, herby nose. On the palate there is lovely length to the fruit. Herby and full. Very good/excellent 91/100

Marama Sauvignon 2002 Marlborough, New Zealand
50% new French oak-aged Sauvignon fermented with wild yeasts, with 30% lower cropping levels and hand picking. Lovely nose, showing some nuttiness behind the rich, ripe herby fruit. Dense, rich, ripe seamless palate with lots of interest. The oak provides a nice richness. Very good/excellent 93/100

Pinot Gris 2003 Marlborough, New Zealand
One bunch per shoot is left on the vine and the shoulders are taken off each bunch. It is aged in old barrels and has 6 g/l residual sugar. Rich, rounded, spicy fruity nose. Lovely richness to the palate: a striking, rich, ripe wine with a thick texture. Quite lovely. Very good/excellent 90/100

Riesling 2001 Marlborough, New Zealand
Rich, ripe fruit with some lemony freshness. Dry but rounded. Very good+ 88/100

Reserve Chardonnay 2002 Marlborough, New Zealand          
Wild fermented with a little bit of natural malolactic fermentation. Fermented in 25% new oak, and it goes to barrel before the juice has settled. Rich, toasty nutty nose. The palate is rich, rounded and quite complex with lots of nutty richness. Seamless. Very good/excellent 92/100

Pinot Noir 2002 Marlborough, New Zealand
The shoulders are taken off the bunches to avoid the sweet and sour effect often found with Pinot Noir. Some whole berry component is left in the fermentation, which is achieved by natural yeasts. Sweet ripe fruit on the nose. Very smooth ripe fruit on the palate with some elegance. Lovely juicy, ripe wine that is quite elegant. Very good/excellent 93/100

wines tasted November 2003

see also: tasting notes of New Zealand wines

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