Hermit Ram: stunning natural wines from North Canterbury

Since 2012 Theo Coles has been making natural wines from interesting sites in North Canterbury on the South Island of New Zealand.

Theo Coles makes the wines of Kalex, in Central Otago. But he also has his own brand, Hermit Ram, which is based in North Canterbury. It all began when Theo met the Renowdens, and discovered a remarkable vineyard in the Waipara Gorge.

Theo Coles

It is a a tiny (1200 vine) close-planted (7000 vines/ha) vineyard on a truffle farm called Limestone Hills, owned by Gareth and Camille Renowden, and has 300 Syrah vines in addition to 900 Pinot Noir vines planted in 2002/3. The soils are high pH black redzina over solid, mostly active limestone. Theo’s first wine from this site was the 2012.

He’s since expanded his range.  The fruit is sourced from small vineyards throughout the Canterbury region. The vines are farmed naturally and the wines made naturally too, with minimal additions.

The Hermit Ram Ancestrale Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
Undisgorged. Fermented to dryness, racked two or three times, then 10 g of sugar added, for a second fermentation, but no yeast. This is ripe and textural with lovely pear and melon fruit. It has real texture. Smooth, richly fruited and delicious. Theo Coles reckons he  gets a lot of glycerol from the second fermentation. No sulphites added. 92/100

The Hermit Ram Field Blend Skin Fermented 2018 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
This is Riesling (50%), Pinot Noir (30%), Gewurztraminer (17%) and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the oldest vineyards in North Canterbury, on clay/limestone soils on the flat.  6 weeks on skins, no added sulphites, then aged in old barrels. Pale cherry red with a hint of development to the skins. Aromatic and floral with notes of grape and lychee and fine spicy notes. Fine, spicy, peppery and grainy with smoothness and some fine hints of green. Supple and stylish and completely unique. 94/100

The Hermit Ram Limestone Hills Pinot Noir 2017 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
12% alcohol. From the Limestone Gorge vineyard with active lime in the clay/marl soils. There are two soils here: black soil with a small bit of green marl, and then straight into hard limestone; and small black soil with a metre of marl, pebbles and limestone. All in concrete. 20 ppm SO2. Sappy and leafy with perfumed cherry fruit on the nose. Lovely supple palate has a bit of grip and some supple green notes, as well as pepper notes. So expressive with lovely finesse and nice sapidity. 95/100

The Hermit Ram Arden Pinot Noir 2017 Waikari, North Canterbury, New Zealand
2300 vines planted on limestone soils. Part is sandy limestone, part limestone marl. Old barrels. So floral and expressive, and very perfumed with delicious red cherries and fine spices. Lovely texture on the palate with fine, sappy detail. Pure, weightless and elegant with real finesse. 97/100

Older notes:

The Hermit Ram Pinot Noir Limestone Hills 2015 North Canterbury, New Zealand
900 vines at 7000 vines a hectare, active limestone soils. Fresh and elegant with juicy cherry and plum fruit. There’s a leafy greenness sitting under the supple red cherry fruit with a fine spicy core. So fresh and detailed with potential for development. This is a beautifully restrained and complex wine. 94/100 (01/18)

The Hermit Ram Pinot Noir Whole Bunch 2016 North Canterbury, New Zealand
From a close planted vineyard in the Omihi slopes with a predominantly clay soil that has streaks of iron oxide and limestone. This wine is 75% whole bunch and has no sulfur dioxide until bottling, and even then very little (20 parts total).This is a compelling, intriguing wine that has beautiful balance and should age well. Crunchy and juicy with some bright raspberry and red cherry fruit. Savoury and grunty but with some nice texture and some silkiness. Supple and fine. 93/100 (01/18)

The Hermit Ram Pinot Noir Whole Bunch 2017 North Canterbury, New Zealand
Really fresh, vivid and crunchy with a sappy edge to the bright cherry and plum fruit. There’s a lovely undergrowth edge and some greenness but it has integrated really well. So vivid and bright and drinkable but with seriousness too. It has elements of Gamay but also hints of northern Rhône. 93/100 (05/18)

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com