Woollaston’s Mahana Magic

Blobbing out on the couch last Friday, clicking through the channels, sussing out whether there was anything to watch after the ASB Classic Tennis finished early when Venus Williams had a walkover semi-final, I paused on the food channel where I saw coming up was a repeat screening of Yvonne Lorkin’s Thirsty Work #nzwine TV series. It was a Series 2 episode that screened in the middle of last year when we were overseas. Featured winery was Woollaston Estates at Mahana in Nelson.

Ah, Woollaston Estates. In late 2006 I was there for the awesome opening of the new winery so in 2010, when @winepour and I were on our way to Collingwood to overnight before a very dark 6 am start Farewell Spit adventure, we included Woollaston on our wine tour diversion as we headed west. But we didn’t realise a concert was on and being Easter Saturday it seemed half of Nelson was there. We drove in one gate and out the other but at least Neil got to see the amazing giant-sized sculpture, ‘Yantra for Mahana’.

Yantra for Mahana

Yvonne’s program reminded me I had received some Woollaston Estate wine samples within a week of our overseas departure, a pinot gris and a sauvignon blanc under the estate’s special Mahana label. This is the branding that is reserved for the best expression of what they do each year.

The pinot gris (13.5% alc) had natural fermentation in older oak puncheons and the sauvignon blanc (14% alc) had natural fermentation in oak barriques, 25% new. They both had additional time on yeast lees to enhance palate weight and texture. Bottled with screwcap closures, Woollaston’s price is $28 a bottle.

Coincidentally, just two weeks before receiving those samples, we had tasted an outstanding Mahana Pinot Noir (reviewed below).Trio of Mahana wines

So the white wines were found and earmarked for tasting the next day with food to follow the tasting. As both wines came with recommendations of pork belly, pork belly with skin on was acquired and roasted with crisply crackling.

Woollaston Mahana Pinot Gris 2012 is light gold in colour and there’s richness to the bouquet without overpowering – a hint of vanilla, a hint of toast and some funky yeast nuances coming through. Rounded and mouthfilling with palate presence and depth, roasted peach and nectarine, a tingle of citrus, savoury barrel ferment flavours, creamy richness and length, it seemed to me a smooth, seamless and very classy pinot gris.
Matched to roast pork belly with crackling, apple sauce, boiled buttered potatoes and silky smooth pumpkin, it worked a treat.

Woollaston Mahana Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is light gold in colour with an aroma that wafts scents of barrel ferment and native yeasts. This is not your typical bright fruity Marlborough style (um, it’s from Nelson anyway) – this is rich, full-bodied and creamy with sweet/savoury oak and almost salty-tinged yeast. In fact it is hard to pick as sauvignon blanc on first sipping – it’s the grassy herbaceous nuances that creep into the finish that give it away. Grilled stonefruit fills the palate then a suggestion of asparagus with hollandaise comes to mind with zingy lemon notes brightening the finish. With its savoury flavours and grainy texture this is definitely a food wine.
We found it a successful match to tomato and baby rocket salad with boiled buttered new season potatoes, but it didn’t match the pork belly, apple or pumpkin on the plate.


Last night I made curried chicken tenderloins with a peach, cashew, yoghurt and Thai Basil kind of sauce. The meal was intended for another wine but didn’t work, and then I remembered the Mahana leftovers. Mahana Sauvignon Blanc 2012 was quite simply (and very surprisingly) the best and just goes to show you have to try, as the food was not what I would have thought of opening any style of sauvignon blanc for.


Woollaston Mahana Pinot Noir 2011, from my tasting back in June, is dark garnet red. It’s quite smoky and deep on the bouquet with concentrated vinosity and a lilac-like floral edge – such an alluring and evocative scent. Concentrated, spicy and savoury to the taste with firm but sensual tannins, attractive red and black fruit, a touch of Black Forest chocolate and a lovely long rich finish – it has all the elements and drinks very well. I thought it quite outstanding. Lovely also with lamb. Price for this wine is $52 and alcohol is 14%.


Woollaston started the organic conversion of its Mahana vineyard in 2008 and full organic certification was achieved with BioGro New Zealand in March 2011. Find out more from woollaston.co.nz

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