There was a time, a few years ago, when it seemed as if every second wine from Central Otago was made by local character and great winemaker, Carol Bunn. She was the chief winemaker at Vinpro from 2004-2009 and many of the smaller wineries without winemaking facilities and cellaring capacity would use Vinpro to crush their grapes and do the whole process, often through to bottling, on their behalf. It's a system that works very efficiently when producers are too small to run their own technical winemaking operation. An example of a tiny producer is the new kid on the Central Otago block, Serendipity.
For Bunn, who has had a brief hiatus from the pressure of being winemaker-at-large, Serendipity is her new and, currently, only client.
"This is it for now, although ultimately I would like to own my own label at some stage."
Part of the appeal is that Serendipity is tiny, as these days Bunn is choosing clients on the basis of size.
Serendipity is the new venture for Invercargill ex-builder Walter O'Neil and wife Jo Lewis, who was previously a schoolteacher.
"My serendipitous moment came when I lost out on a job so I decided to take on a two-year viticulture diploma," says Lewis. "The knowledge and contacts gained from this have been integral in helping shape our brand."
Serendipity sources their pinot noir and pinot gris fruit from exceptional local sites under the watchful eye of Bunn.
"We're looking for tension, texture and complexity," Bunn says. "As I get older in my winemaking career, I'm getting away from the big, voluptuous style and looking for more Burgundian elegance and finesse ... not necessarily those big show-stoppers."
Bunn is committed to making wines with a point of difference. "Ideally, we're looking to make wines with an intellectual bent ... something that's a bit different from everything else ... Rather than big fruit bombs all the time, we're leaning more towards a style that is more herbaceous, savoury and earthy."
Initial releases include a pinot gris and a pinot noir and they're a welcome addition to a region with a big reputation.
2010 Serendipity Pinot Noir $38
Made from hand-harvested fruit, this wine has excellent concentration with a seamless finish. Smart and sensual with complex, earthy, herby and spicy layers. A very fine first vintage.
2011 Serendipity Pinot Gris $25
Well worth seeking out. This is good drinking now but will reward cellaring for a couple of years. A vibrant, aromatic wine with stonefruit characters and a fine mineral creamy composition, this would be perfect with white meat and fish.