It is no secret among wine drinkers that New Zealand fashions some very serious, if not outright fascinating wines. And what was once considered to be solely white wine country is now crafting world-class reds as well as whites. Yet, the question inevitably arises in iconoclastic minds as to the breeding of New Zealand wines, especially among wine snobs and those who see themselves as fundamentalist terroirists (those who believe that the land and microclimate alone determine a wine’s breeding and definitive quality). Invariably, the terroirist line of thinking neatly divides wine into two categories: New World upstarts, whose fruit driven wares reflect the bestial mark of technology, and their European forbearers, whose names, soils, and traditions are legendary and therefore better – the elect if you will. To the terroirist, only the latter can possess a soul and are worth savoring and cellaring. It is the classic good versus evil, them versus us, battle that the world is so fond of waging and our age is masterful at perpetuating. However, there is thankfully a voice in the wine wilderness that heralds a new day – and that voice belongs to Kingsley Tobin.
Kingsley Tobin, a tall imposing sincere man that comes across as equal parts mad scientist and prophet of old, is quite possibly New Zealand’s finest wine grower as well as its penultimate winemaker. His certified organic vineyard that sits astride the Gimblett Gravels, a true and outstanding terroir, is the most beautifully tended stand of vines we have ever encountered – anywhere. Moreover, all of Kingsley’s wines are made using biodynamic methods and, frankly, they put most Bordeaux wines and their so-called illustrious terroirs to shame. At the same time, they expose the delusion and often self-serving fraud that terroir alone makes great wine. Kingsley Tobin and his beautiful Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah based wine lend credence to both the existence and importance of terroir, without denigrating the significance of the myriad of choices a winemaker takes (not which the least is yield control) and his ultimate skill. All Kingsley Estate wines are made in tiny quantities from very low yields, often as low as one ton per acre or less. Who in Bordeaux can claim the same?