Claire and Mike have a thing for minimal intervention. It’s a way of growing grapes and making wine that many vignerons adhere to and is a philosophy that allows nature to retain her voice in the finished wine.
They also have a thing for sparkling wine. While they still grow the grapes and make the wine in their quintessential, modest, minimal way, it’s a style of wine where they get to have a play with how the wine might be when it’s ready to be shared with the world.
For the most part the wine does remain untouched while it develops character but when you craft handmade sparkling wine in the traditional method of Champagne, as Huia does, you spend time with the bottles, get your hands on them and that’s an important and enjoyable aspect that Claire and Mike sincerely appreciate and love.
Mike spent time at Veuve Clicquot and Claire at Tattinger making wine so they’ve both inhaled the rarified air of some of the best Champagne has to offer and their romance with the wine style has persisted over the years. It was in the wine caves of Champagne that they learnt the true craft of hands-on sparkling winemaking. Hand-riddling and disgorging are aspects of the process that take great attention to detail and a high level of expertise.
Riddling is the ancient art of nurturing the unwanted sediment from the side of the bottle to the neck so it might be disgorged (or removed). Mike is known to be able to hand-riddle 10,000 bottles per hour and Luca, the assistant winemaker who turned his first bottle to riddle only a year ago, is catching up fast with a PB of around 8,000 bottles per hour.
While Brut and Blanc de Blancs sparkling wines have been made by Huia since the very beginning, last November 2018 saw the release of the very first sparkling Rosé - the Huia Brut Rosé 2016. Only 2,300 bottles were made. The certified organic estate grown pinot noir was harvested, crushed and left to rest in neutral french oak barrels for a year. The wine was then racked off (extracted) and placed in bottle to rest and allow for second-fermentation (where the bubbles begin their life) for another 18 months.
It then took 22 straight days of hand-riddling to prepare those 2,300 bottles to be disgorged and have their corks installed and their pretty Kate Sylvester limited edition ‘Frances’ labels applied.
This chance to enjoy the process of ‘making’ a wine is only one part of what keeps Mike and Claire producing this time-consuming and costly style of wine. The main appeal is about the purpose that sparkling wine serves. That is, to simply be delicious and bubbly, refreshing and joyous. It can help you celebrate a special day or it may just make a normal day a celebration.
Unwrapping the foil and popping the cork on a bottle of fizz is not about being serious. It’s a trumpet-sounding pop that alerts the room that something exciting is about to happen and it cannot bring anything other than a smile across your face.
Huia Brut Rosé 2016 - 95/100, 5 Stars by Bob Campbell, Master of Wine, The Real Review.
You can buy the Huia Brut Rosé 2016 and have it delivered to your door by shopping at our online store.
Words by Morven McAuley