Di Holding has been called a “Pinot Noir obsessive” and it’s a title she is happy to own. The ‘obsession’ started decades ago when Di set out to find the perfect site on which to grow Pinot Noir. She knew exactly what she was looking for and, in 2002, she found it: 13.8 hectares of dusty, windswept hillside in the Waipara Valley, North Canterbury. Whilst unremarkable to most, what Di and husband Ian saw was a treasure trove of perfect limestone soil that would grow the best, organic Pinot Noir grapes.
Fast forward two decades and that is exactly what Di and Ian have got. The couple craft certified organic, natural Pinot Noir and Rosé wine with minimal intervention, on one of the smallest vineyards in the Waipara Valley. They are driven by their love of premium wines that express their place of origin. “Our grapes are organically grown and mindfully sorted for the best quality. Our grapes provide everything we could ask for to create natural, organic wines,” explains Di.
Although they originally planned to build a winery on site, the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 put paid to that after a fault line was discovered running through their proposed site. Instead, they opted to set up an open-air ‘pop-up’ style winery that has proven advantageous in an unexpected way. “With no yeast or bacterial strains endemic to a winery building, every vintage has benefitted from unadulterated vineyard yeasts, for natural winemaking,” says Di. Their unconventional winery isn’t the only thing the Holdings do differently: They have opted to be ‘no till’ since the beginning, meaning they allow weeds to grow and fulfil their natural role in building soil structure. They also run a flock of sheep and a fold of Highland cattle to assist with grazing, leaf-plucking and pruning in the vineyard. “As far as we know, Fancrest is the only vineyard in the world to incorporate cattle into pruning vines,” says Di. “Their natural aptitude for browsing rather than grazing makes the Highland breed uniquely suited to integration into our holistic model.”
With this holistic model and a constant mindfulness of the environment comes perfect, pure Pinot Noir that captures the nuances of the vineyard’s unique terroir. This is Pinot Noir that we are happy to obsess over.
Why North Canterbury?
What made Omihi so appealing apart from having the perfect soils for pinot noir was its access to SH1 and its proximity to a major city. This meant Ian could continue his medical career without interruption. The hour commute is now only 50min. Ideal for us both. Also the quality of North Canterbury’s country golf courses really appealed to Ian. North Canterbury had it all to make a great lifestyle choice.
What’s your favourite thing to do in North Canterbury?
My favourite is that it’s big sky country. The sense of wide open spaces, fresh unpolluted air and isolation suits me. I love my own company and working the farm on my own frees up my head space and recharges my energy. Our view over the valley from the crest of the fan is to die for. And it doesnt fail to take visitors’ breath away. Working with the farm animals (from huge cattle beast and smaller sheep then wild Guinea fowl and dung beetles through to microscopic soil funghi and bacteria) keeps me grounded and happy; in my element.
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