Burn Cottage Vineyard
Burn Cottage Vineyard is a 24 hectare estate in the foothills of the Pisa range in Central Otago, New Zealand. The vineyard is owned by the Sauvage family, which also owns the celebrated Koehler Ruprecht estate in the Pfalz region of Germany, as well as several fine wine importing and wholesaling companies in the United States.
The Burn Cottage Vineyard property was purchased in 2002. It had been grazed by sheep for as long as can currently be remembered. There were, and are, no immediate vineyard neighbours. The site was much coveted in the region as it is sheltered from both northerly and southerly winds by large hills and forms a beautiful, protected bowl, much like a modern amphitheatre.
Husband and wife Marquis Sauvage and Dianne Sauvage were on a return trip from the Mornington Peninsula in Australia and had decided to visit several regions in New Zealand. For some time, the family had contemplated starting their own winery. Dianne and Marquis were struck by the extraordinary beauty of Central Otago and became even more impressed after tasting through the region's wines, particularly Felton Road and Gibbston Valley. They decided that they had found the place they were looking for. Marquis continued the property search with a real estate broker and came across the Burn Cottage site. As Marquis likes to say, he had visited enough great vineyards around the world and this one had the right look. Unbeknownst to the Sauvages, several prominent, local wineries and winemakers were interested in the site and had had their eyes upon it for some time.
The property became available in January of 2002 and the Sauvages were able to purchase it at auction.
The Sauvage family are cattle, cotton and wheat farmers in Oberlin Kansas and have a tradition of agricultural holdings, including in Australia. They were one of the original American cotton farmers to set up in Moree NSW Australia in the 1960s. As farmers, the Sauvages have a particular appreciation and patience for the time and investment required to begin a new agricultural enterprise. The family entered the wine distribution business in the early 1990s, and now have many years of experience in the fine wine business and the peculiar requirements for success in it. World class winegrowing requires both patience and determination, qualities not lost on Kansas farmers.
The addition of Ted to the team brought someone with the practical knowledge of terroir winegrowing based on many years of experience in Burgundy, California and Oregon, someone with deep experience in not just winemaking, but in world class vineyard development.
During vineyard development, the greatest care was taken to separate blocks according to soil, aspect and exposure differences. Clones and rootstocks were chosen with the philosophy that the more diversity each block had, the more complexity the resulting wines would display. Hence Burn Cottage has many different clones of Pinot Noir planted on a variety of rootstocks.
The first blocks were planted in 2003. The vineyard development has continued at a loving and deliberate pace to ensure that only the best plant material is used.
In addition to Pinot Noir, they have a small amount of Gruner Veltliner and Riesling planted. The Pinot is planted on north and north east facing slopes and the Riesling and Gruner are planted on an east facing slope at the top of the property. The Gruner Veltliner planting is from the first generation of this variety released in New Zealand.
When all blocks are mature, total production peaks at approximately 5000 cases. All projections for the estate and the winery are based on a very modest 4.5 metric tons per hectare or 2 US tons per acre. At Burn Cottage, they recognise the limits that both the climate and their search for the finest quality will place upon yields.
Despite the fact that New Zealand is comprised of islands, the climate of Central Otago can be best described as 'continental' with warm summers and cold winters. New Zealanders love to say that there is no climate in New Zealand, only weather and indeed any given day can give birth to moments that feel like you have experienced all four seasons in less than 24 hours. Average annual rainfall is less than 300mm (12 inches). They also get plenty of sunshine with particularly long warm days through the growing season and cool nights that help achieve ripeness while retaining good acidity.