Meet Aitken’s Folly Winery in Wanaka, Central Otago

From one end of the world to the other for the love of wine

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Ian, owner of Aitken’s Folly winery.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure to visit Wanaka, a little town in the Central Otago wine growing region. Wanaka is mostly known for its lake, its spectacular mountain scenery and all the activities that you can do on a lake and in the mountains. Walking, hiking, all sorts of water sports… You might know me that well now to know that I was not too keen on those activities.

No, my mission was to find some wine, some good wine.  So I went into Wanaka’s wineshop and aksed John, the owner, to recommend some places to go to. Unfortunately, on the one hand, there were not too many wineries  I could visit from Wanaka. I was a little dissappointed, I thought Wanaka would be a wine paradise. But fortunately, on the other hand, there are a few small producers that the owner of the wineshop encouraged me to visit. He was even so nice to give me the phone number of the owners of Aitken’s Folly winery. And that’s how I got to meet Ian and Fiona.

Come with me to Aitken’s Folly Winery

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The vineyard, beautifully set in Wanaka.

After contacting Ian and explaining my mission, he kindly picked me up at the wineshop and drove me to his vineyard. We started talking and I found out the first intersting fact. Ian and his wife Fiona moved from Aberdeen to New Zealand a couple years ago. Yes, I thought this accent was a little different from the kiwi accent that I slowly got used to.  Fiona and Ian are both geologists and when chosing a site for their vineyard, they profited from their knowledge. They chose Wanaka because they fell in love with the region and who can blame them.

The wines at Aitken’s Folly – “Never been a Pinot fan”

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Ian explaining to me the whys and hows of Aitken’s Folly winery.

When we arrived at the vineyard, we went straight to the newly established tasting room which I thought was just lovely. One wall held completely in light blue with people’s opinions written on it. What a lovely idea that gives the tasting room such a personal touch.

Ian and Fiona produce three wines. So far. A Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay and a Rosé (out of Pinot Noir). Their first vintage was in 2012. When tasting and talking about the wines, I can see Ian’s excitement and pride in having come such a long way and now being able to produce such nice wines. The excitement is contagious and I can’t wait to taste the wines.

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The current range.

We start the Chardonnay and I learn that this one has spent a year in oak barrels from France. 30% of the barrels are new giving the wine some freshness and lightness. For this Chardonnay, Ian and Fiona decided on a French clone, that is known for a higher level of acidity. I think that makes great sense for a cool climate area such as Wanaka. We really enjoyed this Chardonnay and Ian was telling me, that even people who usually don’t like oaky Chardonnay really liked this one due to its freshness and balanced acidity. I must agree.

We continued with the Rosé. Rosé – some love it, some like it, some hate it. I like it. Especially if it has seen some wood. I like it when a Rosé has some structure and reveals a little about the grape it is from. So, how about this one? This Rosé has not seen oak. Ok. No oak, that’s ok. In this case, it is very ok because Ian’s Rosé really has got some strong fruity notes and goes very weel with spicy food or quite strong cheese. That I know, because I took a bottle home with me.

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Someone got very lucky. Congrats!

“Never been a Pinot fan”. This is how Ian introduces me to his Pinot Noir but luckily continues, “before I came here.”  Phew. Ian and Fiona grow three different Pinot Noir clones to be able to have a lot of flexibilty when blending the wines. For me, it really is the first time that I learn about different clones being used for blending and I am happy about this new knowledge. Some clones, for example are fruiter than others, some exhibit more acidity, some are more earthy. With all of them still exhibiting the main Pinot Noir properties. So when you blend them in different proportions you can pretty much make the wine you desire.

Where the quality starts: The vineyard

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Walking among the Pinot Noir vines.

After the lovely tasting, Ian takes me on a tour through the vineyard. At the moment it is roughly 3 hectares that are worked with more to be planned in the future. Two happy dogs accompany us. Here I can see how much Ian loves the land his wines grow on. He explains to me why they have chosen this site, for its soil and its climate. Apparently, it is a little cooler here than in neighbouring Cromwell with a little less rainfall. This makes for more elegant wines. So the geologist. He must know. While we walk among the wines, my visit is slowly coming to an end.

Listening to Ian makes me conclude that this kind of dedication, motivation as well as a great spirit of adventurnousness will make for more great wines and will put Wanaka even more on Central Otago’s winemap.

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The entrance to the tasting room.

Good luck Ian and Fiona with Aitken’s Folly winery and many more good wines and happy customers. Thank you for having me and showing me your little piece of paradise.

Thank you for reading my post. If you are interested in Aitken’s Folly visit their website or facebook page.
If you like to buy some nice wines in Wanaka make sure to visit Pembroke Wines and Spirits.

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