The Nelson Mail, 17 Sept 2020, by Neil Hodgson 

Daniel and Ursula Schwarzenbach, The Nelson Mail 16 Sept 2020

A few weeks ago Ursula Schwarzenbach asked me if I would like to visit Blackenbrook Wines to taste their 2020 vintage. Of course I said yes (who wouldn’t!).

Over the years I have been mightily impressed by Ursula and husband Daniel and the wines they craft. As Daniel said to me last week “to be honest 80 per cent of the winemaking happens in the vineyard, I just have to finish the process in the winery.”

This understates just how much effort the couple and their young family put into creating their delightful wines. Located on the sloping hills at Tasman, up the road behind the Tasman Store, the vineyards are managed with intense detail to ensure the fruit is in the best condition possible to turn into wine.

The 2020 vintage was notable for the Covid-19 lockdown during which the wine industry was granted essential services status to be able to harvest their once-a-year export crop.

At Blackenbrook Vineyards however the final pick happened on the day before lockdown started, “we were due to finish on the Friday so by working longer hours for a few days we were able to get all the fruit picked and into the winery before lockdown”.

Daniel and Ursula Schwarzenbach, The Nelson Mail 16 Sept 2020

Ursula told me their assistant winemaker headed back to Germany early to beat lockdown restrictions but as school was also locked down their son Thomas was able to step in and help. “He has always been around the winery and helped in every aspect from the vineyards to the bottling line so he knows his way around the winery, it was just full time as assistant to Daniel for a week or so.”

The couple are also delighted with the quality of the vintage this year. “It was exceptional” says Daniel and I must say that based on the wines I tried last week I agree.

For me the wines at Blackenbrook have a certain purity of flavour to them. It’s a character I find difficult to describe but the wines tend to have a perfect expression of the varietal flavours and I’m certain this comes from the meticulous vineyard management that means less intervention in the winemaking process in the winery.

“Some of the wines pretty much make themselves,” says Daniel. Beautiful clean fruit equals beautiful clean flavours. “For wines like sauvignon blanc and pinot blanc we didn’t do anything in the winery, we just need a good ferment to turn great, clean fruit into nice wine, we try and use very gentle processes so we don’t lose the flavours.”

I tasted seven new release wines in the hour and a half I spent at Blackenbrook and tasting notes for all of these are on my website  but one worth a special mention here is the 2020 Pinot Blanc. This is the second vintage for this variety at Blackenbrook and what a stunning wine it is!

The aromas are intense, bursting with rich cooked pear and stonefruit characters that are dusted with delightful floral notes in the background. The richness of the aromas is reflected in the weighty, delicious flavours, balanced with a touch of freshness and deliver liquorice-like characters in the very long finish. This is a five-star wine and one that will certainly find itself attached to my credit card and a place in our cellar.