Pyramid Valley Lion’s Tooth Chardonnay 2020 (6 Bottles) New Zealand

by Wines By Cellars 0 orders



Driven to create one of the new world’s great cool-climate vineyards, it took Mike and Claudia Weersing 15 years and a quixotic global journey that included a lengthy stopover in Burgundy before they found their perfect site. Inspired by the climate and soils of that region, the duo finally found their special place in the limestone-rich soils of Waikari in North Canterbury. From here Mike and Claudia established Pyramid Valley and emerged as NZ pioneers of both biodynamic practices and high-density viticulture.

For almost 20 years they inspired and/or challenged all those who came into their orbit. Their minute scale and exceptional dedication to their soils and vines led to some incredible wines being produced. First visiting the vineyard in 2007, Steve Smith MW (then of Craggy Range) was one of many affected by what he describes as one the most compelling and unique vineyards he has ever visited. When Mike’s health went into decline, the Weersings were forced to sell and Smith and his partner Brian Sheth acquired the estate in late 2017.

The spectre of Burgundy is writ large over the foundation and ethos of Pyramid Valley, yet we should not expect imitations in terms of the style of the wines. Rather they have their own very distinctive style and energy, and this is precisely as it should be with terroir-driven wines; uniqueness is the point.

This 0.4-hectare site, like the wine that results, takes its name from the vineyard’s abundance of dandelions (‘dent-de-lion’, or lion’s tooth in French). These flowers predominate apparently because of the higher clay content in this parcel. It is a steeply inclined, east-facing site on soils that Weersing described as having a “…nut and crumb structure and great mineral fertility”. It’s the classic limestone and clay of the area but here the higher balance of clay makes it the more vigorous of the two Chardonnay blocks.

A lovely nose of flint, lemon rind, sliced pears and rosemary stem. Medium- to full-bodied with bright, citrus acidity that drives and pushes the palate through a long, lingering finish. Apple character on the palate. Very good concentration and intensity. Fresh with some brioche notes, too. Supple texture. Drink or hold.
94 points, James Suckling



About Pyramid Valley

“You may think you know New Zealand wines but I can assure you that until you have tasted Pyramid Valley, you have no idea. The results speak for themselves: astonishingly good, terroir-expressive wines that will challenge all your preconceptions.” Lisa Perrotti-Brown, The Wine Advocate

“If New Zealand has created a finer Pinot Noir than these two single-vineyard wines from Pyramid Valley Vineyards, I haven’t tasted it.” Matt Kramer, Wine Spectator (2010 vintage)

“Sometimes you taste a wine for the first time and it’s so fabulous, so new, so different, that you’re overwhelmed by a desire to visit the vineyard where the grapes were grown.” Max Allen, The Australian Financial Review

“Benchmark New Zealand vineyard and wines. If not a yardstick for chardonnay and pinot noir globally. No joke.” Mike Bennie, The Wine Front

We’re delighted to offer the first release from Pyramid Valley’s Museum program. If you’re new to the story, driven to create one of the new world’s great cool-climate vineyards, Mike and Claudia Weersing established this iconic vineyard in 2000. It would be an understatement to say that the Weersings chose their site well. Nestled in the rocky escarpments of Waikari, North Canterbury, the limestone-rich slopes and extremely marginal climate—more continental than the average New Zealand wine growing region—result in slow-ripening fruit and mineral-rich wines. The tiny yields guarantee an intense expression of place. From here, the duo emerged as NZ pioneers of both biodynamic practice and high-density viticulture.
2016 was the last vintage made by Mike and Claudia Weersing before they were compelled to sell the property (to Steve Smith MW and his partner Brian Sheth) in late 2017. The new owners’ blueprint has been to honour the founders’ vision and build on the authenticity and integrity of the estate. It is only fitting that the first release from the newly established museum program hails from a rock-solid Weersing vintage.
From a warm and dry season, Weersing’s ’16 Pinot Noirs were cropped at a typically low yield of 32 hl/ha. Yet these were never wines of knuckle-duster power. Instead, the cool nights and rocky, acidic soils of Pyramid’s terroir, and the delicate vinifications employed have ensured wines of exceptional balance and vivid freshness.
You only need to read Mike’s own tasting notes, penned in 2018, to recognise his enthusiasm for his 2016 Pinot Noirs. He wrote that the Angel Flower was “a head-spinning, aromatic ride”, while the Earth Smoke “seems to be marrying fruit succulence to its established, adamantine, soil-sponsored clout”.
We’re pleased to report the wines have also aged beautifully. Alongside fine detail, silky elegance, and fruit purity, both Pinots are revealing quintessential developed flavours of five-spice and hoisin, while the tannins have melted to gossamer elegance. The wines are driven by their sites’ fresh, enveloping acidity and are, in short, loaded with personality. In other words, both wines are in the zone. We’d add, do not be scared to decant; the more air they see, the more layers are revealed and, with them comes more complexity—we can think of many Burgundies at the same price that wouldn’t come close for quality and enjoyment.

Wines By Cellars