Homecoming for one of Two Sisters
“I like to try everything” Niamh (“Neve”) Peren tells me. And these are not the words of an experimental millennial, but rather the open-minded views of the globe-trotting daughter of Adam and Kristin Peren, the folks behind the “Two Sisters” brand from Central Otago. Niamh has recently returned home to the family property at Gibbston after visiting 17 countries in the last 12 months, yet she couldn’t identify a favourite style of wine after all of her travels. I enquired, “Do you prefer any particular regional Cabernet, Shiraz, or Merlot over Pinot Noir from home”, only to be told “No. I like all of them!”.
I probably expected a bit of parochial support for pinot noir from Niamh, given her wine family background and ties to Central Otago. The “Two Sisters” label was created by her parents after they sold the successful Peregrine Wines business they had established at Gibbston back in 2008. The “Two Sisters”, of course, are Niamh and her “coolest sister in the world”, Sorcha, who is currently in Christchurch pursuing a career in sustainable water management.
Though the family home is in Gibbston, about 30 kms from Queenstown, the vineyard is further afield in the Lowburn Valley at an elevation of around 350 metres. And Adam was more than happy to take me there when I recently visited on a cold, foggy Saturday in late June. As you arrive on this relatively steep piece of terra firma, you can’t help but notice the alluvial outcrops that surround the vineyard. The rocky schist soils underfoot don’t give the impression that they would grow anything other than rabbits, but as our winemaking tour guide explained, stressing the vines intensifies the fruit’s flavours and character and allows the terroir of the locality to impart it’s arid charm on the Riesling, Pinot Gris and pinot noir wines that this six and a half hectare vineyard produce.
Adam chose the site back in 1999 as he believed that it was ideally positioned being high enough to avoid the crippling frosts that can decimate low lying crops, and positioned on a rounded north-south axis, giving the pinot gris and Riesling vines morning sun, while the five hectares of pinot noir vines are graced by warm afternoon rays. These days, it seems that the Lowburn sub-district is focussed almost entirely on pinot noir production, though the local cherry tree orchards seem to be undergoing somewhat of a renaissance due to international demand for their sweet fruit from Japan and China. The cherry connection seems an appropriate coincidence given that those same ripe cherry flavours dominated the delicious “Two Sisters” 2011 Pinot Noir that Niamh poured for us on our return to the Peren’s Gibbston home.
Two Sisters 2011 Pinot Noir
The 2011 edition of this flagship wine is rubyesque in the glass but delivers a powerful bouquet of red fruits on the nose. On the palate, the sweet red cherry flavours are joined by a savoury herbaceousness which is beautifully balanced by spicy oak and fine tannins.
Our hosts insist that “good fruit leaves little work for the winemaker”, and if that’s true, there must have been precious little done in the winery recently as the current white vintages, the 2010 Two Sisters Riesling and 2015 Pinot Gris are exceptional examples of under-rated styles. I’ve become a devotee to the Riesling which is made to a medium bodied Alsacian style with lemon and lime flavours woven between layers of toast, cream and honeysuckle. Harmony is found on the finish, where the sweet luscious fruit is balanced by understated acids and leaves a semi-dry conclusion.
Just as the “Two Sisters” wines are now found all around the globe, the “Two Sisters” have flown the coop some years ago. But with wines like these to enjoy in such a beautiful part of the world, I can well understand why Niamh keeps coming home! For the rest of us, thankfully we can visit at www.twosisters.co.nz.