MARTINBOROUGH - NEW ZEALAND
Tokyo-born Hiroyuki (known as Hiro) Kusuda trained as a lawyer and worked for Fujitsu, then the Consulate General of Japan in Sydney before giving it all up to pursue his other love, wine and winemaking. He went to Germany, learned the language, enrolled at Geisenheim and then emigrated to New Zealand to pursue both the Riesling and Pinot grapes – to which a third challenge, Syrah, has now been added. The choice of New Zealand in general and Martinborough in particular apparently came about through tasting the 1992 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir.
Hiro is a driven individual, totally focussed on seeking purity of fruit character in his wines. A key feature to achieve quality is the extremely meticulous if not fanatical sorting of the fruit, at harvest and especially on the berries before vinification. The Claremont Motel in Martinborough has Kusuda as their most important client during vintage as hordes of pickers pay their own way from Japan to say they've been able to work with one of Japan's most highly regarded winemakers and contribute to the quality! Some stay for two days, others for a month or more. It takes 2-3 days for 10-15 people to sort through one tonne of Pinot Noir, depending on the health of the fruit. From around 10-15 tonnes of fruit, the annual output is less than 1,000 cases. 70% of the tiny Kusuda production goes to Japan, where it has a cult following. The remainder is sold evenly in NZ, Australia and the UK.
Kusuda Pinot Noir 2018
From the high-density block (majority 7400 plants/ha) we started to lease in 2011 then purchased after the 2015 vintage. The weather changed in early summer to cooler days and then wetter in March. Challenging season but the extensive selection/sorting contributed to the purer style. 97% destemmed, cold soaked for 4 to 6 days. Fermented in open stainless-steel vats with pumping-over and hand plunging, total period of maceration 22 to 25 days. Aged in French (19% new) oak barriques for 15 months. Unfined and bottled with coarse filtration. Even more elegant than normal but the flavour intensity and the typical spiciness remain at the usual level.
96 points, Bob Campbell MW - “The relatively pale colour of this pinot noir might trick you into thinking it’s a light wine but don’t be deceived, it has extraordinary power and length. A wine that’s all about purity and subtlety. Cherry, fresh herbs and subtle spices. Reserve judgement until it has at least a few year’s bottle age. (Cork)”
Ranked: #1 of 21 2018 Pinot Noir from Martinborough
Kusuda Syrah 2017
Very low yield (less than 20hl/ha) resulted intensely fragrant yet elegant, linear shaped wine with obvious aging potential. 94% destemmed without crushing, cold soaked for 6 to 8 days. Fermented in open stainless steel vats with pumping-over and hand plunging, total period of maceration for 25 to 29 days. Aged in French (22% new) oak barriques for 22 months. Unfined and bottled after coarse filtration.
95 points, Bob Campbell MW - “Delicate, edgy, supple syrah with violet, red rose petal, fresh herb, white pepper and subtle spicy flavours. The wine has great purity, power and an ethereal texture. Needs bottle-age to reveal its full potential.”
Kusuda Riesling 2019
From Boulders Vineyard on Martinborough Terrace (leased since 2017 vintage). Disease and insect pressure were high due to the higher temperature and able to harvest only one in four bunches (Botrytis affected bunches went into the late harvest wine). Harvested by hand with extreme selection. Whole bunch pressed, settled for 48 hrs with bentonite. Fermented in a stainless steel tank for 3 weeks.Bone dry but with plenty of citrus fruit backed up by ripe yet focused acidity.
95 points, Bob Campbell MW - “Bone-dry riesling with lime-citrus, green apple, oyster-shell, mineral and a suggestion of wildflowers. A taut, high-energy wine with impressive purity and power. While it can be appreciated now it should develop well with bottle age.”
Kusuda Riesling ‘TBA’ 2018
97 points, Bob Campbell MW - “Delicious dessert wine with honey, honeycomb, dried apricot, wild rose, star anise, peach and pineapple flavours. An intense and powerful wine that can be appreciated now but has obvious cellaring potential.”