A celebration of diversity
The Central Otago Pinot Celebration is an great opportunity to taste a huge range of ultra premium pinots - over 40 makers and more than 100 wines - while still enjoying yourself. It is held in late January and early February each year, except when the NZ Pinot event is on in Wellington.
Represented are established makers like Felton Road, Chard Farm, Peregrine and Wooing Tree - pictured Olivia Stark (Peregrine) & Michelle Morpeth (Wooing Tree) celebrating at the Winemakers' Party - as well as new brands like the soon-to-be-cult and super-excluive Burn Cottage.
Three years ago, sub-regional traits were emerging. At this year's event, featuring the wines of 2009 vintage, the differences between sub-regions and individual sites were both marked, and fascinating. As vines mature and experienced viticulturists and winemakers respond to their unique sites it is no longer true to say that Central Otago pinots are all of a style.
In trying, like a good Virgo, to impose some order on the diverse styles tasted I settled, a tad simplistically some would say, on 3 main style groupings - the sock-it-to-me fruit bombs, the (surprisingly) delicate and ethereal pinots and thirdly the brooding and serious types, just hankering for a deep and meaningful conversation.
Vintage 2009, like the equally low-yield 2007 vintage, provided perfect conditions for producing big, voluptuous pinots. No hard work to be done here on the taster's part; just sit back and enjoy the big pinot ride.
Bannockburn, particularly, has plenty of stellar examples but there are some beauties from Cromwell and Bendigo.
Among many, these impressed. Some are available now, others will filter through to OZ in the next few months.
- 2009 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir (Cromwell) $55: COMING SOON and follows in the fabulous footsteps of 2005, 2007 & 2008. Vintage 2009 is deeply coloured with ripe dark cherry and anise on the nose. Layers and layers of fruit, spice and oak flavours. Excellent structure. A real crowd pleaser. Meanwhile 2008 is available. www.pinotshop.com/products/wooing-tree-2008-pinot-noir
- 2009 Rockburn Pinot Noir (Bannockburn) $38: Enveloping, jubey and completely gorgeous. Blackberrry and dark cherries. Harmonious yet perfectly structured. Amazing value at its super NEW PRICE. www.pinotshop.com/products/rockburn-pinot-noir
- 2009 Olssens Jackson Barry Pinot Noir (Bannockburn) $62: Reminiscent of the magnificent 2007, of which we again have (limited) stock. Vintage 2009 is beautifully perfumed with plum and meaty aromas. It is full of smooth rich, dark fruits; despite the abundant fruit it is very well structured. Spicy clove and cardamom tuck into the layers of fruit and oak. www.pinotshop.com/products/olssens-jackson-barry-pinot-noir
- 2009 Felton Road Pinots (Bannockburn): Felton Road pinots are easy to love, they're just so balanced and satisfying in every way. They could, however just as easily fall into the next two 'style' groups as they transform, chameleon-like, to fit the drinker's mood and circumstances. The Felton Road vineyards, as described by winemaker Blair Walter, produce such 'a big platform of fruit that our job is to reign that in and stop the wine becoming too heavy, too fruity, too forward.' We have a little 2009 Felton Bannockburn $68 and Felton Cornish Point Pinot $88 still available. www.pinotshop.com/products/felton-road-2009-bannockburn-pinot-noir
- 2009 Akarua Pinot Noir (Bannockburn) $48: "96 points, 5 stars: Terrific wine in a classic Central Otago fruit-bomb style with masses of dark cherry, plum and chocolate flavours pllus a seasoning of spice and nutty oak. An easy-to-love style with a drop-dead silken texture and lingering fruity finish. I marginally prefer this to the more exalted Reserve label although the latter might well look better in a couple of years. This is perhaps the best of a string of winning wines from a great Bannockburn vineyard." Bob Campbell MW AGT WINE Oct/Nov www.pinotshop.com/products/akarua-2009-pinot-noir
- 2009 Domain Road Pinot Noir (Bannockburn): Arriving MID YEAR, 2009 Mondillo Pinot Noir (Bendigo) arriving when Dominic Mondillo (viticulturist Gibbston Valley) finds an OZ distributor (soon we hope) & 2009 Prophet's Rock (Bendigo) STAY TUNED FOR ARRIVAL.
Sock-it-to-me Central Otago six pack $305 (value $330) - 08 Wooing Tree, 09 Rockburn, 09 Olssens JB, 09 Felton Road, 08 Coal Pit, 09 Akarua Pinots
Or Dozen $590 www.pinotshop.com/products/sock-it-to-me-central-otago-pinot-six-pack
The sweetly spicy fruit from Lowburn and Wanaka contributes an ethereal and restrained character to some of the wines, and southern sub-region Alexandra with its huge diurnal temperature range, also produces wines with heightened aromatics and less overt, plummy fruit.
- 2009 Chard Farm Mata Au Pinot Noir (Lowburn) $49: Chard Farm, although based in a most spectacular Gibbston location, sources Lowburn fruit for Mata Au Pinot. It's a medium-weight pinot - spicy, textured, savoury and a teensy bit funky but with the sweet fruit prevailing. Superb pinot for small birds or Chinese dishes. Chard Farm The Viper, similarly achieves its grace and elegance and layered complexity from Cromwell Basin fruit. Also available is 2008 River Run, baby brother to Mata Au. www.pinotshop.com/products/chard-farm-river-run-mata-au-pinots
- 2009 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir (Alexandra) $44: Arriving March/April. As beautiful as the 2008, superbly aromatic with raspberry and blackcurrant. The fruit is sweet and intense but still fine. Savoury herbs and roasted nuts, along with clove spice complement the fruit. Divine. Vintage 2008 currently in stock. www.pinotshop.com/products/grasshopper-rock-2008-pinot-noir
- 2009 Peregrine Pinot Noir $46: Peregrine is betwixt and between the big and the subtle styles and is all the more beguiling for that. As always superb balance but a little more swooningly heady in this vintage. Superb clarity in the glass, deceptively full on the palate but soft and gently persistent. Harmonious, feminine. Trophy 2010 Air NZ Wine Awards www.pinotshop.com/products/peregrine-pinot-noir
- 2009 Archangel Pinot Noir (Wanaka) $45: Archangel is not shy of rich pinot flavours, and it is quite voluminous in the mouth, but it also has gentle persistence. The nose is really pretty with sweet cherry and candied violet aromatics. Absolutely charming pinot. www.pinotshop.com/products/archangel-pinot-noir
The Soothing Central Six Pack $288 (value $304): 2009 Archangel, 2009 Peregrine, 2008 Rippon, 2009 Chard Farm Mata Au, 2008 Grasshopper Rock & 2008 Maude Pinots.
Or Dozen $550 www.pinotshop.com/products/soothing-central-otago-pinot-six-pack
Seriously structured, sometimes enigmatic wines for the long haul... and the superb rewards.
- 2008 Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir (Gibbston) $45: Always serious gear. Recent vintages show excellent fruit intensity with complex and complementary savoury tannins. They're wines to keep - a few years in the cellar and they become as erudite and engaging as their maker Christopher Keys, pictured here in the Wine Cave. As an aside, one of the most impressive wines at the COPNC was the 2000 Gibbston Valley Pinot Gris, which had all the attributes of a very good Alsatian Pinot Gris. If you have some Gibbston Gris of more recent vintages, keep. www.pinotshop.com/products/gibbston-valley-2008-pinot-noir
- 2007 & 2008 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir (Bendigo) $52: Rudi Bauer has been making wine in New Zealand since the very, very early days. His pinots are among the most powerful in the country, a reflection of his Bendigo vineyard and its inherently 'masculine' traits. "My job is to bring in a touch of femininity," says Bauer "... give that masculinity a sense of flair." Early Quartz Reef Pinots could be hard to converse with, but with the understanding conferred by each new vintage, Bauer is now producing more approachable pinots that still have rather a lot to say. Bob Campbell on the 2008 Quartz Reef -
"This is a top-flight pinot noir showing concentration that’s impressive from a vintage that produced many lighter than usual wines.... It has a rich, silken texture with dense plum, black cherry and spice flavours. It’s easy to appreciate now but shows good cellaring potential. Five stars, 96 points." www.pinotshop.com/products/quartz-reef-pinot-noir
- 2009 Akarua Reserve Pinot Noir (Bannockburn) $78: Sure there's some super rich fruit here but there's also a brooding, weighty, solid core that demands singular attention. Quite magnificent. "Intriguing wine with layers of concentrated plum, dark cherry, spice and oak flavours. Sweet fruit suggests fruit bomb style, yet it has enough structure and complexity to avoid that stereotype. Rich and mellow with an impressively long finish." 5 stars, 95 pts, Bob Campbell. www.pinotshop.com/products/akarua-2009-pinot-noir
- 2009 Mount Edward 'Morrison' Pinot Noir (Lowburn) $99: Exclusive to Pinot Shop in OZ, extremely limited quantities arriving March, but MAKE YOUR ORDER NOW. This is another pinot chameleon. At first you get a big whack of fruit and are overwhelmed by its luxuriously rich palate with plenty of spice and plum. Then you go back and find floral notes with aromatic raspberry giving the whole thing a beautiful lift. "Plenty of ripeness, this offers orange peel, complex brambly cherry fruit, cassis and a bright flurry of violets and red florals framed in assertive fresh-cut oak. The palate is supple and even with ripe sweet fruit, fine lacy tannins and a trail of toasty oak to close." Tim Stock AGT WINE. Currently available: 2008 Mount Edward Pinot Noir $65.
- 2009 Carrick Pinot Noir (Bannockburn) $52: There's something about the Carrick site that produces seriously well-structured pinots. "More oak weighs in here, quite assertive, sitting across ripe plum fruits and earthy complexity. The palate’s rich and sturdy, quite solid and fleshy with dark cherry and juicy cola-like flavour. Oak adds a chewy edge to the finish. Best given some time." Nick Stock AGT WINE www.pinotshop.com/products/carrick-2009-pinot-noir
Serious Gear Central Six Pack $340 (value $362): 08 Gibbston Valley, 07/08 Quartz Reef, 09 Akarua Reserve, 09 Carrick, 08 Mount Edward & 07 Bald Hills Pinots
Or Dozen $640 www.pinotshop.com/products/serious-gear-central-otago-pinot-six-pack
A question of age: Participants at the Central Otago Pinot Noir Journeys Masterclass which featured the wines of Quartz Reef, Felton Road and Mount Difficulty will never need to ask the question "How well do Central Otago pinots age?" Vintage 1999 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir was a highlight among many stunning wines with its class and beauty. This was a good vintage and current winemaker Matt Dicey's first
. The wine still shows sweet fruit and a very appetising touch of umami (think soy, truffle) on the nose. The sweet fruit continues on the silky, silky palate. Altogether a most delicious pinot in terrific shape.
At the same tasting, Mt Difficulty's '02 Pipeclay, '03 Target Gully and '05 Long Gully Pinots defied their years, proving that, despite the $100+ price tag, these single site wines are indeed money well spent.
'Pinot Central: A Winemaker's Story' by Alan Brady: Alan Brady, Central Otago pioneer and founder of Gibbston Valley has just released his story of the establishment of Central Otago as one of the world's great pinot noir regions. Brady, a journalist by background, is an excellent story teller and this is an extremely enjoyable read, rather than straightforward, dry history. Central pinot lovers will find it fascinating. Not available in Australia yet, but AGT WINE notes that Amazon can supply. We're also hoping to receive some copies with our Mount Edward Morrison Pinot shipment - Brady is a partner in that venture.
Foreigners in our midst: On Monday of last week, immediately after the Pinot Celebration, I presented a tasting of 6 Tasmanian pinots to Central Otago winemakers. Co-organiser Malcolm Rees-Francis of Rockburn arranged for 6 Central Otago Pinots to be tucked at random amongst the Tassie wines, all to be tasted blind.
- Tasmanian Pinots: 2007 Tamar Ridge Kayena, 2007 Clemens Hill Reserve, 2008 Home Hill, 2008 Stefano Lubiana Estate, 2009 Bay of Fires and 2009 Milford.
- Central Otago Pinots: 2009 Olssens Jackson Barry, 2007 Quartz Reef, 2008 Rippon, 2008 Ellero, 2009 Felton Road Block 3, 2009 Gibbston Valley Le Maitre.
As you can see that's an impressive line-up of NZ pinots. And the Tassies stood up particularly well, so well that negative comments were rather muted, and rare, especially as the tasters present couldn't be exactly sure which were the locals and which were the foreigners. Sam, assistant winemaker at Quartz Reef, mentioned that he had been very disappointed by a selection of Tasmanian wines tasted 3 or 4 years ago, but not this time "I'm impressed," he said, as did Rockburn's Malcolm Rees-Francis who was "stunned by the quality." As we did last year with the Trans Tasman Pinot 7s, in the next month or so we will organise another head-to-head NZ v TAS pinot event.
Date to be advised.
'Light yet heavy. Heavy yet light.' - A friend, a student of the Tao Te Ching and recent convert to pinot (and the very best examples we should add), has his own Tao way of describing great pinot noir. 'Light yet heavy. Heavy yet light.' expresses the enigma of pinot; the tension and harmony that achives greatness. For a fuller account read about 'the pinot philosopher's' experience with a bottle of 2009 Ata Rangi Pinot (Martinborough) in The P Spot. www.pinotshop.com/blogs/the-p-spot/2659332-p-is-for-a-pinot-philosopher-on-ata-rangi
Michele Round February 8, 2011