If life was a wine, it would have to be Pinot Noir. It’s variable, sometimes great, often disappointing and frequently frustrating. And just when you think you’ve found a great one, along comes a challenge that turns that idea on its head. It’s been a year when friends and family have had turmoils that remind me strongly of Pinot Noir, so, 2020, here we come.
That said, it’s often easy to see why Pinot Noir is a tad challenging. It’s one of the trickiest grapes to grow.
Thin skinned. Early budding in spring (making it frost prone) and early to ripen too but since it needs a cool climate to retain its edge, it often suffers from frost around harvest time in late summer. It also suffers from mildew and fungal disease issues – two of the very things often associated with cool climates. All of which brings to mind the 2018 vintage in Central Otago, the third biggest wine region in New Zealand and the southernmost one in the world. A place where harvest usually takes place after everyone else has finished picking their grapes. Usually, Central is not the first place in New Zealand to harvest its grapes, unless… it was the summer of 2018 – one of the hottest on record in Central with high temperatures early on followed by record low rainfall then heavy rain and fungal disease issues, due to humidity. Wind helped and growing degree days were relatively high, so, despite the challenges, there are Pinot Noirs of good quality. Some are even beginning to trickle out now, such as two of this week’s trio of top wines.
Tricky to master and understand as Pinot Noir is, it can be even more difficult to understand why life can be so complicated but at least there’s always great Pinot Noir to enjoy along the journey.
Wines of the week
2018 Misha’s Vineyard Cantata Pinot Noir $30
Cantata is the mid priced Pinot Noir in MIsha’s Vineyard range and is made with grapes grown solely on the estate owned vineyard in Bendigo. The grapes in this wine were destemmed with 25% whole bunches retained and fermented with natural yeasts. The ferment was hand plunged two to three times a day and kept warm, post ferment, to allow tannin extraction for an average of 22 days before the wine was pressed to tanks, cold settled, then aged in 300 litre French oak barrels until the following spring.
It drinks well now and will continue to evolve for three to four years. Dry, smooth and fruity with a lingering finish. It was filtered before bottling in October 2019.
2016 Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Noir $25
When second tier wines taste this good, you know someone’s doing something right. And that someone is the entire winemaking team at Pegasus Bay winery in North Canterbury, owned by the Donaldson family. This wine is an outstanding, full bodied, dry, earthy and savoury drop from its release and for up to 8 years following. Density, concentration, ageability and deliciousness? All present and counted here.
2018 Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir $45
The High Note is the top Pinot Noir from Misha’s Vineyard in Bendigo, Central Otago. Estate grown grapes were fermented with natural yeasts with a modest 6% whole bunch fermentation and post ferment skin maceration time of about 24 days followed by aging in 300 litre French oak, 37% new. It was filtered before bottling in April 2019. Drinks well now and will unfold more flavour with time in bottle.