Vineyard tales… pulling old bottles from the cellar…

It takes courage to show people something  you made 15 years ago that you’ve  been storing in a dark, cold wine cellar ever since, but that’s exactly what Crawford and Catherine Brown did last Thursday night at Regional Wines in Wellington.

Or should I say that I did this for them for a roomful of fans of Central Otago Pinot. Most of which we tend to drink when it’s youthful, young, fresh, fruity and new. And if you’ve ever tasted old wine, you’ll know it’s not always a good experience, so a few of these fans approached the wines with trepidation, but I am happy to report that the older wines really did show some attractive aged characters – earthy, but clean.

The older wines of Bannock Brae were, for me, confirmation that Central Otago Pinot Noir can, when well made, age and gain in complexity, concentration and flavour interest. Most of the Bannock Brae wines were unfined and unfiltered, which is Crawford and Catherine’ philosophy because, in their words, they want to present the wines at their most concentrated in flavour.

The youthful wines in this tasting (2014, 2013 and 2010) tasted very primary and relatively light bodied in comparison to the older wines from 2008, 2006 and 2002, which all demonstrated incredibly concentrated fruit flavours, earthy overtones with notes of savoury spice in the background.

I thought the three older wines were in exceptionally good condition, given their age and the youthful nature of the vineyard, the winemaking in Central Otago and even bottling under screwcap.

There has been so much fast and furious growth in the New Zealand wine industry that it is sometimes easy to forget just how youthful the whole concept of winemaking is in this country. Let alone that many of the older wine can actually age well.

So, let’s hear it for experimentation, good cellaring conditions (White Refrigeration advertises on this site and offers a dab hand when it comes to wine cellar design) and for the most southern wine region in the world – Central Otago, where Pinot Noir rules the roost with 78% of the planted grapes there.

How this Central Otago Pinot Noir tasting came about…

Crawford and Catherine suggested a tasting of their aged Central Otago Pinot Noirs  after I wrote about and talked on RNZ National about my discovery of a lovely old bottle of their Pinot Noir, which I unearthed among my personal wine collection when I was packing up to relocate from Auckland to Wellington about 18 months ago now.

Fellow writer Raymond Chan wrote this piece…

Wine writer and educator Joelle Thomson led a fascinating vertical tasting of Bannock Brae Pinot Noir, with the flagship ‘Barrel Selection’ wine from 2014 back to 2002. The tasting offered six vintages of these plus the 2015 vintage of the ‘Goldfields’ second label as a pre-taster. The tasting came about from Joelle’s move from Auckland, back to Wellington, during which she came across an older vintage of Bannock Brae ‘Barrel Selection’ wine. She drank it and thoroughly enjoyed it, wondering what other vintages would taste like. Contacting Bannock Brae’s proprietors Crawford and Catherine Brown, they came up with a vertical tasting spanning a dozen years. Joelle presented the wines at Regional Wines, in Wellington. She did so with real competence and I count myself fortunate to have attended, tasting history in motion, and seeing the benefits of bottle-age.

You can read his whole blog about the Bannock Brae Pinot Noir tasting here:You can read his whole blog here: Bannock Brae Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014-2002 by Raymond Chan.


Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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