I sometimes wonder if this column should be called the Secret Diary of a Wine Writer. It doesn’t have quite the same ring as Secret Diary of a Call Girl, but you never know where diary entries might take you and this weekly (sometimes fortnightly) blog often seems to be as much about life as it is about wine. And I wouldn’t be the first person to suggest that great wines can be a great analogy for life.
This week’s four remind me of the last four places I have lived in, which is slightly poignant right now because I have just moved house to one of the country’s smallest wine regions – the Wairarapa; an hour or so away from Wellington city. But I digress and this is not my diary. It is, however, the story of four vastly different wines made by the same winemaking team from four different vineyards.
Each of these wines tells the story of its home. Its soils, its climate, its wind exposure, its frost risk; all of these factors and more are expressed by the Valli winemaking team of Grant Taylor, Jen Parr and Karl Coombes. This talented team produce an even wider range of Pinots each year but these are their flagship wines, each one highlighting its home in four corners of Otago from the cool climate Gibbston Valley to the warmth of Bendigo and the edgy Waitaki Valley. Bannockburn also features but there is not, yet, a single vineyard wine from Alexandra – something I would love to see them do. I can imagine an Alex’ Pinot from Valli would rock similar flavours to the Waitaki Pinot.
It’s a privilege, as always, to be sent these wines to taste and here are my thoughts.
2018 Valli Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir
Gibbston Valley is my pick of Valli’s four Pinots each year and the 2018 lives up to its usual deliciousness. It’s made from a stony vineyard planted in 2000 with seven different clones of Pinot Noir (777, 115, UCD5, 114, 10/5, UCD6 and 113). The grapes were ripe enough to use 30% of them for whole bunch fermentation and the wine was aged in French oak for 11 months with 31% new oak adding body and weight but allowing the spicy red currant and red flavours to shine. Elegance is the word that always springs to mind when tasting Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir – and here it is again. This Pinot drinks superbly now and can age for a decade or longer. There were 21,990 bottles produced – snap up at least a couple for your cellar.
2018 Valli Waitaki Vineyard North Otago Pinot Noir
This wine comes from one of the coolest climates in Otago, namely the Waitaki in North Otago. It’s made from five different Pinot Noir clones; 115, 777, Abel, UCD5 and 114, grown on limestone based river gravels from a vineyard planted in 2001. This vintage had 20% whole bunch fermentation and was aged in Mercurey oak for 10 months, prior to bottling. There were 13,900 bottles made. The style is the lightest in body of all four wines with structure provided by fresh vibrant acidity, which adds zing and a long finish.
2018 Valli Bendigo Central Otago Pinot Noir
Chinaman’s Terrace in Bendigo is one of Central Otago’s most favoured vineyard sites, thanks to its altitude providing the benefit of escaping much of the region’s ever present frost risk and providing elevated levels of sunshine too. The wine is made from vines planted in 2005 and due to its ripe, rich flavours, a relatively large portion of the grapes – 50% – were whole bunch fermented then aged for 12 months in French oak, 30% new. It’s full bodied Pinot Noir with structure to burn. A vastly different style with more power than the other wines but retaining the elegance and silkiness provided by bright acidity, which gives length to every impressive sip. Drinks beautifully now and is a keeper for the long term too.
2018 Valli Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir
This wine is made from grapes grown on a stony vineyard on schist bedrock in Hall Road, Bannockburn, one of the warmest corners of Central Otago. It’s made from six different Pinot Noir clones (777, 115, UCD 5, 10×5, 113 and 13). Rainfall in this area is low and the tannic concentration in this wine is high compared with the other three wines in the Valli Pinot Noir stable. It’s a big smooth, full bodied Pinot, which drinks well now and will definitely become rounder and smoother with age.
Find out more at Valliwine.com