The 2012 Central Pinot Noir Celebration...
Update posted 9 February 2012
Full tasting notes below from 'The Grand Tasting' at Northburn Station, Central Otago.
Then 2012 Central Otago Pinot Celebration in Queenstown, New Zealand, from Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 January 2012,
attracted nearly 200 passionate pinotphiles from the UK, US, France, Hong Kong,
Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Winemakers, winery owners, Masters of Wine,
wine educators, wine writers and marketers were shown retrospective snapshots
of ‘older’ Pinot Noirs – between two and 30 years old, depending on whose table
they sat at various events during the celebration – and younger tastings of
burgundy, pinot noir and even, to ensured we kicked off in true southern style,
riesling – from Central and from the world.
The conference opened
with a tasting retrospective of six Pinot Noirs, followed by the longest
line-up of wines in one place over the two days; the “Grand Tasting”, held at
Northburn Station in the Cromwell Basin on Friday 27 January.
Each of this year’s 35
participating wineries opened two different Pinot Noirs for the biggie of the
celebration, including their current release and an older wine of their choice.
As I’m not a fan of arbitrarily apportioned star ratings (when is a star rating
not entirely subjective?) and because there were well over 70 wines to try, I
have written at least one note on every winery present but not reviewed every
Pinot Noir tasting notes from "The Grand Tasting" at the 2012 Central Otago Pinot Celebration
Akarua Pinot Noir
is the second time I’ve tasted the 2002 Akarua in the past 18 months and, like
the first time, it’s a touch herbal but, on the positive side, it has robust
tannins, good acid structure and is clearly argues a great case to age reds
Akarua Pinot Noir
solid plump fruit style with medium body and acids and a lengthy finish.
Amisfield Pinot Noir
signs of herbaceousness in aroma and on the palate. Fresh fruit still evident
but not a fully ripe style.
Amisfield Pinot Noir
is the best Amisfield Pinot Noir I have tasted for several years, thanks to its
spicy flavours, youthful tannins and acids and bright fruity appeal. Has this
wine got plenty of positive aging up its sleeve or what?
Aurum Pinot Noir
body, medium tannins and medium acids; pretty plum fruit, medium finish and
‘structured’ style, says winemaker Lucie. I agree. Give this one time to reveal
its fruitiest appeal and to soften in structure.
Aurum Madeleine Pinot Noir
complete right now than the 2010 with silky tannins, a smooth texture and
Burn Cottage Pinot Noir
last year’s Burn Cottage Pinot Noir, this is a tight style right now, with
medium+ tannins, relatively full body and bright sweet fruit intensity.
Definitely one to cellar.
Carrick Pinot Noir
a very small vintage for this quality focussed winery. Okay, who isn’t ‘quality
focussed’ but Carrick forged its name in the local stone on high quality,
thanks to now-departed winemaker Steve Davies – whose name will appear later
alongside other wines he has made. This Pinot Noir is all about structure right
now and needs time in bottle.
Ceres-Composition Pinot Noir
after the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres Pinot Noir is a super small
production wine; only 500 cases are made each year of this fresh and fruity
young wine, which has impressive concentration of flavour. The vineyard on
which the grapes in this wine are grown is leased from Mt Difficulty. From 2011
onwards, a Riesling will join the Ceres range; from 2012 a Pinot Gris will.
Chard Farm Tiger Pinot Noir
A top vintage. And if there’s a more iconic vineyard in
Central Otago, I have yet to see it; Chard Farm is not only one of the very
first to be planted (first vintage 1989); it’s one of the best reasons to drive
over the Crown Range and gaze down from the precariously beautiful hillside
road onto the patch of vibrant green vines…. Okay and the wine? ‘Tiger Pinot
Noir’ is named after the late ‘Tiger’ Thomson (no relation to yours truly), who
worked at the cellar door and has a manner as elegant as this wine is silky.
For all that, the grapes in this wine are actually grown in the Cromwell Basin
2010 Coal Pit Tiwha Pinot Noir
This is a relatively small winery, even in New Zealand
terms; based in the Gibbston Valley, it is situated 420 metres above sea level
and this vintage is made with wild yeast fermentation, giving the wine a lovely
floral style, thanks to winemaker Lynn Horton.
2007 Desert Heart Pinot Noir
Is it a coincidence this exceptional Pinot Noir from this
tiny wine brand was made by Steve Davies, whose name is a recurring
theme in Central Otago’s inner wine circle? The grapes in this wine were grown
on a well chosen site; at Desert Heart vineyards, planted in 2000 at the base of
Mt Difficulty on the banks of the Kawarau River in Bannockburn; a stone’s throw
from where Davies’ own vineyard is today. Like most of Central’s 2007 Pinot
Noirs, this is drinking beautifully and has plenty of time still to unfold.
2009 Doctors Flat
Steve Davies is one of Central Otago’s inner circle
winemakers and while his new Doctors Flat wines are a relatively small
production brand - just 174 cases of this vintage were made – this is a
producer to watch for high quality. Ripe fruit flavours are held in check by
medium acids and tannins; which match the style of the fruit in this wine. It’s
robust yet refined, spicy yet fruit-led.
2010 Doctors Flat Pinot Noir
'Top newcomer' refers to the label, that is, not the winemaker; Steve Davies is a well seasoned Central Otago Pinot Noir maker and this is his new brand; an extremely tasty one too. Just 188 cases of this were made from three
hectares of vines bordering the old Doctors Flat Mining Co site at Bannockburn.
The 2010 year has already created a growing number of promisingly structured
vintage of Central Otago Pinot Noirs. This wine is not yet on the market and
won’t be for some time.
Domain Road Vineyard Pinot Noir
and Gillian Crosbie commute between Dunedin and Central Otago; specifically,
Domain Road, which is in Bannockburn and home to the vineyard from which this
wine comes. It’s a tightly structured style, needing time to reveal itself – as
is so often the case with good Pinot Noir and Burgundy too. I’m a fan of the
smattering of whole bunches in this wine, which add some attractive perfumed
fruitiness without dominating the style.
Ellero Pisa Terrace Vineyard Pinot Noir
Montero and Roberta Manell are old hands at making great Gewurztraminer and now
they have turned their talents to Pinot Noir, these growers-turned winemakers
are doing an impressive job. This is a beautifully open, fresh fruit driven
style with silky tannins and approachability as a drink-young style. Top value
and good drinking now.
Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir
2009, winemaker Blair Walter and winery owner Nigel Greening have sensibly added the
word ‘Bannockburn’ to their front label on this wine; it’s a small addition but
a significant one for Central Otago, in which sub-regions are beginning to make
their flavours known when grapes are in the hands of top winemakers, such as in
this youthfully tannic Pinot Noir. Cellar this one.
Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir
in 1992, this hallowed vineyard is one of the top spots from which to make good
Central Otago Pinot Noir. Top Central Otago winemaker Blair Walter is known for his whole bunch
ferment styles; big, fruity, openly expressive Pinot Noirs, which are held
together in an impressively balanced tannic structure. The 2010 vintage pays
homage both to this style of winemaking and to what was clearly an excellent
at the end of the Kawarau gorge on the site of a former town, this 1.5 hectare
vineyard is hand tended by viticulturist Ian Dee, who made his first vintage in
the excellent 2007 year. This 2010 wine has yet to be released – June-ish is
the time – and it’s a lovely open fruit driven style with balance from medium
acids and tannins. Quantities may be tiny from here but the quality is high –
this is a vineyard and wine brand to watch.
Gibbston Valley China Terrace Pinot Noir
Christopher Keys now holds the winemaking reigns at Gibbston Valley winery;
whose home vineyard is situated in the Gibbston Valley and was planted 29 years
ago. The grapes in this wine come from Bendigo in the Cromwell basin; it’s a
red fruit style with balanced medium acids and tannins; this is a wine to
savour in time to come. Cellar it or be sure to decant well, if opening now.
Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir
wine brand is owned by five families and the grapes are grown in an Alexandra
sub-region, says co-owner Phil Handford. Production to date is relatively small
– 2500 cases – and it’s only Pinot Noir that the families make. This one is a
savoury wine with youthfully high acids and medium tannins.
Hawkshead Pinot Noir
the heart of Bannockburn comes this bright, fresh and enormously fruity Pinot
Noir, which has ‘cherries’ written all over its whole-bunch ferment style. Lots
of texture and weight make this enormously appealing. It’s a good vintage and
will age well.
Maude Mt Maude Vineyard Pinot Noir
about a youthful wine from winemaking couple Sarah-Kate and Dan Dineen. Right
now this wine has high acids, medium to high tannin structure and is relatively
youthful in fruit expression – yes, it needs more time in the bottle or a very
good decant before approaching. It has lovely spice and red fruit characters
and I look forward to revisiting it in time to come.
Mount Edward Stevens Vineyard Pinot Noir
cast of well known characters put this wine together; Central Otago wine
pioneer Alan Brady, winemaker (and Riesling lover but that’s an aside) Duncan
Forsyth and wine lover John Buchanan; among others. This is made from Gibbston
Valley-grown grapes; its vibrancy, red fruit and lovely balance testifying to a
good vintage. There is time in it too; this is a good candidate for the cellar.
Mt Aspiring Wines 36 Bottles Pinot Noir
Brett and Jane Young own this small wine brand; the first wines being made in
1999 and this vintage being made entirely from grapes grown in Bendigo, 15% of
which were whole-bunch fermented, which adds a lifted fruitiness to the staunch
tannins, in part derived from 38% new oak.
2007 Mt Difficulty Single Vineyard Pipeclay Terrace Pinot
of my stars of the tasting, thanks to what appears almost universally to be an
all-round good vintage but also thanks to the excellent, if typically
understated, winemaking skills of Matt Dicey, who has harnessed this wine’s
gorgeous red fruit expression in a medium to full bodied Pinot Noir with
medium-plus acidity and a very smooth, long finish.
Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
late last year, this is still a staunch young red with vibrant fruity aromas,
medium to full body and a long spicy finish. It needs decanting or, even
better, time to age in a good wine cellar.
Top wine and value
Mud House Pinot Noir
hard to believe this lovely silky, gorgeously fruit Pinot Noir is just $20; it
won an ‘elite gold’ medal at the 2011 Air New Zealand Wine Awards and its soft,
silky, smooth fruity upfront style comes from the use of just a smidgeon of oak
– 10% - rather than the whopping amounts in so many red wines today. Talk about
brave winemaking – and successful winemaking. This is absolutely outstanding,
in terms of style, winemaking and value for money.
Northburn Station Pinot Noir
18 months away from release into the market, this wine is made with grapes
grown on the eastern banks of Lake Dunstan, and has red and black fruit
flavours of plums, cherries and spicy oak.
Peregrine Pinot Noir
is the fifth time I have tried this wine, so I have been able to monitor what is often one of my favourites of the region – both at tastings and from purchasing this
wine. It's good to see this vintage settling into its relatively robust, spicy and, this year, slightly oaky style.
The grapes in this wine comes from both Gibbston Valley and the Cromwell basin.
This is a medium bodied wine with medium acids and tannins and a slightly more
full bodied style than the 2009.
Pisa Moorings Pinot Noir
its dark savoury fruit flavours, this wine may be a year older than many in the
tasting but it has all the hallmarks of a youthful wine. The Pisa Moorings
Vineyard was established in 1996 by Sue Stark, who employs Central Otago
winemaker Dean Shaw to produce her Pinot Noirs. It’s top value at just $32 a
bottle. Stark also makes the best South Island olive oil I’ve yet tried under
her 4 Groves Olive Oil brand; quantities are miniscule, quality is superlative.
Pisa Range Estate Black Poplar Block Pinot Noir
to be confused with its almost identical namesake (above), Pisa Range Estate
was one of the first Central vineyards planted on the Pisa Flats near Cromwell.
Warwick and Jenny Hawker are members of the Bio-dynamic Association of NZ and
this medium bodied, smooth bodied Pinot Noir is made by Rudi Bauer.
Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir
sneak preview of this wine, which won’t be out on the market for another year
yet. This wine was not quite finished at the time of tasting but boasted bright
vibrant fruit flavours and as it is from an excellent vintage (in this writer’s
view), it’s looking like one to beat a path to this time next year.
Quartz Reef Pinot Noir
consistently high performing winery, owned by Rudi Bauer, takes its name from
its most important vineyard site, which lies over the country’s biggest single
quartz deposit. The new 2010 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir continues Bauer’s elegant
theme of beautifully balanced tannin, acid and fruit structure; nothing
dominates here, except for the youthfulness of the wine. Definitely one for the
Rippon Vineyard Mature Vine Pinot Noir
year marks 30 since Rippon Vineyard became a commercial venture and 100 years
of the Mills family living on their land on the shores of Lake Wanaka. This
wine is momentous too; it’s unusual in coming from grapes grown entirely on
their own roots and all unirrigated. It’s a tight youthful red, not released
for another six months.
Rippon Vineyard Mature Vine Pinot Noir
from a magnum in top condition, this is a lovely smooth style with full body,
savoury complexity and a long finish which is developing silky notes.
2010 Rockburn “The Art” Pinot Noir
aptly named Rockburn winery has produced just 12 barrels of this outstandingly
vibrant Pinot Noir, made by winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis, who understands
Bannockburn grapes well, having cut his Central Otago winemaking teeth at
Felton Road Wines. All the grapes in this wine come from Bannockburn. This is a
limited release, to be launched in July this year.
Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir
Here's another stand out from the excellent 2007 vintage; Surveyor Thomson (no relation) is drinking beautifully right now with layers of savoury, spice, even earthy flavours sitting alongside a vibrant fruit taste, which will continue to open up. Beautiful drinking now but it's easy to see this has lots of time up its sleeve too; in a good cellar.
Olssens Jackson Barry Pinot Noir
vineyard and winery formerly known as Olssens now goes under the name Terra
Sancta and is led in winemaking by Stanford graduate Jen Parr; chair of this
year’s Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. This wine is made from the first
vines to be planted in Bannockburn and it’s a youthful, full bodied, fruit
forward Pinot Noir, which needs time – or a decanter (or both) – to open up.
Three Miners Pinot Noir
family owned winery in the Earnscleugh Valley – between Alexandra and Clyde –
will launch this Pinot Noir later this year; it has a lovely fruit led front
palate but a light to medium body. This is one of the lighter styles of the
Wild Earth Pinot Noir
turned winemaker Quintin Quider has something of Midas Touch with his Pinot
Noirs; this is another openly fruity style but with mid palate depth and a
savoury note that adds length and interest to the wine. Very good, especially
at its price - $38 to $40 – which puts it at the top value end of the Central
Wooing Tree Pinot Noir
most recognisable winery is indeed marked by ‘the wooing tree’, which stands
alone in the middle of an otherwise starkly flat landscape; the wine is also a
stand out with fruit dominance leading this youthful, tight and somewhat closed
wine right now. Decant or cellar; or both.