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Top drops under $20 (and over) and wine news from Joelle Thomson

Category: Aging & cellaring (page 1 of 3)

Can Cloudy Bay make New Zealand Pinot as famous as Sauvignon Blanc?

Can Cloudy Bay make New Zealand Pinot Noir as successful as Sauvignon Blanc?

The question sprang to mind last week at a tasting held at Cloudy Bay HQ on Jackson’s Road, Blenheim. This was not just any old tasting. We were tasting bottles of great wines with enormous price tags from all over the world, alongside their far humbler priced Cloudy Bay Pinot Noirs.

So, what was the point of the tasting?

Cloudy Bay senior winemaker Tim Heath said he wanted to compare and contrast his Pinots with great reds from around the world – and he wasn’t  mucking around.

The full list of wines appears at the end but my stand outs were:

2011 Vega Sicilia Valbuena Ribera del Duero ***** (5 stars)

Spain’s most famous red or merely its most seductive? Not that there’s anything ‘mere’ about this powerful wine, which  puts Cabernet Sauvignon’s most commanding foot forward here, only it’s riper, rounder and more approachable than Cab’ Sauv’ can usually hope to be. And speaking of feet, it has one in both the traditional camp – it’s blended with Merlot and Malbec – as well as the maverick one; it also contains the characterful red fruit appeal of Tempranillo (known as Tinto Fino in the Ribera del Duero region). It was aged in both old and new oak and the grapes were grown at relatively high altitude in this warm region, which accounts for the retention of acidity, which freshens this big red. It has enormous potential to age and was my star of the tasting.

 2009 Sori San Lorenzo from Piemonte ***** (5 stars)

When first made in 1967, this became the first cru Barbaresco ever produced by Italy’s modern wine pioneer, Angelo Gaja, who named it after its location – sori means hilltop with a southern exposure and that tastes like it works a treat for the late ripening, Nebbiolo grape, which is paradoxically delicate and intense (floral, a touch of tar, smoked meat, red fruit, full body, high acid, long finish, another seductive red). It was also the best wine with the food , due to its high acidity cutting a delicious path through the cheese, the salad and even the salmon that I ate after the tasting when we were able to re-try the wines at lunch.

2011 August Clape Cornas **** (4 stars)

This is like super concentrated teen angst; it needs time to chill out before it’s ready to socialise. It’s all about earthy flavours, tar, black olives and pepper with loads of everything (tannin, acid, super dry, full body). It was made using wild yeasts, was aged for 20 months in old oak then bottled unfined and unfiltered. It was not my fave to drink right now, but it’s impossible not to be impressed with the depth, length, body and all that jazz.

2013 Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche Grand Cru **** (4 stars)

Made from grapes that were organically grown and taken from a Grand Cru vineyard, but more revealingly, it has a high percentage of whole bunch fermentation, which tasted intensely stalky, but provided impressive concentration, which seemed to dominate the delicacy that I look for in Pinot Noir. It’s an impeccable wine, although its style polarised the room.

2014 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir  ***** (5 stars)

This is the best Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir I have ever tasted and it’s not the first time it’s made an outstanding impression on me in a blind tasting. It is made from 3 vineyard sites: Mustang in the Southern Valleys, Barracks planted in 2004 and the Delta Vineyard acquired by Cloudy Bay in 2013. About 15% of the wine went through whole bunch fermentation and there is no oak evident on the palate, which has clearly benefited from the intentional oxidative maturation that well used oak aging can bring to wine.

Winemaker Tim Heath says this: “We’ve worked really hard on the use of oak over the past four or five years. That, and our focus on how many whole bunches to include in the fermentation of Pinot Noir have been such an obsession that I needed to take a mental break from after our extensive trials. The aim is to make a Pinot that benefits from both, but doesn’t scream of those winemaking bells and whistles.”

2014 Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir **** (4 stars)

This wine is made from a 50/50 blend of grapes which it purchases from the Calvert Vineyard and grown on the Northburn Station Vineyard, which it now owns. And while it is elegant, fresh and full bodied, it says far more about Pinot Noir than the first Te Wahi (made in 2010) ever did, thanks a significant reduction in the use of whole bunches  in the fermentation. This is a beauty; all red fruit, elegance, a lively style and long finish. A keeper and it drinks very nicely right now.

The aim of the Cloudy Bay Pinot Salon 

This was New Zealand’s first Pinot Salon – a curious name for an event focussed on many wines that weren’t even made from the tricky old, oversensitive, thin skinned, Pinot Noir grape.

The Pinot Salon has replaced the annual Pinot at Cloudy Bay event, which was held annually until 2015 when the salons were launched in London. Senior winemaker Tim Heath and viticulturist Jim White have hosted salons in London and Tokyo and have more planned around the world. This year’s was the first time it has been held in New Zealand.

Cloudy Bay’s new Estate Director, Yang Shen, also attended the event and is pictured standing in the following picture:

“Cloudy Bay first planted Pinot Noir in Marlborough in 1985, and released the first vintage in 1989. Since then we have acquired some of the finest Pinot Noir vineyards in Marlborough, and more recently in Central Otago where we are continuing to refine our style,” said Shen, who is a trained winemaker in his own right.

The tasting was co-hosted by New Zealand’s sole Master Sommelier, Cameron Douglas, and all wines were tasted blind.

The wines tasted  

2011 Auguste Clape Cornas – Rhone Valley

2014 Domaine Cedric Chignard, Fleurie, Les Moriers – Beaujolais

2013 Domaine Dujac, Clos de la Roche, Grand Cru – Burgundy

2013 Domaine de Montille, Volnay, “En Champans”, 1er Cru – Burgundy

2013 Domaine Sylvain Cathiard, Nuits-St Georges, Aux Thorey, 1er Cru – Burgundy

2009 Rene Rostaing, Cote Rotie “Ampodium” – Rhone Valley

2011 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5° – Ribera del Duero

2009 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo Langhe – Piedmont

2005 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir Magnum – Marlborough

2010 Te Wahi – Central Otago

2014 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir – Marlborough

2014 Te Wahi – Central Otago

My weekly blog… Waitaki wine goes en primeur

In news this week…

It’s fun, decadent and delicious to work with wine (Chilean Malbec – tick, Chianti Classico Extra Virgin Olive Oil – tick, Spanish Mencia – tick, Bollinger for my birthday – tick… this week has been busy).

But like most of life’s fun, decadent and delicious pursuits, it’s not always easy to make a living from, which is why so many small wineries are owned by people with day jobs to fund their winemaking. And it’s also why many wine writers do other things on the side – namely, talk, teach and sell wine; of all of which are among the many ways that we scribes sing for our suppers these days. In my case, I count myself fortunate to have the newly created role of Wine Programme Director at a place we call ‘Regional’ in Wellington city.

It’s the oldest independent wine store still in existence in this city today and it’s having a new lease of life under new owners for the first time in its 30 year history and it’s also home to some outstanding staff, who I count myself lucky to work with. But that’s another story.

The reason for this one is to mention a wine of the week from a forgotten corner of this country – the Waitaki Valley, on the border of North Otago and South Canterbury.

The wine of the week is…

2016 Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir $45 

And… it is now available (from this week) en primeur (this is not an ad’)

It’s the 14th year this wine has been made by the brother-in-law duo of Jim Jerram and Jeff Sinnott, who planted some of the first grapevines in the challengingly cool climate of Waitaki in New Zealand’s deep south. The wine was aged in oak for 15 months prior to bottling and it tastes sensational. Here’s what I wrote about it…

North Otago is the newest wine region in New Zealand and also one of its most promising for high quality Pinot Noir, such as Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir, made by Jeff Sinnott and Jim Jerram, who together established some of the first vineyards in the Waitaki Valley in the early 2000s. This wine is an elegant style of Pinot Noir with great concentration of flavour (think: cherries and ripe dark plums), a full body and velvety smooth texture. Its hallmark is its ‘Pinotesque’ high acidity, which bodes well for its long term aging, as does its pedigree of very good quality wines since the mid 2000s. Its young history shows an outstanding ability to age and its fruit flavours remain faithful to what great Pinot Noir is all about.

Find out  more or buy it here… https://www.ostlerwine.co.nz/page/caroline-s-pinot-noir-2016/

Blast from the past… buy wine from Peg’ Bay and Dog Point’s cellars

One of the most frequently asked wine questions is this: Can I cellar this wine and what will it taste like in 10 years’ time?

This month two New Zealand wineries have put their money where their mouths are and opened up their cellars for the public to buy 10 year old wines.

Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury and Dog Point Vineyards in Marlborough have done the cellaring for us so that we can taste well cellared wines and track the progress of flavour over a decade. It’s an interesting – and tasty – concept.

Lest this sound like a marketing ploy, the wineries in question have chosen one of the best vintages of the past decade and are not flogging off second tier wines, but their flagships. And they’re damned good too, as I have been finding out while tasting samples.

Both wineries make maverick styles of wines at prices people can afford and – for those of us who personally know the makers – they also have a deep love of the great wines of the world, which inspire their styles.

Why keep it

Now that wine is New Zealand’s fifth biggest export earner (and rising), it’s only natural that we would, could and, perhaps, should start keeping some of the best bottles made here. Not everything has to be consumed right now. It’s fun, decadent and delicious to have a small wine cellar. My own dwindled a tad when I relocated from Auckland to Wellington 18 months back because I was trying to rationalise everything I owned, so I shared, drank, swapped and gave away many old bottles. But it’s growing again and these two wineries have a growing place in it because I know their wines can age reliably well – and taste even better five or 10 years down the track.

It’s been great to retaste Dog Point Section 94, Dog Point Chardonnay, Dog Point Pinot Noir, Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir and Pegasus Bay Riesling (all from 2007), but it’s far from the first time I have tried and enjoyed old wines from these two producers.

If you want a wine cellar…

By the way, if you want to cellar wine, then the team at White Refrigeration makes custom-built cellars and consultations are free. If you can convert that unused wardrobe, spot under the stairs or spare space into a wine cellar, why not?

The cellar wines available

2007 Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir

2007 Dog Point Chardonnay

2007 Dog Point Section 94

2007 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Aged Release

2007 Pegasus Bay Riesling Aged Release

My top picks

2007 Dog Point Section 94

The 2007 Dog Point Section 94 shows Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in a bright new light – it’s 10 years old and incredibly fresh, no doubt the high acidity preserves it, as do the dialled up flavours and long finish. Here’s a succulent and complex Sauvignon that says more about the place than the grapes grown there, which were 100% barrel fermented, which adds beautiful bells and whistles to this Sauvignon.

2007 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Aged Release

It’s a delicious treat to revisit this North Canterbury Pinot Noir’s silky, fresh and complex flavours – every sip taste of black cherries on speed and the zesty acidity (which is Pinot’s hallmark) makes every mouthful linger. It drinks well now and still has many years up its lovely sleeve yet.

How to get them

Dog Point Vineyards… is selling cellared wines now in 6-packs through the Dog Point Vineyard Library Wine Club. Membership is free and includes information and preview offers.

More information at www.dogpoint.co.nz

Pegasus Bay Wines… is selling cellared wines from August via three different channels – at the winery cellar door, via mail order and at some specialist wine stores.

More information at www.pegasusbay.com

 

 

Cellaring wine

If you’re going to drink old wines now, then it only stands to reason that new ones should go straight into the cellar… or under the stairs, if that’s the place you store tasty treats. Try stashing these for 5 or 10 years.

2015 Pegasus Bay Riesling 12.5% ABV

This is the brand new outrageously good Riesling from New Zealand’s king of spatlese styles – Mat Donaldson, winemaker and eldest son of the Peg’ Bay winemaking dynasty in North Canterbury. Mat is a man on a mission to progressively produce Rieslings that taste ever so slightly drier in style and this is an elegant step in that direction. Concentrated lemon zest, ripe mandarins and fresh peach all combine in this great new wine. (And yes, it is Mat – with one ‘t’.)

2016 Palliser Estate Riesling Martinborough 12% ABV

Dry, deliciously lemony with zingy freshness to burn. If you like this wine now, check it out in 5, 10, or 15 years, depending on your willpower. I have regularly enjoyed many Palliser Estate Rieslings up to 15 years old and been consistently impressed by its freshness and intense flavours.

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