Vino

Joelle Thomson's online wine guide

Category: Central Otago (page 1 of 3)

A wine worth cellaring

A top drop for the wine cellar… 2014 Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir $120

It can be a rocky road for wines made from grapes grown in cool climates, even when those grapes are planted on north facing slopes to maximise sunshine, but for one of Central Otago’s highest priced Pinot Noirs, it can be even tougher because the vines face both north and south on the steeply sloping Rocky Knoll Vineyard.

The vineyard is owned by Amisfield Winery. It’s a gravelly and dry site, so the vines often struggle in this arid environment, yielding fewer grapes than the average vineyard at Amsifield Wines does. Winemaker Stephanie Lambert says the Rocky Knoll Vineyard was planted with the expectation that it would grow high quality Pinot Noir grapes, but there was no guarantee until the wines were made and the proof was in the bottle, but at blind tastings conducted over the years at the winery, the batches of Pinot Noir made from the Rocky Knoll have always stood out.

For this reason the wine, fondly nicknamed RKV Pinot, has evolved as a highly expressive, small volume wine that expresses its site.

The first Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir was made 10 years ago but it has not been produced every year; there was none in 2011 and only tiny volumes in 2009.

A wine worth cellaring

2014 Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir $120

This intensely coloured, richly flavoursome southern wine is an outstanding expression of Central Otago Pinot Noir. Not only because it is super concentrated in flavour, thanks to low crop levels in the vineyard, but also because it is a true expression of both its place of origin and the grape variety it’s made from. There’s no doubting this is Pinot Noir, thanks to its freshness, driven by high acidity, which balances the rich fruit flavours and adds length. The new 2014 Amisfield RKV Pinot Noir drinks well now and will age well for up to 10 years, thanks to its firm tannins (derived partly from whole bunch fermentation) and the high acidity.

There’s a smidgeon of Riesling on the Rocky Knoll Vineyard too, which mostly makes its way into Amisfield Dry Riesling, which is another stunner of a wine. 

Rippon’s new wines express their place…

Rippon Vineyard is one of the world’s most beautiful, a fact that never escapes those who visit its drop dead gorgeous vines on the shores of Lake Wanaka – the most westerly area in the world’s southernmost wine region. Winemaker Nick Mills was visiting Wellington today from the frosty deep south and he popped into Regional Wines for a tasting of his biodynamically certified wines, all of which come from grapes grown on the shores of Lake Wanaka.

As Mills says, Rippon Vineyard is an estate – not a brand. This means all his grapes are grown on the estate; as in Europe and all traditional wine growing countries, the word estate means the land owned and tended by the owners. Here are the wines I tasted.

The Rippon wines…

Best Otago Sauvignon this year – 2016 Rippon Sauvignon Blanc

Lots of work went into this wine, which is 100% wild fermented. Its softness and savoury style comes from a 60/40 ferment in stainless steel tanks and old oak barrels. It remains on lees unsulphured for two months. It is the best Otago Sauvignon Blanc I have tried this year.

New flagship Pinot Noir – 2013 Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir

This is a new release – all wines are held a year in barrel and another one in bottle before release; an expensive move for the winery but a tasty one for consumers because it allows the wines to open up and soften during this maturation time. This is savoury rather than a fruit bomb, but also bone dry in flavour, which rates highly with me. Love the long finish and balanced style.

New youthful Riesling – 2015 Rippon Jeunesse Young Vine Riesling

Very Germanic in style with an impressively broad spectrum of flavours. About 150-200 cases are made of this wine each year. Winemaker Nick Mills rates this year particularly well – and its complexity is a big drawcard to this fresh new white with its white floral flavours through to ripe apricot and a long finish. Nice.

Top drop – 2014 Rippon Riesling

Made from 25-30 year old vines, this is the leading Riesling in terms of quantity – and quality. The winery has about 2.5 hectares of Riesling, which is tiny but more than all other white varieties at Rippon. These vines provide enough grapes to produce between 500 to 600 cases of this dry, medium bodied, concentrated Riesling  each year. Rich, complex, dry and long – all you want in a Riesling. It’s all about youthful lime and peach aromas now, but it will develop further with time and it will age age.

This superlative southern wine shows loud and clear why Riesling is the most underrated white grape of the deep south in New Zealand.

Introducing… Soho Wines to Wellington

Soho Wines is now available for the first time ever at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington…

We’ve all got a day job and mine is wine writer and (part time) wine programme director for Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, New Zealand. Today I’m in Marlborough at the second Organic Winegrowers New Zealand Conference, proving the rule that writers are often at large rather than at their desks. But yesterday, the desk took the form of the counter top at Regional Wines  & Spirits while tasting the extensive range of wines from Soho, which sent its roving ambassador, Amber Hatton, to Wellington to launch the wines.

Soho Wines was established in 2009 by Rachael Carter who worked for her father’s wine importation business (yeast, barrels, corks…), prior to planting the seeds of her own wine producing company. It was a smart move. Her experience meant that Carter understood the crippling overheads that owning a winery can bring, so, instead, she uses grapes from a combination of vineyards, including her family’s  and others. She has hand picked a winemaker in each of region from which she produces wine. She has, in a sense, a virtual winery with no fixed abode, aside from its business headquarters in Auckland.

The winemaking team consists of Dave Clouston in Marlborough, James Rowan in Auckland and Grant Taylor in Otago. And so to the wines, which are now all available at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington.

The Soho wines

2016 Soho Stella Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 13% ABV

Young, fresh and intense with flavours of  tropical fruit (passionfruit, pineapple) and citrus (lemon and grapefruit), a light body and a long finish. Very good drink now, which will continue to be lively for 2 to 3 years.

2016 Soho Jagger Marlborough Pinot Gris 13.5% ABV

Its name was inspired by Mick Jagger and this wine is soft, medium bodied and smooth with white fruit (pear, apple) flavours and an off dry style (6 grams residual sugar per litre).

2016 Soho Maren Marlborough Riesling 11.6% ABV

Zingy deliciousness with a light body, refreshingly zesty lime, mandarin and orange zest flavours, balanced high acidity and a long finish. Like a sorbet in the glass, only it has a dry finish.

2016 Betty Riesling 9.4% ABV

The inaugural vintage of this sensational, zesty, intensely flavoured, light bodied Riesling was made with grapes grown in Marlborough, which were treated to an intentional medium style – noticeable sweetness is balanced by crisp acidity, leaving lingering flavours of lime zest, green apples and lemon juice.

2015 Jonny Chardonnay Marlborough 13% ABV

Creamy, soft and buttery, this light bodied, lively young Kiwi Chardonnay comes from Marlborough and drinks very nicely right now.

2014 Soho Carter Marlborough Chardonnay 13.5% ABV

Warm climate Waiheke Island was home to the grapes that went into this full bodied, smooth, richly flavoursome Chardonnay (citrus, caramel, cedar and spice).

2015 Soho McQueen Central Otago Pinot Noir 14% ABV

This full bodied, fruity (redcurrant and cranberries) and spicy young Pinot Noir is a blend of grapes grown in Central Otago’s diverse grape growing regions (mostly Bendigo – one of the warmest, most sun drenched corners of the region) and it is made by winemakers Grant Taylor and Jen Parr.

2016 Soho Syrah Waiheke Island 14% ABV

Waiheke Island Syrah grapes and Auckland winemaker James Rowan are a great team in this dry, full bodied, toasty tasting red wine with its intense spicy flavours of cloves, white pepper and cinnamon. It’s an impressive drink now and will age well for 5 to 6 years.

2015 Soho Revolver Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc Waiheke Island 14% ABV

This is an impressive big red made with grapes grown on Waiheke Island, which provided plenty of warmth to create this deeply coloured, bone dry, intensely aromatic wine with its black fruit flavours and long finish. Drink now or keep for 8 to 9 years.

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