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

Category: Central Otago (page 1 of 3)

A very humbling vineyard… Mt Ed’s Morrison

It’s not everyday you hear a winemaker talk openly about having their hopes and dreams smashed by an expert who sees their vineyard in an entirely different light to them. But, like most winemakers,  Duncan Forsyth is well used to adapting to his environment.

Not least because that environment is the world’s southernmost wine region. Frosts are standard fare at certain times of the year and the region is heavily reliant on one grape – Pinot Noir, which may be relatively early ripening, but is also thin skinned and has all the jazz and drama that goes along with anything or anyone who is thin skinned. Still, Duncan put great personal investment into the small Morrison Vineyard when he planted it entirely in Pinot Noir.

So you can imagine his surprise when the French agronomist engineer Claude Bourguignon stood on this favoured vineyard and said that “One day you will possibly make great white wine from this site.”

It was the last thing that Duncan expected to hear from Bourgignon’s lips. He and others in the region had pooled their resources to bring the French soil analyst to their region to help accentuate their chosen leading grape – not to diminish its importance by coming out of left field. But Duncan is a man who listens and he has since replanted parts of the small Morrison Vineyard in Lowburn with white grape varieties. He also retains Pinot Noir on the vineyard and it is consistently the pinnacle of his Pinots, but then again, the Riesling from this site is an outstanding wine with the potential to age for at least a decade. It’s a dry style with the same hallmark of the Morrison Vineyard as the Pinot Noir – a firmness on the finish of each sip, says Duncan.

I obviously need to taste a lot more of these wines (there are worst tasks) to pinpoint that characteristic in a blind tasting, but I can see his point. And I plan to get better acquainted with these wines because they consistently shine, for me, in both blind and non-blind tastings.

Duncan has also launched a new brand into New Zealand this week – it’s called Ted. And it includes a rose, a Pinot Blanc and  Pinot Noir. This range is mostly destined to bars, cafes and restaurants. Check out the wines.

Taste these Mount Edward wines…


2014 Mount Edward Morrison Vineyard Pinot Noir  

Arock star of a wine; picked earlier than in the past by two or three weeks to retain acidity, which drives the core of the dark cherry flavours in this intensely concentrated Pinot Noir. Whole bunch fermentation is big in this wine but it’s nicely integrated so that the flavours are fruit and savoury with a fresh, intense grip on the finish. It is certified organic with Bio-Gro New Zealand.


2017 Ted by Mount Edward Rose 

Light in colour, high in acid, very fresh and very youthful with a dry fruity style.


2016 Mount Edward Rose

Less fruit driven and more textural – a little more lees time adds weight and interesting texture to this wine.


2016 Ted Pinot Blanc

Lovely dry white, nice lees work adds texture to this wine’s refreshing citrusy flavours. It’s one of only three Otago Pinot Blancs.


2015 Mount Edward Morrison Riesling 12%

Extremely tasty; extremely low pH means this southern white will age superbly for the long haul (up to and probably beyond a decade) but it also drinks nicely now, thanks to notes of lime, lemon grass and green apples. But I’d keep it… cellar for at least two to three years.

And then there’s the orange wine – 2015 Mount Edward Clockwork Orange, which is a blend of Pinot Gris and Riesling blend; 8 months on skins and another year in barrel and then the trick, says Duncan, is at least another year of bottle aging. There are some nice floral aromatics in here; pretty and textural.



The Mount Edward Gamay is also a star, but made in tiny quantities. 

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.

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