Vino

Tales of wine, people and travel

Category: Pinot Noir (page 1 of 14)

Wine, the universe and everything part 2

Big wine regions often get a bad rap but where would we be without them?

I’ve lost count of how many visits I made to Marlborough last year, often with others who work with wine, and each time we were staggered by the region’s heavy reliance on Sauvignon Blanc. Even when you do expect it,  the number of eggs that Marlborough winemakers have in the Sauvignon Blanc basket is daunting, to say the least.

Great Chardonnays from Marlborough are growing in number but even at the largest wineries, it often makes up less than 5% of their overall production. And that doesn’t even touch on the potential greatness of Marlborough Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chenin Blanc (listed in diminishing order of their numerical importance in the region). Such is the importance of the wine we call ‘Savvy’. And you’d be anything but that, if you chose not to put most of your energy into producing the most profitable wine. Still, it’s great to taste a slow but steady divergence  amongst Marlborough Sauvignons, which is why Kevin Judd’s Wild Sauvignon hits the sweet spot with so many wine commentators and drinkers alike, not only in New Zealand but around the world. Read on.

The latest stats

85% of Marlborough’s wine production is Sauvignon Blanc

76% of New Zealand’s white grapes are Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted grape overall and the dominant white wine in New Zealand, which occupies 22,085 hectares of the 37,000 hectares of grapes grown in this country

Sauvignon has had the biggest overall growth of any grape grown and wine made in New Zealand in the past 10 years

In 2008 there were 13,988 producing hectares of Sauvignon planted nationwide – today it is 22,085 (as above). Over the same period, Pinot Noir grew from 4,650 hectares in 2008 to 5,653 today; Chardonnay decreased from 3,881 to 3,203 and Pinot Gris grew from 1,383 to 2,469.

 

5 TOP DROPS

FOR THE CELLAR

2015 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough $28-$30, 14% ABV 

Kevin Judd first made this wine in 2009 and it is 100% barrel fermented with 100% wild yeast; about two thirds of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation to soften Sauvignon’s naturally high acidity and  add roundness to this voluptuous, full bodied dry white. It ages in barrel and goes through battonage (French for stirring the lees – the decomposing yeast cells left over in the wine). It was James Healy – fellow winemaker at Cloudy Bay, who steered Judd in the direction of a wild and tank fermented Sauvignon, but that was back in 1991 when they both worked at Cloudy Bay. Judd says he was pestered by Healy to make  wild yeast fermented Chardonnay and he eventually he agreed to do it, he was surprised to find himself thinking ‘This is really quite good’.

As is his Greywacke Wild Sauvignon – full bodied, succulent, juicy, savoury and long. This wine shines a new light on Sauvignon Blanc. It can age well too; for up to 10 years.

 

NAUGHTY AND NICE

2015 Kung Fu Girl Riesling $24.95, 12% ABV

The label’s naughty, the wine is nice. And it has a new importer in New Zealand as from this week; namely, Constellation Brands.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling is made from grapes grown on the evocatively named Evergreen Vineyard in the Ancient Lakes AVA (American Viticultural Area – 566 hectares with only 5 wineries, so not large). It’s off dry, but only just, which suits its incredibly intense fruit purity,  light body and juicy flavours of ripe limes, green apples and mandarin.

Washington State is not exactly the first place you’d expect to look for Riesling but the classic light bodied, low alcohol, off dry German Rieslings were the inspiration for North American winemaker Charles Smith.

Available from specialist wine stores or email: joanne.deitch@cbrands.com

 

ONE FOR FUN

Bisou Bisou $19.99

Bisou Bisou means kiss kiss in French and the wine is definitely a big cuddly bubbly, made entirely from Chardonnay grapes grown in the Yarra Valley, 40 minutes north of Melbourne. It’s off dry but its creamy soft complexity balances the high but refreshing acidity. It was made at De Bortoli Wines and is available exclusively only through Vinomofo online.

Available from Vinomofo.

 

PINOT POWER

2016 Whistling Buoy Half Acre Vineyard Pinot Noir $42

This grapes in this wine were grown in Lyttelton, which is halfway down the South Island on the east coast of New Zealand. It’s a far flung place for growing fruit, even from the nearby city of Christchurch city (whose residents look north rather than east for the best local produce), but it is a beautiful getaway and a surprisingly successful one for the small Half Acre Vineyard, on the south of Lyttelton Harbour crater. This is the source of the Pinot Noir grapes in this wine. They growing facing north where they are drenched in sun on the warm slopes of a vineyard first planted in 2000. It’s an outstanding wine; revealing the earthy, mushroomy, dark cherry  character of Canterbury Pinot Noirs; its medium body and firm acidity add freshness to the beautiful ripe fruit flavours in this wine. The name comes from the original buoy that marked the entrance to this harbour.

Available direct from Whistling Buoy Wines online at http://www.whistlingbuoy.co.nz/index.php/en/

 

DECADENT DROP

2016 Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Bush Vine Grenache $28.95 , 14.5% ABV

Grenache may be one of the most prolifically grown grapes in the world, but it’s also one of the most under rated. How often do you even see the G word on a bottle of wine? It’s one of the most planted grapes in both Spain and southern France and it was once Australia’s most planted overall grape, until a significant amount was pulled out. How times change.

Winemakers like Bryn Richards from Chapel Hill are now keen to plant more Grenache. He is also lucky enough to have access to old bush vines for this wine, which was made from grapes grown on a vineyard planted in 1952 in McLaren Vale, south Australia – a hot bed of experimentation. Richards is a massive fan of Grenache for its soft, sensual mouth feel and its intense red cherry flavours. If you love Pinot, check out this next step up. It’s full bodied but has a lightness in taste and is a wine of real beauty and instant accessibility; drinks well now, though can definitely improve with age in the bottle for 4-5 years, possibly longer.

Available from Glengarry stores.

5 top drops… my best wines from a week of tasting…

This weekly blog is a place I can share some of the top drops that come my way as a wine writer. Wine is work. And let’s not forget the coffee, missing from this photo.

The aim of this weekly 5 top blog is to share wines that are consistent, uncompromised and thoughtfully made – the same aims I have in mind when writing about them. After writing for nearly every major daily newspaper in New Zealand, I am now a regular contributor to Capital magazine in Wellington, NZ WinegrowerDrinksbiz and Good magazine. I also work as wine programme director at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington, all of which means I taste a vast number of wines every week and the following five at the tip of a far longer iceberg.

So, what makes a great wine?

Is it only the taste?

I often think great wine is as much about affordability, accessibility and company as it is about flavour because a humble wine can taste fantastic when shared with the right person, just as some of the world’s most expensive wines can taste good but not great, if there’s no one to share them with. So, meet Madam Sass.

 

Sassy Pinot

2016 Madam Sass Pinot Noir $26, 13.5% ABV

The makers of Madam Sass Pinot Noir have channeled their energy into creating an appealingly cheeky brand as well as a drink-me-now red from the world’s most southern wine region, Central Otago. This is the first vintage of Madam Sass Pinot Noir, which is made with grapes grown in Bendigo, one of the sunniest spots in Otago. The warmth and sunshine translate to ripe, rich and dark cherry flavours and a medium body, underpinned by firm but balanced acidity, which adds a nervy edge to Madam Sass, which is made by Accolade Wines.

Where to buy: it’s widely available.

 

Top Aussie drop… for the cellar

2014 Vasse Felix Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon $45, 14.5%ABV

It’s not only yours truly who celebrated a five decade milestone this year (ouch) but this wine also does, thanks to being founded in 1967 by Dr Tom Cullity, who broke new ground in Margaret River when he produced this far flung region’s first significant red wine from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec in 1972. This new release is a big, brooding Western Aussie red made 100% from Cabernet Sauvignon and needs plenty of time in the bottle before it reaches the pinnacle of its tannic power and savoury structure. It drinks well now, if decanted, and has potential to age for over a decade.

Where to buy: specialist stores or order from Negociants NZ, phone 0800 634 624 or ordersnz@negociants.com  or www.negociantsnz.com

 

Great southern white

2017 Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling $30, 8.5% ABV

It’s tempting to think Central Otago is all about Pinot Noir; after all, there’s plenty of it down there – 80% of the region’s vineyards are planted with Pinot, but here’s a white that shows the great potential of sizzlingly fresh, succulently seductive Rieslings from the world’s most southern wine region. It’s one of two Rieslings made by Blair Walter at Felton Road, who puts this wine’s most vibrant fruit forward in this flavoursome drop with its ripe limes, white peach and nectarine tastes. Like a great Riesling from the Mosel in Germany, this beautiful Bannockburn Riesling walks a precarious tightrope between its fresh high acidity, its low alcohol (8.5% ABV) and its high but balanced residual sugar. Not that you’d think of this wine as ‘sweet’. It’s long succulent finish keeps the mouth watering for more.

Where to buy: www.FeltonRoad.com or email: wines@FeltonRoad.com

 

Nelson Pinot power

2015 Greenhough Hope Vineyard Nelson Pinot Noir $, ABV %

Certified organic

Small yields, high quality and certified organic grapes are the story of this Pinot Noir, which was grown on the Hope Vineyard in Nelson from vines with an average age of 20 years. The grapes were destemmed into open top fermenters, treated to a pre-fermentation soak of 4-5 days to extract colour and tannin and then, during fermentation, plunged twice daily to gently coax their most flavoursome side out. This wine is all about silky Pinotesque elegance coupled with earthy, spicy flavoursome depth and a long finish, thanks to winemakers Andrew Greenhough and Jenny Wheeler.

Where to buy: Greenhough Vineyards, phone 03 542 3868 or email: info@greenhough.co.nz

 

Champion winner under $20

2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling $21.90,  12.5%

The champion wine of this year’s New Zealand Aromatic Wine Competition was this humbly priced Riesling, which is made with grapes grown on the Mound and Deans vineyards on the south side of the Waipara Valley in North Canterbury. Most of the grapes in this wine were pressed immediately but a small portion were left to soak on skins for 12 hours to extract flavour, then the juice was settled, inoculated with commercial yeasts and fermentation stopped at a medium dry level of  13 grams per litre of residual sugar – not too sweet at all,  but ideal for delivering a beautiful burst of lime, ripe mandarin and incredibly pretty floral aromas. This is an outstanding wine at a humble price.

Where to buy: it’s widely available.

 

PS: The New Zealand Aromatic Wine Competition began in 2003 as part of the Canterbury A&P Show, which is now in its 155th year and was first established in 1863.

The 2017 New Zealand Aromatic Wine Competition

The full list of winners from this year’s show is here.

Beck & Caul Supreme Champion Wine of the Show

2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling

Champion Sauvignon Blanc Winner

2017 Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Champion Pinot Gris Winner – 2017 Summerhouse Pinot Gris

Champion Rosé Winner – 2017 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Rosé

Champion Gewürztraminer Winner – 2017 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 12 Lone Gum Gewurztraminer

Champion Other Aromatic Varieties Winner – 2016 Left Field Gisborne Albarino

Champion Riesling Trophy Winner – 2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling 2016

MacVine Champion Canterbury Wine

2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling 2016

Champion Canterbury Rosé Winner

2017 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Rosé 2017

Champion Riesling Trophy Winner

2016 Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Riesling 

Champion Sweet Winner

2015 Tohu Raiha Reserve Noble Riesling 2015

Winemaker of the Year 2017

Michael Wood, Obsidian Vineyard

www.theshow.co.nz/show-entries/international-aromatic-wine-competition/#results

Weekly wine Q&A… new phase at Luna

Joel Watson is the winemaker at Luna Estate; the new incarnation of the amalgamated Alana Estate and Murdoch James wineries.

Joel spoke with me early this week after the 25th Toast Martinborough wine, food and music festival, which gave us a chance to talk about replacing Sauvignon Blanc with Pinot Noir, moving countries and rebranding wineries. He was hired in January 2015 as winemaker for Alana Estate and Murdoch James, which have now been combined into  Luna Estate – which also happens to be the name of the daughter of the winery’s Wellington based owners, Charlie and Nancy Zheng, who are  property developers with a passion for Pinot Noir.

Here’s a little snippet of our chat.

How long have you been drinking wine?

Joel Watson: I had my first glass of wine when I was 14. Tim Turvey from Clearview Estate in Hawke’s Bay gave it to me; he’s an old family friend. I was a little kid and helped him put nets on his vineyard. I remember that wine really well, it was a poignant moment for me. It was  Chardonnay. He said ‘here, have a taste of this’ and I remember thinking it was really rich and round. I’ve been drinking wine ever since.

How has your wine drinking changed over the years?

Joel Watson: I drink less but better quality. I don’t try and taste now. I try and figure out how a wine feels in the mouth. I’ve got a thing called synaesthesia where one sense can cross over to another, so when I taste I see colours and shapes. I didn’t realise I was doing it until I seriously got into wine.

What’s your favourite colour or shape in a wine?

Joel Watson: I like it when I smell pink. When I taste that in a red wine, it reminds me of flowers.

When did you decide to dive in and work with wine?

Joel: When I was about 19 when I moved to Sydney and later to Melbourne where I worked in a big restaurant and this guy said ‘you’ll be perfect as a wine waiter’. I wanted an adventure, so I did it.

Do you miss hospitality?

Joel Watson: Sometimes. I must do because I opened up Little Square Pizza in Martinborough. It’s a massive change from serving wine to making it, but once you’ve done a few harvests, it’s amazing the cross over in skills that are needed in both.

What inspires your winemaking?

Joel Watson: Quality of fruit. We’ve got some amazing vineyards and it sounds cliché but wine does start in the vineyard. We have refocussed at Luna on Pinot Noir. We are spending more time and energy in the vineyards rather than in the winery.

What factors make wine so rewarding?

Joel Watson: Time and place. There are very few things that capture time and place as wine does, and there’s certainly no other agricultural product that inspires time and place in the way that wine does. Even when you’ve finished the bottle, there’s still a reminder of what you do. It’s a tactile reminder.

What trends do you see emerging with wine today?

Joel Watson: Low fi winemaking, which I support. I balk at the term ‘natural winemaking’ because there’s no such thing. Winemaking is a profoundly unnatural thing. But low-fi I like. So, I low-fi on most of the wines; particulary the single vineyard stuff. I add sulphur very late – I’ve got no problem using sulphur but it’s how you use it.

And young people who love wine as their alcohol of choice are an important trend. Wine is losing its air of exclusivity. It’s becoming more of an everyday thing. It’s about growing the culture of wine, for me. There seems to be more mindfulness now about wine and how it is enjoyed.

Three Luna Pinot Noirs

2016 Luna Pinot Noir $35, 12.5% ABV

17.5/20

This Pinot Noir will be made in significant volumes going forward and it’s an upfront fruity soft red with a medium body and fresh red cherry, plum and redcurrant flavours with a clean, dry finish. It drinks well now.

 

2016 Luna Eclipse Pinot Noir Martinborough $55, 13.5% ABV

16.5/20

Stony soils were home to the grapes that made their way into this bottle of Martinborough Pinot Noir, which puts its fruity foot forward in a very youthful, full bodied Pinot Noir, which is underpinned with savoury notes, in part due to being bottled unfined and unfiltered. It drinks well now but needs decanted two to three hours prior to drinking. It has potential for aging for four to five years, possibly beyond.

2016 Luna Blue Rock Pinot Noir $55, 13% ABV

17.5/20

Blue Rock Pinot Noir is my pick of the two top Pinot Noirs from Luna Estate  in Martinborough, thanks to its juicy, succulent, earthy flavours and and its full bodied style. It’s made from grapes grown on an elevated hillside vineyard south of Martinborough, planted in the Abel clone of Pinot – the region’s most highly prized Pinot clone. Blue Rock Vineyard is a slightly warmer site than many in the region, says winemaker Joel Watson, and this translates to the wine’s full body and earthy taste. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered and drinks best when decanted two to three hours prior to drinking. It can age for four to five years, possibly beyond in good cellaring conditions.

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