Joelle Thomson Writer

Author, journalist, speaker

Category: Pinot Noir (page 2 of 14)

5 of the best wines of the week… top drops

Every week I publish 5 top drops which are the peaks of the mountain of wines that come my way as a wine writer, which has been my job for the past 23 years. Or is it more of a flash hobby than an actual job, as Master of Wine Stephen Wong once suggested? After 23 years of writing weekly columns 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. The 5 top drops usually go to ‘press’ on this site each Friday. Last week became a little busy so, without further ado, here are last week’s top 5 drops.

 

Pink with a difference…  

2017 Silver Wing Nada Syrah Rose Waipara $24, 11.5% ABV, 17.5/20

Hand picked Syrah grapes were whole bunch pressed and settled in tank (a portion of the juice was frozen and added back at bottling to produce a spritzy wine with a little cloudiness). The majority of the juice was then racked to barrels where it went through wild yeast fermentation and spent five months in elevage. This is a pale salmon wine with a cloudy appearance, a refreshing spritzy bubble and a dry taste, which makes it my kind of rosé from a small, adventurous producer in North Canterbury, New Zealand. www.silverwingwines.co.nz

 

Best Wild Sauvignon yet… 

2015 Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Marlborough, $30, 14% ABV, 18.5/20

This is an outstanding wine that shines a new light on Sauvignon Blanc, thanks to Kevin Judd who trademarked the Greywacke brand in 1993 when he was still working at Cloudy Bay Wines.  He later trademarked the name Wild Sauvignon, which is the flagship wine for his Greywacke brand – “It’s our interpretation of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc out of left field and it’s a style of wine that I personally think is pretty tasty,” said Kevin, who was in Wellington recently to taste every vintage of his Wild Sauvignon Blanc. This version was made with grapes grown predominantly in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys, but for the past four years, Kevin has also bought grapes from the Awatere Valley.  The first year it was made was in 2009 and the winemaking has remained consistent to a formula, which Kevin tweaks in response to the year’s weather. That formula always includes 100% barrel fermentation, 100% wild yeast and about two thirds of the wine going through malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity. The finished wine spends about 11 months in barrel and remains in tank for another six months where it goes through battonage (the French name for stirring the lees – the decomposing yeast cells left over in the wine). The oak is kept at 10% new oak (or less). This latest Wild Sauvignon is, in my view, the best yet.

 

Powerful Pinot

2015 Mammoth Pinot Noir Moutere Hills Nelson $60, 13.5% ABV, 18.5/20

Michael Glover likes to push boundaries but it hasn’t always been that way. A winemaking stint in Italy many moons ago opened new doors of flavour and showed him unconventional ways of making wine. He now grows grapes without irrigation in the Moutere Hills, outside Nelson, New Zealand, which he treats to 100% whole bunch fermentation with no acid, yeast or enzyme additions and then produces this outstanding, full bodied South Island Pinot Noir as a result. It’s rich in flavour but not entirely all about fruit, which is what makes this wine so good, to me. It’s the earthy depth, the dark fruit flavours and the silky mouthfeel that give this wine its powerful but somehow elegant voice. You’ve heard the expression an iron fist in a velvet glove, well, here it is because it drinks well now but clearly has aging potential too; for up to a decade in a good cellar.

 

That southern Pinot… 

2014 Chard Farm Mata-Au Pinot Noir, $39, 13.8% ABV, 18.5/20

Otago Pinot Noirs seem to be a dime a dozen in New Zealand right now, so it’s worth searching for the goodies and here’s a bottle that stands head and shoulders above the crowd, without its producers charging like wounded you-know-whats for the privilege of enjoying it. This wine is made from two vineyards – the Tiger Vineyard at Lowburn and the Viper Vineyard at Parkburn (not that there are any vipers down that way). The name Mata-Au (pronounced martar-o) refers to the nearby Clutha River and this wine is all about silky mouthfeel, intense bright pretty red fruit flavours, characteristic high acidity which is balanced by a rounded full body. www.chardfarm.co.nz

 

Italian stallion… 

Umani Ronchi Vigor Sangiovese Merlot IGT $26.99, 17.5/20

What’s the main thing about a good Italian red? I often think it’s the dark, ripe flavours of the fruit. I’m thinking blueberries, black plums, ripe peaches and liquorice; and that’s what this big Central Italian red is all about, thanks to being grown at elevation to benefit from more intense sunshine than flat vineyards would allow. In this case, those vineyards are in the municipality of Osimo, 150 metres above sea level on a south east facing hillside in the Marche region in central Italy. It’s a blend of 75% Sangiovese with 25% Merlot for its softening effects; and it works a treat. This is a lovely smooth, spicy red with firm acidity adding a nervy edge to a drink-me-now wine from a consistently outstanding producer.

5 of the best… New Pinot Noirs

Wines of the week

Pinot Noir is the most planted red grape in New Zealand so there’s no shortage of wine made from it, but here are five top drops – these wines stand out from the crowd and they all came my way directly from the producers, who were looking for independent analysis of quality, style and price.

These wines rock… they taste great and deliver consistent quality. And, no, they are not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Prices quoted are approximate retail and drawn from Wine-Searcher.

Top Central drop 

2014 Chard Farm Mata-au Pinot Noir $39

A tasty top drop from an iconic historic Otago winery, Chard Farm, which is based in the dramatic Kawarau Gorge and accessed via a precipice sliver of a road, but which leads to the winery’s HQ. The grapes are another matter. While many grow around the winery itself, the vast majority come from the warmer, more settled weather of Lowburn and Parkburn – about 30 minutes’ drive away through in the Cromwell Basin. These vineyards are planted on terraces of alluvial schist from the Mata-Au (Clutha) River, and the hot summer days and cool nights enable the development of powerful ripe fruit flavours, while preserving Pinot’s hallmark of fresh acidic drive, which cuts through this wine’s fruity core, adding nerve and lingering freshness to every sip.

www.chardfarm.co.nz

North Canterbury great

2014 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir $49 

North Canterbury is often eclipsed by its southern cousin, Central Otago, but the best wines reach peaks that are at least as high, particularly Pegasus Bay, whose Pinots continue to grow in deliciousness, bringing a different take on the Pinot theme with their full body, earthy flavours, juicy succulence that provides the wines with length, finesse and elegance. The wine spent 18 months in French oak, 30% of which was new and adds some spicy bells and smooth whistles while.

Wellington wine 

2015 Te Kairanga Run Holder Pinot Noir $40

Fruit is the hero in this concentrated, richly flavoursome Pinot Noir from one of the Wairarapa’s oldest wineries, Te Kairanga – also known as TK on both the label and in the trade. Winemaker John Kavanagh… and the winery is now owned by Foley Family Vineyards, who employed winemaker John Kavanagh to turn things around, which he has done with  noticeable aplomb. He was previously the winemaker at Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson… speaking of which…

Nelson niceness

2015 Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir, $33

Nelson is known for its sunshine, its art and its lifestyles, two of which have forged the region’s most quality driven wines at their home in the Upper Moutere Valley at Neudorf – Tim and Judy Finn remain committed to their vineyard there, but also use grapes from other vineyards in the Upper Moutere in this full bodied Pinot, which spent nearly a year in French oak – 22% new – and went through 100% wild yeast fermentation, both of which have given this wine its wild earthy flavours and flatter its dark fruit appeal. It drinks well now and can age for 9 to 10 years.

Marvel newcomer from Marlborough

2015 Brancott Reflections Dror Pinot Noir $80

This is a powerful statement of a wine with bold, powerful aromas of cloves, orange peel and dried cherries; it’s 14.5% ABV, so it’s not shy on the alcohol front but this is nicely balanced by intense red cherry, plum and smoky flavours. It’s a blend of the best components of Pinot Noir from hand selected barrels, says Materman.

Taste Champagne Lallier in Wellington tonight… free

If you’re wandering around Wellington tonight between 5pm and 7pm, pop into Regional Wines for a free taste of an exceptional range of bubbles from Champagne Lallier…

My blog on Champagne Lallier…

Talk about modest. I’m talking about the price, not the big, beautiful taste of Champagne Lallier, which over deliver for the $50.99 you’ll spend on this wine. And the trio of Lallier bubbles will be open for a free tasting tonight at Regional Wines at the Basin Reserve in Wellington from 5pm to 7pm.

Our team here at Regional had the tasty pleasure of checking out Lallier Champagnes this afternoon and, while we’ve all got our faves, we agreed the rosé was the pick of this beautiful bunch, which range from $23 for a half bottle up to $50.99. That’s no mean feat, given the hefty resources of time, reserve wines and grand cru vineyards (the highest quality land) that go into making Lallier Champagne.

When, where and what…

Champagne Lallier is based in… the village of Ay (one of the 17 Grand Cru villages) in the Champagne region.

It was founded in 1906 by… Rene Lallier and the business was sold in 2004 to Francis Tribaut who is the current owner and also the winemaker. This makes Lallier the only champagne brand where the owner is also the winemaker.

The bubbles are made in two locations… in Maison D’Ay and  in the new Cellier D’Oger, 10 kms outside of Ay on the Cotes des Blanc; a modern facility built in 2012.

Lallier Champagnes only contain the two most respected grapes… namely, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

The wines go through malolactic fermentation, which varies… depending on the vintage and the acidity in the grapes as a result of the vintage.

Dosage varies from zero up to… 18 grams per litre.

 

The champagnes

Champagne Lallier Ay Brut R012 $46.45

Very fresh, very flavoursome and very affordable; this is made from a blend of 62% Pinot Noir, 38% Chardonnay and 81% of the wine comes from grapes grown in 2012 (hence the R012 – ‘recolte’ means year) and 19% reserve wines. It’s also drier than many champagnes with a dosage of 8 grams per litre and the wine is made from 85% Grand Cru vineyards.

Champagne Lallier Blanc de Blancs Ay $53.80

This is 100% Chardonnay and all from vineyards that are classified as Grand Cru; 60% from Ay and 40% from Cote des Blancs. The wine spent 36 to 88% wine of the year, 12% reserve wines, aging on lees 36 to 48 months, dosage 9 grams.

Buttered croissant aromas, very strong yeasty flavours, high acidity, great concentration with strong citrus flavours, a full body and a long finish.

Champagne Lallier Rose Grand Cru $50.99

Wine of the year 92%, reserve wines 8%, grand cr vineyards only; 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. Pale salmon colour, savoury aromas, yeasty flavours, high acidity, very long finish. Very pronounced mushroom aromas with an explosion of beautiful red fruit flavours in the mouth…

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