It's bitterly cold in winter, searingly hot in summer and deeply devoted to one red grape, which makes Central Otago seem like a one trick pony when it comes to wine, but this week a bunch of new white wines was a reminder that it is far from it.
This week's tasting table featured a trio of interesting whites from a small winery in Bannockburn, one of the youngest wine regions in New Zealand and now as famous for its liquid gold (Pinot Noir) as it was in the late 1800s for its gold mining. The wines tasted from Bannockburn this week come from Domain Road. It is a 6.5 hectare site owned by Graeme and Gillian Crosbie, who have a long connection with the region. Graeme’s great grandfather built gold dredges nearby at Nevis and Gillian’s mother was a teacher at the local school. The couple has owned a house in Bannockburn for 25 years and in 2002 they bought an old apricot orchard, turned it into a vineyard and Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling grapes. They have since added Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. These white wines prove the point that cool climate white wines made with care can have exceptional elegance. And Central Otago is nothing, if not a cool climate, despite its hot summer days. Those cool nights allow the grapes to retain freshness in the form of acidity and this shines in wines such as the following white trio sent for review this week. Here are this writer's thoughts and ratings.
2022 Domain Road Defiance Chardonnay RRP $35
Did someone say Chablis? Crisp but full bodied, creamy but balanced by purity of citrus and stone fruit flavours coupled with vibrant acidity that makes this wine dance on the palate. Central Otago has a strong calling card to make great cool climate expressions of Chardonnay that bear more than a passing resemblance to many of the world's best dry, full bodied examples of this great white grape. This wine is made entirely with grapes grown on the Defiance Vineyard (planted in Chardonnay clones 809, 1066 and 548), all hand picked and whole bunch pressed to barrel for fermentation followed by nine months maturation with lees stirring.
2023 Domain Road Sauvignon Blanc RRP $27
This cool climate expression of Sauvignon Blanc is made from grapes grown on three different vineyards; on Templar's Hill, Doctor's Flat and a corner of the aptly named, arid, Defiance Vineyard in Bannockburn. All grapes were hand picked grape, whole bunch pressed to add weight and fermented in a combination of French oak barriques for 57% of them with the remainder in stainless. The result is a dry, tropical fruit scented Sauvignon with smoky, flinty aromatics and a fresh green herb edge on the finish. Very good white from a cool region.
2023 Domain Road Defiance Pinot Gris RRP $30
Defiance Vineyard is tucked into a sheltered, former gold mining valley in beautiful Bannockburn, Central Otago. It's here that the grapes were grown to make this off dry (9.2 grams residual sugar) Pinot Gris with its pear juice flavours, fruit sweetness and soft mouthfeel. This wine is a good quality Pinot Gris and has the softness, weight (medium body) and flavour to match with spicy food really well, due to the wine's low-ish acidity.