Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


New Central Otago wines from Coal Pit

Central Otago is the third biggest wine region in New Zealand but it is made up of small wineries as well as the big names. Coal Pit is one of the smallest and is situated on a hillside in the coolest, last sub region to pick its grapes in a typical year, namely, the Gibbston Valley. Not that there is anything typical about Central Otago, which is the world’s most southern wine region and one of its edgiest. The edgy aspect is what gives this region a lot of its appeal. That and the majestic mountainous backdrop. Here, without further ado, are two new wine releases from Coal Pit Wines, which is owned by Aucklander Rosie Dunphy, whose passion for wine led her to buy this dramatically beautiful vineyard in Gibbston. The label artwork is by Chris Heaphy.

2019 Coal Pit Proprietor’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc $42
Hand harvesting, foot stomping and skin contact overnight all contribute to the style of this extremely small production southern Sauvignon Blanc, of which just 72.5 cases (652.5 litres) were made.
It’s made from the original 25 year old vines planted at Coal Pit in the Gibbston Valley in 1994. This is the second release of this wine and 30% of the grapes were fermented in new French oak and given extended lees contact to soften the acidity of Sauvignon in this cool climate.
It drinks well now with its creamy texture, dry nutty flavours and floral aromas, but it will integrate further over the next two to three years. Top marks for complexity and drinkability – this is super tasty and succulent.

2020 Coal Pit Pinot Noir Rose Central Otago $31
This lively and refreshing pink wine is another take on the Pinot Noir theme from the world’s southernmost wine region, bottled in clear glass in a curvaceous bottle. The 2020 season was on the cool side for Gibbston Valley and was even more challenging due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All grapes in this wine were hand picked. Bunches were small so flavour concentration was high and the wine was cool fermented to retain fresh fruity appeal. It’s pale in colour, indicating minimal skin contact and fermented to 13.5% ABV. It tastes off dry with pronounced red fruit flavours – a lovely pink wine with rich flavours off dry but not cloying at all in style.