Best new release, 21 May 2021, 2017 Doctors Flat Pinot Noir

Many people have a dream retirement job while others retire so that they can dream. Steve Davies was in the first camp when he longed for a small vineyard of his own to plant in grapes, make top notch wine and fund his later years and create a job he loves. In 2002, he began to do just that, buying about four hectares of land on a windy, elevated site on Hall Road in Bannockburn, Central Otago. He built a modest house, planted three hectares of Pinot Noir right next to it and has since set about creating a successful brand of Pinot Noir. The Central Otago winemaker named his site and his wine Doctors Flat Vineyard Pinot Noir. He has since added Chardonnay to the schist soils on site, which were carved out by glacial ice deposited approximately 480,000 years ago. It won’t take quite that long for his first Chardonnay to appear but he is in no rush to coax a full bodied, dry textural white from the site. It’ll take a couple of years for the first grapes to come on stream and when they do, he will wait until the flavours and structure of the crop can provide what he’s looking for.  In the meantime, Steve pours his energies into refining his Pinot Noir, adapting his pruning methods and farming the land along organic guidelines, though he is not certified organic yet.

Wine of the week

2017 Doctors Flat Bannockburn Pinot Noir $51.50

The tight tannins in this wine are the result of super low crops in 2017, which wasn’t a hot year and had poor flowering in December, so the overall volume of wine was significantly reduced. Add to that a staunch nor’ westerly wind, which can cool off Doctors Flat Vineyard, creating thicker grape berry skins and more robust, dark fruit flavours, accentuated by savoury spice flavours and a firm, long finish. This wine is super youthful right now and will benefit hugely from another six to 12 months in bottle, which will give it time to mellow and get comfortable in its own firm tannic skin. It is a big, dark fruity style. Robust, potentially long lived, although perhaps not since it tastes deliciously spicy right now, when decanted and given time to open up in the glass.

  • The first vintage of Doctors Flat Bannockburn Pinot Noir was 2008 with 200 cases. This has grown now to about 800 cases, occasionally more, when the wind doesn’t decide to decimate potential production of Pinot.

Wines with tough names don’t sell easily…

Does pronounceability affect sale-ability?

If you’re looking for a new drink experience, which wine will tickle your fancy? A glass of unpronounceable Give-urtz-tram-eener, Vee-oh-nee-ay or Ree-ok-a?

A Sem-ee-on or Ar-nays?

Or maybe a new brand of Chardonnay or Pinot Gris that leaps onto your radar. After all, who wants to risk saying the wrong thing?

Well, some of us are gifted at saying just the wrong thing, but that’s another story. Ever since I wrote my first Under $15 Wine Guide back in the early 2000s, I’ve been a fan of wines with tricky names, such as Nero d’Avola, a lovely big soft red from Sicily and Verdicchio; a big full bodied white from Italy’s Adriatic coast.

Today I asked winemaker Lynnette Hudson of Tongue in Groove wines whether winemakers find that pronounceability and saleability are related and she said: “Yes, definitely, it’s really hard to get people to try things that are difficult to say because if you can’t pronounce it, then how can you tell your friends about it?”

It’s that intimidation factor that makes it tough to sell wines with unusual names.

How to find new flavours

Ask your local wine retailer how to pronounce names that are unusual

Spread your wings – and your wines Try the A to V of new wave wines

Arneis and Verdicchio are the tip of a far bigger iceberg of experimental wines in New Zealand – made locally and imported.

How do we pronounce weird wine names?








Sauvignon Blanc 






Rioja (the main ingredient is Tempranillo, hence the new found popularity of it)



The above may seem obvious, to some, but not to all and correct pronunciation can make all the difference between being able to sell – and enjoy making or drinking – a wine. 

 Three top weekend whites

2013 Villa Maria Private Bin Arneis East Coast $12-$14

“Ar-nays” is the name of a white grape that originally comes from the north of Italy and is now grown in New Zealand – it is a fresh, light bodied white with flavours of ripe lemons and a dry, crisp style. Refreshing and great value.

2015 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Albarino Gisborne $22-ish

“Alba-reen-yo” is the name of a white grape that comes from the border of north west Spain and north west Portugal (where it’s called Alvarinho). It’s a dry, medium bodied white with fresh, slightly salty flavours. Easier to say than most of the new wave of unusual, lesser known grape varieties.

2015 Umani Ronchi Casal de Serre Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi $23

“Ver-deek-ee-oh” is my favourite white grape (and wine) from Italy because it combines the full body of Chardonnay with the fresh lemony acidity of Riesling, even though it tastes like neither of these two – Verdicchio is a dry, full bodied and extremely good value white wine, which is available at specialist wine stores. This is a grape that I’d love to see growing in New Zealand – now, here’s hoping it may make its way to our maritime wine regions…

Happy weekend wine drinking – and thinking.

These wines may be challenging to say but their flavours are easy to enjoy – as  Oscar Wilde said; the true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.

Listen to pronounceability and saleability on RNZ National’s podcast here:

Wine of the week… Villa Maria Arneis

Wine of the week

2013 Villa Maria Private Bin Arneis $12 to $15.99

Arneis is an Italian white grape which has found its way to New Zealand where a small number of good quality white wines are being made, such as this stunning little steal from Villa Maria – its Private Bin Arneis, which costs about $12 and is available in supermarkets.

This is dry, fresh and light bodied withlemon zest, apples and white flower-like flavours; its freshness comes from its high but balanced acidity, with nutty and yeasty flavours adding character to this low priced, high quality wine.

The word Arneis is Italian for little rascal, which has something to do with it being a tad tricky to grow in its original home region of Piemonte in the north west of Italy – a region surrounded by 550 kilometres of mountains, which encircle its vineyards and act as a giant air conditioner.