Four shades of Otago Pinot from Valli

Grant Taylor, founder and owner of Valli Vineyards, is one of the most interesting creators of Central Otago Pinot Noir. There are four different Pinot Noirs made every year but there are no tiers in the range, although no doubt there are plenty of tears in frosty years because Central is the most southern wine region in the world and can be rather chilly.

My wine of the week is arguably the edgiest of the four and that’s what I love about it. Reviews of the other three Pinots still to come. Oh, and yes, the edgiest of the four Valli Pinots ironically comes from North Otago’s Waitaki Valley, the spectacularly beautiful, chilly corridor that connects Oamaru to Omarama.

2019 Valli Waitaki Vineyard Pinot Noir $79.99
Instantly delicious and typically the lightest of the four Valli Pinot Noirs  each year, with the 2019 vintage being no exception, except for the fact that this wines tastes significantly weightier and has more depth of flavour, more body, a longer finish and is sensationally silky on the mid palate than its previous vintage (2018) was. This is all about red fruit flavours of cranberries, dried cherries and spicy notes which intermingle deliciously well.
It’s made from Pinot Noir grapes grown on Grant’s Road Vineyard in Waitaki Valley where limestone and river gravels, a maritime influenced climate and five different Pinot Noir clones (115, 777, Abel, UCD5 and 114) all contribute to this wine’s character and quality. Grant’s Road Vineyard was planted in 2004 and 2005, is trellised with vertical shoot positioning and also contains Riesling, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

Five (very) good Pinot Noirs under $25

Is it possible to buy great Pinot Noir for less than $20?
The short answer is: no. But, inspired by a couple who attended Winetopia in Wellington in the weekend, I thought the time was nigh to share my five best buy recommendations under $25, which is the threshold (if you know where to shop) for very good quality Pinot on a budget. It may be more than you’d ideally like to spend on a weeknight red but how big is the dent that take out coffees make in your wallet each week? Perhaps it means drinking less wine (and coffee) but stepping it up on the quality level. Here are five Pinot Noirs that consistently deliver the X factor for a modest price. Modest? Not big, free of pretension and relatively medium or low, according to Google.

Five top Pinot Noirs under $25

2018 Deliverance North Canterbury Pinot Noir $21.99 to $25-ish
A light and juicy style that tastes super refreshing and delivers delicious flavours for the price. Not surprising it comes from North Canterbury’s Muddy Water Wines, which always highlight great quality.

2018 Nor’ Wester North Canterbury Pinot Noir $21.99 to $25-ish
The gateway Pinot to the impressive range made at Greystone Wines in the Waipara Valley, just down the road from Pegasus Bay. I love the earthy depth in this wine. It is outstanding, especially at the price.

2018 Main Divide North Canterbury Pinot Noir $24.99
The second tier of Pegasus Bay and regularly the beneficiary of grapes destined for bigger things. It’s well known, well loved and always delivers, big time.

2017 Mansion House Marlborough Pinot Noir $24.99
Marlborough is more than a one trick pony, as the region’s Pinot Noirs (and many other wines) show. Mansion House is another lesser known label as the supposed second tier to the large Whitehaven Wines. I love the earthy nature of this refreshing and affordable Pinot Noir.

2018 Te Hera Martinborough Pinot Noir $23.99
Under priced and under the radar, this is a tasty little Pinot Noir from Martinborough, which over delivers on flavour and on its modest price tag. It’s made with grapes grown at Te Muna, 9 kms east of the village, where winemaker John Douglas has a vineyard. I keep telling him to put the price up but he won’t, so here’s a bargain buy, if ever there was.

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.