Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir in the dark

Among many things like food, love, friendship, wine is also about sharing and since I had a pretty interesting wine tasting on Tuesday night, I thought I would share it with you.

The theme was roughly: “Some exciting New Zealand Pinot Noir never tasted before”, which meant that some of them were quite new on the market but already have praise from the ‘professionals’, and some of them might not be as new but had never been tasted in any of the tastings I have been running for the last three years – and meant to be really good too.

During the tasting, we only explored three famous Pinot regions out of the five or six recognised ones: Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago. Don’t get me wrong! There are amazing wines in Nelson (Neudorf, Greenhough) and in Canterbury / Waipara (Pegasus Bay, Mountford), but most of the good ones we had tried already.

To make the tasting and the results as objective and fun as possible, I have decided to try them ‘in the dark’, or ‘blind’ to be more accurate, which is the only way to get a proper opinion of a wine.

Among the eight wines, six were of really good quality. However, how terribly hard it was to point out the famous regional or ‘terroir’ characteristics! Almost impossible to me, although I have to say that my experience in New Zealand Pinot is still pretty short (less than 3 years) compared to most of you, I guess.

Please find below the six ‘winners’, i.e. the ones that got at least a majority’s acknowledgement, if not the unanimity. There are ordered from the cheapest to the dearest.

Julicher “J” Martinborough 2003: $36
Pronounced U – li – ka.
Funny that this one was a hit since I think I have reviewed it in this column not long ago. Definitely, the best deal of the night! A true Martinborough wine from this stunning vintage - only the second vintage of the winery, (founded in 1997); one to watch and follow. I’d love to try it in a blind tasting with its famous cousins such as Ata Rangi, Martinborough Vineyards, Nga Waka, Te Kairanga. I would not be surprised to see it performing very well at almost half the price of the Martinborough Vineyards!

La Strada Marlborough 2004: $39
La Strada is the little sister label (or brother, as you like), of the famous Fromm winery. I’d call it a proper ‘Second Wine’ as it is all made by the team at Fromm and the fruit comes from their own vineyards – sometimes slightly younger vines, sometimes not quite as good to go into the top two wines, the Clayvin Vineyard and the Fromm one. A delicious and harmonious wine; not a pretty wine. Serious fruit, slightly austere but very pure and clean. Not any over extraction in this wine. The tannins are present but nicely melted. A great buy that still has a few years to go. 

Wild Earth Central Otago 2005: $40
Saying that I was looking forward to trying this wine would be an understatement. So many of my customers have asked for this wine! My expectations were high and the wine didn’t let me down. A great, great Central Otago Pinot Noir on a very difficult and tiny vintage. Wild Earth wines are made with the help of the famous Michele Richardson who has been working as a senior winemaker for Villa Maria for ages, with many successes under her belt. For a Central Otago wine, I was amazed by its finesse and subtlety. Many of the tasters of the night opted for Martinborough! A very impressive start for a very young vineyard.

Ma Maison Martinborough 2006: $42
Talking about impressive starts, this wine should be mentioned too. Ma Maison (My House en Francais) is a small vineyard owned by a dentist from Wellington (Mr Edward Leung). Apparently, it’s only the third vintage of this wine and for such a young wine, shows delicious fruit, firm yet soft tannins and is dangerously drinkable. They apparently make a Reserve wine that is to be released soon and you can count on me to give you a full report as soon as it’s available.

Dog Point Marlborough 2005: $44
My faithful readers (or should I say reader) will have noticed my admiration for this winery and its wines. That’s not a secret. I was however delighted to see that almost everyone really enjoyed it – apart from a Central Otago freak! I am always surprised by such depth in a Marlborough Pinot with mild spices, and complex fruit flavour aromas that will undoubtedly age beautifully towards a much more Burgundian style. Made by two guys, previous employees and actors of the Cloudy Bay success. To be continued…    

Fromm “Clayvin Vineyard” 2004: $64
OK it’s not cheap but honestly it is deserved. A true terroir expression wine. You get ripe dark-fruit flavours, great balance, elegance and fine texture. A bit of chocolate, a hint of mocha, slightly herbal, almost earthy. As they put it at Fromm: “ A New World Pinot with an elusive Old World dimension”. This wine has a huge potential. If I could, I’d love to get a case and see it evolved once a year for the next twelve years. This wine enters my New Zealand Pinot Top 10 and should remain in it for many consecutive weeks!!!

 
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