The 4th of July seemed like an ideal time to taste the Morgan 12 clones pinot noir 2010 which was kindly sourced for me by Pat Landee (Patty’s Pinot Closet). What a fine celebratory wine and a fitting ambassador for US on their national day.
It scored highest points for colour, clarity, texture, length and persistence. Here are my tasting notes:
The nose is a little closed but displays nice raspberry, cherry and notes of graphite or slate. The palate is right on song with tones of bright cherry, sweet cola beautifully balanced with tart acid and dark chocolate. It finishes strongly with an array of herbal and spice notes including sage, cloves and liquorice. A harmonious, balanced and integrated wine which would be a versatile match for a variety of cuisines.
The length is superb and lingers in the mouth. I might have broken out in a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner but I don’t know the words! This is a shining example of top American pinot noir was a perfect choice for Independence day. Thanks, Pat.
I loved the Ata Rangi Crimson 2011 – I feel good about supporting the environment, sustainable wine growing and enjoying a terrific wine all at the same time. Clive Paton didn’t adopt the cause of the environment and sustainability because it was trendy or a good marketing strategy, its in his DNA and he is passionate about leaving the planet in a better state for the coming generations.
When I meet Clive at Martinborough, it was clear that this quietly spoken man lets his actions do the talking. He has implemented a wide range of sustainable practices in his vineyards. One area which resonated with me was in the use of untreated sustainably grown posts in the vineyard. When I first established my own vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula in Australia, I opted to reduce the number of treated pine posts to a minimum by largely using steel posts. Clive has taken it a lot further down a more ecologically sound path by establishing his own forest source of 10,000 ground-durable Eucalypts to supply untreated vineyard posts for Ata Rangi future needs.
Clive is also actively involved with the restoration and protection of New Zealand’s iconic red-flowering Christmas trees: native RATA and Pohutukawa which led to a close association with Project Crimson, and was the inspiration for their younger vines Pinot Noir, called simply “Crimson”. Project Crimson Vision is: “To enable pohutukawa and rata to flourish again in their natural habitats as icons in the hearts and minds of all New Zealanders.” A significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of Crimson Pinot Noir helps to fund this trust. When you see these magnificent trees in their natural habitat, such is shown in the above image, you really appreciate the value of Project Crimsons work.
Now to the wine – despite being sourced from younger vines this pinot noir is a pinot noir of substance: good depth, texture and character. On initial tasting, it was a little unbalance and the acid was somewhat dominant but I especially liked it after it had a good opportunity to breath, gaining in savoury characters, balance, complexity and interest. A medium bodied wine with ample fruit – black cherry, raspberry and red currents with herbal and spice notes. Great value and worth cellaring for several years.
There is a lot of debate about use of sulphur in grape and wine production. A recent article in Decanter raises the issue once again as a major retailer pulls a quantity of stock due to elevated levels of sulphur (http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/583979/majestic-pulls-chablis-over-health-fears). I have always been cautious about the use of sulphur ensuring that the minimum possible levels were used in my wines. Having said that, clearly sulphur is a natural occurring element found in many plants, soils, rocks and living things. It is, in fact, essential for the growth and functioning of all plants including vines. Recent research has even found that sulphur dioxide evokes a large scale reprogramming of the grape berry increasing the antioxidant levels, anti-fungal levels and biotic defence responses (Assistant Professor Michael Considine 2013, ‘Investigation of Respiratory Control in Dormant Grapevine Bud’, Grape & Wine Research & Development Corporation). There is little debate about the use of sulphur on vines and even certified organic producers are permitted to use some naturally occurring substances, such as sulphur.
Sulphur dioxide is used in the wine making process and as an additive in the wine to act as a preservative, eliminating spoilage by bacteria and as an anti-oxidant. Many would argue that it is an essential ingredient of merchantable wine to preserve freshness and quality. Sulphur has been used as a food preservative since roman times and it’s use is well understood, monitored and regulated.
So whats all the fuss about?
Firstly there is the esoteric argument that these wines are not ‘natural’ because they contain an additive. I will not enter into this debate, at least for the moment! Then there is the allergy debate where many people claim that they experience allergic reactions to the sulphur in wine and especially that it triggers asthma attacks and headaches. At prescribed levels used in wine, which are below the sensory threshold, there should no ill-effects on the respiratory system or cause of headaches. The ‘Wine Doctor’ writing on Wine & Health (http://www.drnorrie.info/html/article_allergysideeffectshangovers.html) states that either the histamines or tannins in the wine are more likely to be the cause of allergies from consumption of wine. As a past sufferer of asthma, I vividly remember an attack being triggered when I eat a quantity of dried apricots (preserved with sulphur). Excessive use of sulphur can be cause of health issues and hence my own concern for lowest possible levels of use in my wines. Also different people have different sensory sensitivities and a heavy use of sulphur can quite often detract from the enjoyment of wine. Putting aside the natural wine issues, it seems to me that the over-use or incorrect use is the problem not sulphur itself.
I had the opportunity to taste this wine blind and here is what I discovered.
Great colour and clarity, one of those pinots that look sensational in the glass – mid-ruby colour with lovely reflections. The aromas explode from the glass when it is first poured and are redolent of abundant mixed red fruits. Unfortunately after time in the glass the aroma becomes more subtle but with some spice and candied fruit notes showing through.
The plate is highly fruit driven with intense raspberry, cherry and blueberry. There is little savoury or spice evident with the powerful sweet fruit dominating the palate. The wine has nice acid backing the fruit but the tannins are so transparent to be almost non-existant. It finishes in a linear fashion with moderate but satisfactory length.
I picked the wine as being Chilean- more luck than experience but also it was so clearly new world but unlike Australian, NZ or North American pinots that I am more familiar with. The label, when disclosed, confirmed its origin from the Casablanca Valley in Aconcagua region of Chile. Located 75 km northwest of Santiago, the Casablanca Valley was first planted to vine in the mid-1980s and is fast gaining world-wide recognition. The Valley provides a cool Mediterranean climate with pronounced maritime influence. Proximity to the ocean produces just over 500 mm of rain per year and creates cool foggy mornings which help keep the average daily temperatures low but reduce sunlight hours and can extend ripening periods.
The wine comes from producer, Con Sur whose corporate by-line is “no family trees, no dusty bottles, just quality wine”; distancing its self from tradition and the ‘old world’. This pinot clearly meets this objective. Interestingly their website suggest that the pinot has undergone carbonic maceration which is more typically used in Beaujolais but, depending on the extent and techniques used, would account for the intense fruit aroma and palate.
Many thanks to MBF for supplying this interesting wine and suggesting I try it blind.
A great value and reasonably priced burgundy – this wine was made by Domaine de Suremain. Its origin is Mercurey in Côte Chalonnaise, Burgundy, France and comes from 7ha of vineyards classified as Village appellation. It is produced from the 2010 harvest – a classic vintage which resulted in small berries and good ripeness: all showing in this wine with good colour, depth of flavour and balance. This wine has a nice line and length which belies its reasonable price tag.
Deep ruby red with abundant berry aromas. The palate is equally complete with mixed dark berries and a touch of oak. Slight bitterness on the finish doesn’t really detract from the overall positive experience this wine provides. The texture is faultless and the length very good. The quality of this wine is well above normal Village levels.
Highly recommended as a value for money bargain burgundy. Yes, you can find burgundies which are relatively inexpensive and represent great value!
Final Day of Pinot Noir NZ 2013 was highly anticipated and didn’t disappoint!
The Tastings for today were two blind tastings of pinots from Burgundy and NZ. The idea was to examine ‘La Régionalité’ in the tasting and not to compare Burgundian wines to NZ or visa versa. It is hard not to compare the two sets of wines as they were tasted back to back and I cant resist drawing some comparisons, if not any conclusions!
Firstly what was meant by ‘La Régionalité’? We had a panel of ‘experts’ including Jasper Morris MW expand on their thoughts regarding the concept. I gathered that it is not terroir which is much more site or vineyard specific concept of place. Perhaps the easiest to understand explanation was using the illustration of Burgundy. When you taste Burgundian wines you might get a vivid image of the quaint villages, fine cheeses and food, tightly packed close planted vineyards bounded by ancient stone walls. But what does this taste like? or is it a specific taste at all or to use a crude modern term – Is it just ‘branding’? Well the idea of the Burgundy tasting was to explore this concept by tasting 6 wines from 6 different villages or sub-regions. Just to further complicate the tasting each successive wine was from different classifications from Bourgogne Epineuil & Bourgogne Cote Chalonaise to Village Vielles Vignes (old vines) to Premier Cru and finally to Grand Cru.
My notes on these wines are as follows:
1. Domaine de l’Abbaye de Petit Quincy Bourgogne Epineuil Cote de Grisey 2010
Pale, insipid colour in the glass. The palate is dominated by acid. Indiscreet flavours hide behind the acid. Lacks character although it has no faults just poor fruit. Light weighted, with light red fruits, Straightforward or simple.
2. Domaine A. et P. de Villaine Bourgogne Cote Chalonaise ‘La Digoine’ 2010
A little better than the Epineuil but still acid dominated. Light ruby-red, pale appearance. The nose is still closed but displays some red berry fruit aromas. Medium-bodied and better length. Pure red fruits are initially dominated by the acidity: after re-looking at this wine towards the end of the tasting, the acid had somewhat softened opening the way for the fruit but still a relatively simple unassuming wine.
3. Domaine de Bellene Sauvigny-Les-Beaune ‘Vielles Vignes’ 2010
Moderately deep ruby-red reflections in the glass. The nose is closed but a little red fruits and spice are showing through. Good acid, tannin and fruit balance with some grip on the finish. The middle palate has some nice but straight forward cherry fruit combined with a little earthiness.
4. Domaine Nicolas Rossignol Volnay 1er Cru ‘Chevret’ 2010
Brilliant ruby-red colour, perfect clarity displaying beautiful reflections in the glass. Great start. The nose is lifted red fruit, dried flowers (potpourri) and cinnamon. A wine that is finely balanced with a lot of finesse showing. Seamless tannins and good length. A little reductive or even a touch of brettanomyces but not enough to cause a serious problem and may help add interest.
5. Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru ‘Les St Georges’ 2010
Deep ruby colour signaling a more substantial presence. Some volatility on the nose with aromas of dark berries and cherry, herbs, oak and earth. This is a bigger, richer wine with good power and structure but currently finishes a little short. The tannin is soft and adequately supports the fruit and charry oak flavours. This is a youthful yet powerful wine that will develop over time. There is plenty of potential here to become a complex and interesting wine of substance. Probably my favorite in the line-up.
6. Anne Gros Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru ‘Les Grand Maupertuis’ 2010
Fine colour & clarity. A perfumed nose with fruit, floral & mineral notes that continued to develop during the tasting. A sensuous wine with perfect balance, quite tightly bound at the moment but possessing a powerful mid palate of red fruits. The finish is less powerful but it has good persistence. A wine that will age graciously as its potential develops. Note – I have met Anne and seen how passionate she is about her terroir and how meticulous she is in her wine making. This wine definitely attests to these qualities.
Well did these wines exhibit a common Burgundy Régionalité? Well perhaps they did if you exclude the first two or three in the line-up. Can I be more specific about what this means? Probably not!
The next tasting was the New Zealand Regional Tasting. What a delight – 12 pinots selected by a panel consisting of Tim Atkin MW, Cameron Douglas, Rebbecca Gibb, Philip Rich, Indra Kumar & Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW. Each panelist selected 2 wines from a single region. As the tasting was completely blind, it was a great opportunity to not only explore the Régionalité but also to rank the wines into a “best of NZ” ladder. So here we go…
Region – Martinborough
Wine 1 Kusuda Pinot Noir 2010 Rank # 5
- Lifted aromas of Flowers and red fruits
- Lovely balance
- Extreme freshness and clean flavours
- Nice acid and balance
Wine 2 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2010 Rank # 8
- Nose is dusty
- Lacks balance at moment/a little awkward
- Nice dark fruits
- Coffee on finish
Region – Marlborough
Wine 3 Dog Point Pinot Noir 2010 Rank # 9
- Deeply coloured
- Sweet fruit
- Nice oak
- Youthful – needs time
- A little drying on the finish
Wine 4 Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir 2010 Rank # 12
- Closed and tight
- Slightly reductive
- good acid/tannin
Region – Nelson
Wine 5 Woolaston Estates Pinot Noir 2010 Rank #3
- Fine appearance
- perfumed but slightly warm
- Nice structure with cherry and plums
- Well balanced and good length
Wine 6 Neudorf Vineyards Home Pinot Noir 2010 Rank #1
- Brilliant colour and clarity
- Lovely lifted nose with loads of interest
- Good balance and body
- Cherry, dried herbs, tarry oak and a touch annise
- Good length
- Age worthy
Region – Waipara
Wine 7 Bellbird Spring Pinot Noir 2010 Rank #2
- Dark brooding colour
- Nose a little closed initially
- Complex palate of dark fruits, herbs (thyme and bay leaves)
- Concentrated and good length
Wine 8 Black Estate Omihi Series Pinot Noir 2010 Rank #10
- Darkly coloured
- Slightly cloudy
- Aroma of dark fruits and musk
- Rounded and dense but a little unbalanced
Region – Waitaki Valley
Wine 9 Valli Waitaki Pinot Noir 2010 Rank #11
- Dark ruby with good clarity
- Lifted but some volitile notes
- Powerful fruit but unsettled/unbalanced
- Needs time
Wine 10 Ostler Carolines Pinot Noir 2010 Rank #6
- Nice colour
- Powerful nose
- Cherries, roasted meats, herbs
- Layered palate with good interest
Region – Central Otago
Wine 11 Two Paddocks The First Paddock Pinot Noir 2010 Rank #7
- Good colour
- Lovely nose – flowers, red fruits, herbs and a touch of cedar
- Great purity of fruit (typical of Central Otago)
- Crisp acid
- Reasonable length
Wine 12 Rippon Tinker’s Field Pinot Noir 2010 Rank #4
- Dark and Brooding
- A touch hazy but doesn’t detract
- Nice mouth feel – rounded
- Good cherry fruit
- Polished finish, a little drying astringency
Conclusions – It is very hard to compare Burgundy to NZ pinot noirs. Completely different vine age and different Régionalité and Terroirs. However, that is to some extent a cop-out! I think one thing that stands out for NZ is the consistency and clear potential of the wines as the vine age improves. On this tasting for me the NZ pinots take the prize. But that wasn’t what the tasting was about, was it.
Day 3 was highly anticipated by me. The wines of Central Otago were to be explored – Iconic region of New Zealand pinot noir and life on the edge. When I first visited Central Otago in 2004 I was struck by the magnificent landscape with vineyards clinging to the side of mountains and gorges and marveled at the intrepid trailblazers who first planted here. This has to be the most beautiful and at the same time the most difficult region in the world to grow pinot noir. There is a great consistency in Central Otago pinot noir although often produced from young vines. I love the fact that they typically have a purity reflecting the regional schists and gravels and wild thyme which often grows amongst the vines. Many producers have now established themselves on the world pinot stage as serious players lead by: Mount Difficulty, Two Paddocks and Felton Road. There are so many fine producers in Central Otago and the list just keeps growing with names like Peregrine, Akarua, Quartz Reef, Valley, Amisfield, Wooing Tree, Rippon, Mud House & Mt Edward to name a few.
The main sub-regions of Central Otago are Cromwell Basin, Gibbston, Clyde and Alexandra. There are, however, two outlying areas which are not included in the sub-regions that I just mentioned. Firstly Wanaka with it’s spectacular landscapes around Lake Wanaka and includes the pioneering Rippon vineyard as well as Maude and Archangel. More about Rippon later as they provided one of the highlights of the final tasting at the conference.
Second outlying area is Waitaki which I want to really highlight as a potentially great pinot noir producing area. Waitaki is New Zealand’s newest wine region straddling the boundary between the North Otago and Canterbury provinces. This is a very isolated area some 65km from the East Coast of NZ. The area was first planted in 2001 with a few small producers focused on pinot noir and aromatic whites. I can imaging the wine growers here would be a very tight knit community and due to the isolation I expect visitors would be very welcomed.
The key viticultural characteristics of the Waitaki Valley are its very cool but semi-arid climate and long, usually dry, autumn seasons resulting in very long hang times. The sunshine hours are high and the UV extreme. The geology consists of metamorphic schist and limestone overlain by glacial terraces and fans and alluvial silts on the banks of the braided Waitaki River. Young, virgin soils in Waitaki have a low organic and high mineral content so the resultant wines demonstrate a distinctive minerality, purity of fruit flavours and fragrant aromatics. Lower temperature regime and higher humidity compare to Central Otago proper result in small berries and more open bunches. This helps with disease control but also gives the winemaking a higher skin to juice ratio with the resultant increased tannins and phenolics. These wines also frequently have a lingering finish on the palate – a couple of Waitaki wines featured in the tasting – Osler, Valli & Pasquale (see my brief notes on wines which stood out on the day for me below).
Osler Pinot Noir 2010
- Tight but will open
- Needs time
- Tight tannis
- Some animal nuances will come through
- Potential to develop
Valli Waitaki Pinot Noir 2010
- nice texture and good body
Pasquale Waitaki Valley Pinot Noir 2010
- Bright crimson
- Aromas of dark berries with floral and herbal notes
- Raspberry, cherry and touch of cedar
- Crisp acidity and nice finish
Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir 2010
- Nice aromatics
- Cherry dominate
- Good texture, some grip & length
- Lacking complexity but very good
Amisfield Pinot Noir 2010
- Nice colour purity
- Mid aromatic
- Dry flowers red berry
- Nice cherry shuttle but want more
Two Paddocks Pinot Noir 2010
- Deeply intense cherry flavours
- Beautifully made, crystal clean
- Smooth texture, nice length
- Very fine tannins
Two Paddocks The First Paddock Pinot Noir 2010
- Perfect example of why make single vineyard wines
- Expressive nose
- Delicate cherry more allure less power
- Lovely balance between tannin fruit and acid
- Wafting oak veil
Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir 2010
- Grand cru! Just seamless power, all there
- Lovely perfume and cherries on nose
- Transparent primary red fruit together with a hit of smoked meat
- Some nice grip
Terra Sancta Jackson’s Block Pinot Noir 2010
- Lovely transparency
- Delicate yet power
- Some wild thyme herb character
- Nice snow cherry on the palate
Akarua Pinot Noir 2010
- 96 planting so vine age starting to show
- Beautiful colour and clarity
- Earthy aroma blows off quickly
- Good deep cherry fruit
- Nice texture length
- Slight roasted coffee aftertaste
Pisa Range Estate “Black Poplar Block” Pinot Noir 2010
- Nice toasty oak notes
- Great ruby colour and clarity
- Dark berry & bramble fruits
- Very good length
- sherbet-like acid
- perfect manifestation of Central Otago in a glass!
As usual Wooing Tree was a standout but I have already devoted a post to they wonderful pinot noir recently!