Day 3 Pinot Noir NZ 2013 – Central Otago

Rudi Bauer of Quartz Reef

Rudi Bauer of Quartz Reef

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

  • Aromatic
  • 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
  • Lush
  • 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
  • Individualist
  • 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!

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