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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
2001 – 2013 VERTICAL OF FELTON ROAD PINOT NOIR MAINLY BANNOCKBURN LABEL,  PLUS A KUSUDA FOIL …



Geoff Kelly  MSc (Hons)


Introduction:
August ended on a high note,  with Wellington wine-couple Rob Bishop and Shelley Hood hosting a vertical tasting of Felton Road Pinot Noir,  for 20 people.  It centred round the 12 vintages of the standard Felton Road Pinot Noir for the years 2001 – 2012,  the wine now (since the 2009 vintage) designated Bannockburn.  

The story of Felton Road begins with Stewart Elm’s 'discovering' the site now known as the Elms Vineyard (and winery) in 1991 and recognising its potential for viticulture.  This vineyard is on Felton Road,  6.5 km WSW of Cromwell township,  on the west bank of and above the Kawarau River.  The first wave of planting was 1992 to 1994.  Blair Walter with qualifications from Oregon State University and Lincoln University,  Canterbury,  has been winemaker since 1996,  from the outset.    The first wines were commercialised under the Felton Road label in 1997.  Within three years,  Felton Road Pinot Noir was making waves in the United Kingdom,  as well as New Zealand.  As the potential became translated into reality,  a second phase of planting started in 2000,  coinciding with the purchase of the property in September that year by Yorkshireman Nigel Greening.  Planting has continued intermittently with the acquisition of Cornish Point,  and later the Calvert vineyard.  Total vineyard area is 26.6 ha,  all vineyards now being organic and biodynamic,  and since 2010 Demeter-certified.  Felton Road also produces chardonnay and riesling of some repute,  and in years where crop levels are higher than ideal,  a saignée wine called Vin Gris,  not the most flattering name for a blanc de noirs,  or sometimes nearly a light rosé.  

This report however is concerned only with pinot noir,  which is the mainstay of all three vineyards (below).  Felton Road pinot noirs are widely distributed to fine wine shops in New Zealand and beyond,  but not in quantity.  They tend to sell out quickly,  and thus meet a buoyant demand at auction,  as New Zealanders become more and more conscious of and proud about New Zealand pinot noir.  For example,  last week (2 Sept 2014) 2006 Felton Road Block 5 fetched $122 before fees at Fitz-Geralds (Auckland),  and the 2005 Block 5,  $127.  Noteworthy however that the arguably superior 2006 standard wine fetched $51.  Winery release pricing for the pinot noirs in 2014 is:  Bannockburn $51,  Cornish Point and Calvert $60,  Block 3 and Block 5 $79.  Note the Cornish Point wine is limited to 6 bottles per customer,  and the Block wines are usually available only to customers on the Block Wines mailing list (application needed),  and they are limited as well.  Token releases of the Block wines are sometimes made to a few favoured retailers.

Vineyards and Viticulture:  
The three Felton Road vineyards are:  Elms Vineyard (the original home blocks) on Felton Road (14.4 hectares):  Clones 5 (UCD), 777 (Dijon),  and 10/5 (the first 'proper' pinot clone in New Zealand) predominate.  There are 11 clones in total spanning the age sequence of pinot noir imports into New Zealand;  Cornish Point Vineyard (already owned by Nigel Greening when he purchased Felton Road) on the shores of Lake Dunstan (7.6 ha),  at the meeting of the Clutha and Kawarau arms:  8 clones in equal proportion,  again spanning the age range for pinot in New Zealand,  but since four of them are Dijon,  as a group they predominate;  and Calvert Vineyard on Felton Road,  one kilometre east of Elms (4.6 ha):  Clones 777, 667, 115 only (all Dijon).  An introduction to the viticulture is available on the Felton Road website.

Felton Road's views on the importance of the clone in pinot noir quality must be mentioned.  Felton Road is arguably the best-known pinot noir producer in New Zealand,  and certainly the one with the highest profile overseas.  Since the vineyard has had the same winemaker,  Blair Walter,  from the outset,  his views and interim conclusions from the experience of those 18 vintages merit close attention.  And the intriguing thing is,  he considers that as they learn more and more about growing and optimising pinot noir performance in the vineyard,  the actual clones are far less important than site (including soil,  slope,  aspect,  row orientation,  micro-climate),  rootstock,  and vine management.  And that is not to even mention wine-making,  in the equation.  
   
Blair goes so far as to say that:  We believe viticulture [ in the broad sense above ] will out-trump clonal differences by a factor of 5 – 10.  Beyond Felton Road,  he cites as evidence the fact that certain more thoughtful New Zealand producers are making far finer wines today,  even where they retain a high proportion of the older (pre-Dijon) clones.  Blair illustrates further by saying they have made many single-clone research batches of wine,  and time and again,  in carefully set-up fully blind tastings,  they cannot consistently identify which clone is which,  at the wine stage.  These views I must admit have considerable appeal,  when one thinks about it.  They tie in with the old adage that a winemaker cannot consistently make better wine than he or she has tasted.  Thus every vintage,  the goal of achieving a surpassingly beautiful pinot noir remains the challenge,  as does the need to continue tasting other fine wines.

Winemaking:
Screwcap closures were introduced in 2001,  and became standard in 2002.  Winemaker Blair Walter emphasises that there has been remarkable consistency in the winemaking over the years,  so rather than pursue the subtle differences each year,  on this occasion this one generalised statement introduces all the wines.  Fruit is hand-picked,  with increasingly intensive viticulture there is a tendency to earlier picking now when the season allows,  to reduce risk of sur-maturité flavours and thus enhance florality;  there is always a whole-bunch component,  the ratio varying between 15 and 35% depending on the season and the quality of ripeness in the stalks,  also with the goal of enhancing florality and texture;  pre-fermentation cold-soak is employed,  a varying number of days;  ferments are wild-yeast;  maceration varies usually between 17 and 24 days depending on the nature of the season and fruit;  MLFs usually in barrel the following spring,  and always wild / naturally occurring;  time in oak and % new varies from a norm of 11 months for the Bannockburn,  percentage new oak between 25 and 33%,  a tendency for the Block 3 to have a slightly higher ratio of new oak,  other single vineyard wines longer oak exposure via being put back into older oak after assemblage for a maximum of 13 – 18 months;  no fining or filtering;  website:  www.feltonroad.com

The Tasting:
The wines were arranged in 6 flights of three,  all presented blind.  Four comprised two vintages of the standard (now called 'Bannockburn') wine,  plus one example of the other 4 named Blocks or vineyards.  One flight was simply the 2002,  2003 and 2004 standard vintages,  and the final flight was intriguing:  three bottles of the 2001 standard wine,  one sealed by screwcap,  one sealed by cork and cellared at Felton Road,  and one sealed by cork and cellared in the Wellington district.  The wines were not decanted,  and were presented in fairly brisk sequence.  Afterwards,  and fortunately,  I was able to secure good samples thanks to the generosity of our hosts,  and could later examine the wines at leisure.  Some of them were transformed with a little more air.  None collapsed prematurely,  rather giving the lie to the notion that all New Zealand pinot noir is short-lived.  On my way home from the tasting,  thanks to the generosity of John Comerford,  I was able to add an identical-size sample of a freshly-opened 2010 Kusuda Martinborough Pinot Noir to the batch,  thus allowing the Feltons to be seen with the great benefit of a 'foil'.

In the reviews following,  the vintage notes in the admin section for the Felton wines are précised from the notes for each vintage on the intriguing and informative Felton Road website,  plus Blair's comments and a data-sheet he provided for the tasting,  plus some interpolation from me.

Conclusions:
The best examples of Felton Road pinot noir capture the essence of this elusive variety,  and are amongst the best examples of the grape in New Zealand.  They can stand alongside quality examples from Burgundy,  as pinot noir in their own right.  They show that good New Zealand pinot noir cropped at internationally appropriate rates has an evolution in bottle spanning more like 15 years,  rather than the 3 – 8 years suggested by conventional wisdom.  Winemaker Blair Walter's present emphasis on seeking more delicate,  floral and fragrant wines,  with greater dry extract and less new-oak influence,  is moving the wines ever-closer to Burgundy.  Thus while they now seem expensive in the New Zealand market,  they are still good value in international terms,  for the quality of wine delivered.

Acknowledgements:
To Rob Bishop and Shelley Hood for this much-appreciated invitation,  and to Blair Walter who came up to Wellington for the tasting,  for his unfailing patience in both answering questions for this review,  in his answers raising more questions,  and then checking the manuscript.  They do not necessarily agree with the views expressed in this article,  however.





THE WINES REVIEWED –  Pinot Noir:


2013  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn
2012  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn
2011  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn
2010  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn
2009  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3
2006  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5
2009  Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard
2011  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point
  2008  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]
2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]
2006  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]
2005  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]
2004  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]
2003  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]
2002  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]
2001  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]
2010  Kusuda Pinot Noir


2010  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn   19  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 10 years;  cool early spring,  good flowering,  some crop reduction needed;  later summer and autumn an ideal season,  producing berries with full physiological maturity at lower brix levels than some years,  a very promising harmonious vintage;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Good bright pinot noir ruby,  one of the deeper ones.  This seemed to me the most beautiful and floral of all the pinots,  combining complex dusky red rose aromas with boronia,  on red and black cherry fruit.  Flavours in mouth show great suppleness and charm,  clear-cut pinot noir of Cote de Nuits complexity and aromatic quality,  with beautiful tannins.  The balance of fruit to oak is exemplary,  lovely texture,  giving great length and good cellar potential.  The top wine in the set.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/14

2009  Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard   18 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  a good spring and flowering produced a large crop;  February however cool and adverse,  requiring care with crop reduction should this weather continue;  March and April unusually favourable,  leading to an ideal crop c.5.5 t/ha of near-perfect fruit;  at the time the young wines showed beautiful aromatics and a purity of fruit expression making them seem possibly the best yet;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Surprisingly youthful and quite full pinot noir ruby,  clearly younger than the 2009 Bannockburn,  one of the deepest wines in the set.  Bouquet here has a heightened boronia floral component,  with a clear citrus oil aromatic complexity,  on dark black cherry fruit.  This smells inviting,  though dark for pinot noir.  Thus one approaches the palate slightly dubiously,  is it too dark,  and plummy therefore,  or does it retain the fresh black cherry of quality pinot noir?  Yes,  it does.  It is full,  rich and soft,  warm tannins,  it couldn't be any riper,  darker,  or more tannic,  but it is marvellous.  This wine kept moving up in my rankings.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/14

2010  Kusuda Pinot Noir   18 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $89   [ cork;  hand-harvested;  nil whole-bunch,  wild yeast and a 20 – 27 days cuvaison;  c.14 months in French oak 24% new;  wine sample courtesy John Comerford;  www.kusudawines.com ]
Medium pinot noir ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is deeply floral and wonderfully complex,  including floral aromas I cannot find words for right now,  but including both red roses and boronia qualities,  and all a little more 'red' than the darker-fruited young Feltons.  In mouth the saturation of cherry fruit is wonderful,  a vibrant and youthful wine even more aromatic than the 2010 Felton,  part of which results from being a little more oaky.  Perhaps the oak is a little high,  in fact,  but this is exciting pinot noir,  already at the forefront of New Zealand interpretations of the grape.  The fact that it sits seamlessly in the Felton sequence should not be lost on those who claim it is easy to tell the difference between Martinborough and Otago pinots.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 08/14

2003  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 4.5 years;  considered fairly typical growing season,  a successful flowering resulting in a large crop,  saignée for Vin Gris needed;  the wines reminding of the 2001s;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  some garnet,  above midway in weight of colour.  Freshly opened this needs a swirl or two,  to reveal a highly fragrant wine in which the floral component is browning,  but still clearly on the dark roses and boronia side.  Fruit quality is red and black cherry.  Flavours include secondary nearly-leathery and oaky-spicy notes,  but still with astonishing fruit.  This is lovely,  as perfectly mature pinot noir from a year showing elegant tannin ripeness,  and still fruit dominant over tannin.  This should hold for some years yet,  another 2 – 5 or so.  I suspect this is now ahead of 2003 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully Single Vineyard,  which has been my top Otago 2003,  but now may be frail.  GK 08/14

2009  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 9 years;  a good spring and flowering produced a large crop;  February however cool and adverse,  requiring care with crop reduction should this continue;  March and April unusually favourable,  leading to an ideal crop c.5.5 t/ha of near-perfect fruit;  at the time the young wines showed beautiful aromatics and a purity of fruit expression making them possibly the best yet;  the Bannockburn label introduced to name the till-now 'standard' Felton Road pinot noir;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  softening a little,  well below midway in depth of colour.  With air the bouquet opens to classic Otago pinot noir,  showing clear boronia aromatic and floral uplift on red and black cherry fruits.  It is not one of the most demonstrative wines,  though,  and you have to work at it.   There was a lot more bouquet 24 hours later.  In mouth this is a very dry wine,  but not unpleasantly so,  with lovely furry tannins.  Initially you think it is a little austere,  not something I associate with the 2009s in Central,  but 24 hours later it seemed to have expanded a whole size.  It is still drier and less supple than the 2009 Calvert,  but with time this wine might surprise.  The tannins are much riper and more elegant than the 2007.  This wine too moved up the rankings,  with re-examination moving ever-closer to the Kusuda.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/14

2012  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $57   [ screwcap;  average vine age 11.5 years;  a mixed season,  good crops from successful flowering,  but summer characterised by cool southerly weather and more moisture than ideal;  later season markedly better than most of New Zealand,  good ripeness,  reduced crop;  www.feltonroad.co ]
Vibrant deep pinot noir ruby,  the second to deepest.  This is a deep and dusky wine,  yet to develop full florality.  The style is close to the beautiful 2010,  a warm dark red rose and aromatic boronia floral lift,  cherries more black than red,  total Cote de Nuits.  Flavours in mouth again bespeak its youth,  with the cherry fruit and oak still to knit,  close to the Kusuda in that component.  This is the pick of the last three years,  to cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/14

2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 7.5 years;  a complex season,  cool in spring,  poor fruit set,  crop 25% down;  later summer and autumn ideal ripening conditions for the reduced crop,  initially thought to be wines of unmatched concentration and complexity without losing any purity or finesse.  Recent evaluations suggest possibly some over-ripeness in some labels;  first year for Cornish Point label proper;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby with some development,  one of the deeper ones.  This too is a highly floral pinot noir,  but inclining to the boronia spectrum with its hint of citrus oil more than roses.  Below is rich cherry fruit darker in hue than the 2010.  Flavours are firmer and less supple than the 2010,  there is similar richness but a higher tannin loading,  and not all the tannins are perfectly ripe.  In a way this is more dramatic pinot noir.  In discussing the wines briefly before the tasting,  winemaker Blair Walter was less happy with the 2007s,  mentioning recent bottles had shown over-ripe and even porty suggestions.  This bottle was quite at variance with that assessment.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/14

2011  Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $68   [ screwcap;  an ideal flowering and plenty of moisture through the mid-season produced large crops,   requiring close management;  later summer and harvest again ideal,  but still a large rather than ideal crop,  leading again to production of Vin Gris;  the wines understated;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Perfect pinot noir ruby,  perfectly the middle wine for depth of colour.  Bouquet is totally sweet and charming in this example of the Felton approach.  The freshness of the red cherry / berry is almost saliva-inducing,  and there is a lovely red roses florality.  Everything smells totally in harmony here.  Flavours don't disappoint,  perhaps a smaller example of the Felton style but the ripeness is pinpoint for pinot noir complexity.  The  tannins are critically riper than the 2008 standard wine,  which it otherwise resembles.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 08/14

2002  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 5 years;   2002 considered an exceptional vintage,  just under normal crop … the wines rich,  full … something of a 'New World' character … whether great pinot noir a matter of personal preference;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Mature pinot noir ruby and garnet,  just above midway in depth.  This is a much bigger and older wine than the 2003.  The secondary aromas including quite a leathery and brown mushroom component are starting to overtake the original florality.  Yet it is still fragrant.  The fruit component still smells clearly of black cherry.  In flavour it is indeed a big wine,  and 2002 was a ripe year,  in an era when bigger wines were thought to be better,  even in pinot noir and in Central Otago.  So though this is a burly and tanniny wine,  it is clearly pinot.  It just lacks the precision of the 2003.  One would be forgiven for thinking it might be Victorian pinot noir,  in a blind tasting,  it is so weighty.  Au point now,  deserving fine steaks and similar.  It would be fun to have it alongside a more delicate 2002 Chateauneuf-du-Pape such as Charvin.  No hurry here at all.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  perhaps longer.  GK 08/14

2008  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 9 years;  a temperate season with no water stress throughout,  good flowering,  above average fruit set,  requiring saignée for Vin Gris again;  later season dry with cool nights,  producing good balanced fruit where crops reduced;  harvest completed before early winter onset 23 April;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  just a suggestion of development.  This was a surprise wine in the line-up,  in the sense the 2008 vintage in general in Central Otago has a modest reputation.  This wine however amply shows that where crops were curtailed (in a generous year),  delightful wines could result.  The bouquet is the key component here,  a much lighter quality as of buddleia and English tea roses,  only just edging into darker roses and boronia,  cool-year burgundian,  more Cote de Beaune than Cote de Nuits.  Below are red cherries.  Flavours are lighter too,  with just a hint of leafyness as so often correlates with buddleia florals,  yet there is still real pinot quality – just a cooler year.  Perhaps it lacks the stuffing for long-term cellaring,  but it is already fragrant and delightful.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 8/14  GK 08/14

2013  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $57   [ screwcap;  average vine age just under 13 years;  slow start to season,  good flowering and fruit set;  February and March unusual for reduced diurnal fluctuation,  which in theory at least should affect the character of the wines;  average crop;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Very bright youthful pinot noir ruby (reasonably),  in the middle for weight.  The proprietors left the 2013 out of the formal assessment,   thinking it too young and recently bottled.  Instead in a nice touch it was provided at the outset to rinse out the glasses (stored in cardboard),  and wet (and whet) the palate.  This seems totally a red cherry pinot,  fragrant,  aromatic and fresh,  no complexity yet.  In mouth it initially seemed lighter than I expected,  having assumed 2013 was a good red wine year in Central as for nearly all New Zealand.  Perhaps more a standard year,  in Central.  With air and time the wine grew in stature,  and later seemed potentially more like a red-fruited version of the 2010 in balance,  but for now awaiting complexity / development in bottle.  It may need re-rating,  therefore.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 08/14

2001  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap or cork;  average vine age 8 years;   2001 a year of heavier crops,  so saignée for Vin Gris necessary;  the wines elegant and racy with perhaps not the depth;  www.feltonroad.com ]
We had three bottles of the 2001,  presented blind as one flight.  One was screwcap-closed,  one was cork cellared at the winery (courtesy Blair Walter),  and the third had been cellared in the Wellington district.  The goal of the blind presentation was to establish which closure was preferred,  and can one even tell which is screwcap wine,  thirteen years later.  This was an inspired offering.  The three bottles were dramatically different.

The following notes characterise the 2001 wine,  averaging the three bottles.  Mature pinot noir garnet and ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet is astonishingly fragrant,  there still being clear-cut browning boronia  florality,  on browning cherry fruit.  One had to ask,  how could the young Blair Walter have so quickly  achieved the skills to make a wine like this,  in his sixth vintage ?  Palate shows a fully mature pinot noir,  still good cherry fruit but browning now,  oak as beautifully in balance as the later vintages,  the wine at full stretch,  perhaps trace stalk.  It will decline from now on,  but agreeably so.  This wine goes to show the usual estimates for pinot noir longevity in New Zealand,  3 – 8 years from vintage typically,  do not apply to the better wines cropped at internationally appropriate levels.

As to the individual wines,  the differences were marked and in part counter-intuitive.  The screwcap wine was clearly much the most advanced / deteriorated colour,  yet on bouquet it was equally clearly the most  fresh / aromatic / floral / fragrant / youthful.  In flavour the browning cherry was fresh (if that's not too much a contradiction in terms) and still crunchy,  and delightfully cherry / fruity with aromatic tannins relative to its oak and age.  In contrast the bottle under cork from Central Otago was clearly the youngest colour,  but in bouquet and flavour it was much the softest and more mellow all through,  the tannins much less vibrant.  An equally enjoyable wine,  but very different.  For the group as a whole,  this was the most favoured of the three 2001s,  a view I did not share since quality of bouquet is relatively more important to me.  The bottle under cork cellared in Wellington was perfectly in the middle,  or even a little closer to the screwcap wine in the vibrancy of its aroma and tannins.  Also counter-intuitive that the bottle from warmer Wellington should be fresher than the Otago one,  but with cork as the closure,  and the elapsed time,  it is the old law:  there are no great wines,  only great bottles.  GK 8/14  GK 08/14

2006  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 7 years;  an early warm season with many days over 30C;  large crops and large berries,  so saignée for Vin Gris needed;  wines seen as balanced like the 2003s;  10th vintage for Felton Road and the first where all pinot noir vineyards farmed organically and biodynamically;  first year for the Calvert label;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  some development,  below midway for depth.  Bouquet is light and sweetly floral,  with some age creeping in.  It smells a red-fruited wine,  some reminders of the Cote de Beaune here too,  gentler than the 2003.  In mouth the 2006 is a supple wine,  not one of the big ones,  but beautifully ripe tannins like the 2003.  Red cherry now browning a little dominates,  oak in good balance,  the nett balance,  quality and harmony in these wines is a delight.  This has the poise to cellar well,  but perhaps not the weight to match the 2003 for longevity.  Cellar another 3 – 5  years.  GK 08/14

2005  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]   17 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 5.5 years;  a cold, difficult and late season,  reduced crop just over half the target yield of 5.5 t/ha;  resulting wines tannic and concentrated,  but at the time thanks to low crop thought to be of appropriate ripeness;  considered the most cellar-worthy wines made to that point;  latterly some concern as to ripening profile of the tannins;   www.feltonroad.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  much the darkest in the set.  And on bouquet this is a big wine too,  the bouquet sharing some attributes with the 2007:  big fruit,  not quite perfect ripeness,  the less ripe berries even with an aromatic mint note,  big oak,  all a bit leathery and tannic.  It is fragrant,  but there is not a lot of florality or cool-climate charm.  Thoughts of Victoria here,  too.  Taste-wise it is big wine,  dark and serious,  tannic,  but again just the thought of stalks in the tannins.  There are burgundies like this sometimes,  in the hotter years where the wines end up tannic,  so it has to be seen as a valid expression of the year.  One thing is certain,  it will cellar for years,  for it is very rich indeed,  perhaps the richest in terms of dry extract of all the Feltons in this set.  Those who like more substantial pinots will score this wine higher,  understandably.  Cellar 3 – 8 more years.  GK 08/14

2004  Felton Road Pinot Noir [ standard wine ]   17 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 5 years;  a cold season,  spring frosts as elsewhere in New Zealand;  slightly reduced crops,  small berries,  intense  flavours,  a very true expression of classic pinot noir flavours,  acids up a little;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Pinot noir ruby and garnet,  just above midway in depth.  Bouquet is strong,  a lot of clearly pinot fruit,  fragrant but in the browning florality there is a suggestion of stalk,  more obviously so than the 2007.  There are also clear secondary aromas,  mushroomy and leathery (+ve).  Palate is intriguing,  distinctly 'cool'  and tannic,  the stalk suggestions on bouquet seemingly a little more apparent,  making the wine very dry,  but not unpleasantly so.  It is a fairly rich wine,  but like the 2005,  not quite complete.  It is stalkier than the 2005.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 08/14

2007  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3   17 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 7.5 years;  a complex season,  cool in spring,  poor fruit set,  crop 25% down;  later summer and autumn ideal ripening conditions for the reduced crop,  initially thought to be wines of unmatched concentration and complexity without losing any purity or finesse.  Recent evaluations suggest possibly some over-ripeness in some labels;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Classic pinot noir ruby,  some age showing,  well under midway in depth.  This wine smells 'dry',  fragrant,  clearly varietal,  but even on bouquet you wonder about the tannins.  In mouth one's fears are confirmed,  the wine showing too much oak for the fruit,  which coupled with some imperfectly ripe fruit tannins makes the wine harder / more tannic than one ideally wants pinot noir to be.  Those liking oak marked this wine up,  here as elsewhere through the whole tasting the pattern of preferences confirming how individual wine appreciation is.  This 2007 is still clearly varietal and will give much pleasure with food.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 08/14

2006  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5   17  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 7 years; an early warm season with many days over 30C;  large crops and large berries,  so saignée needed for Vin Gris;  wines seen as balanced like the 2003s;  10th vintage and the first where all pinot noir vineyards farmed organically and biodynamically;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Older and lighter pinot noir ruby and some garnet,  the lightest one in the set.  Freshly opened this wine needs air.  It opens to reveal all-red fruits,  with some pink-roses florals,  but all very quiet.  Taste-wise it is akin to a fragrant Spanish tempranillo,  too much oak for the delicacy of the fruit – if pinot noir – but beautifully ripe tannins and attractive as fragrant Spanish red.  Hard to score,  therefore.  The standard 2006 wine is a better expression of the variety and place.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 08/14

2011  Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn   16 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  average vine age 11 years;  an ideal flowering and plenty of moisture through the mid-season produced large crops,  requiring close management;  later summer and harvest again ideal,  but still a larger than ideal crop,  leading to production of Vin Gris this year;  the wines understated;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Lighter pinot noir ruby,  the second to lightest.  This is a distinctly small-scale pinot,  in the Felton set.  Bouquet is fragrant but in a simple way,  with a suggestion of leafyness as much as a floral component.  Fruits are all red,  even a hint of raspberry rather than cherry.  Flavour is better than the bouquet,  but there is almost a feeling the wine might be slightly chaptalised,  clean light red-fruits so the oak shows rather much,  small-scale,  a trace of stalk.  A surprise:  2011 must have been difficult in Central.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 08/14