Fifty-seven pinot noirs from Martinborough, Nelson, Marlborough, and Central Otago, and spanning 9 vintages, enabled me to set up a tasting to gain information on firstly: when is the best time to drink New Zealand pinot noir; and secondly, does the popular idea that Otago pinots are fleshy and easily recognised (the fruit bomb idea) have any validity. The tasting was rigorously double blind, with a procedure in which there was no conceivable way the taster could know the identity of any wine. Working alone, this is a time-consuming exercise.
Two main styles of New Zealand pinot noir: best age to drink ...
To answer the first question, it is best to make the proviso that there are two main kinds of pinot noir in New Zealand. This is based on price / marketing constraints, not the district of origin of the wine. In the under $25 market so avidly pursued by the supermarkets and the website www.blackmarket.co.nz, these are in general lighter wines with less serious elevation / oak handling (or even a stainless steel component), made from more heavily-cropped vineyards. These wines at best are still delightfully varietal, pretty, and fragrant, but they have less depth and body, so do not cellar so well. Many of them drink well at release (and most are in fact drunk soon after purchase), but they are at their most harmonious and integrated at around the three year mark. They will still be pleasant to drink for five to eight years. For the more serious wines over $25, but now increasingly also over $50 (and some creeping towards the more challenging $90 mark) the first thing to bear in mind is: never judge a pinot noir by its colour. Some of the best wines in the country are no deeper in hue than the pretty supermarket wines. But the instant you taste them, you realise there is much more body and stuffing in these wines, you can roll them around your mouth and savour the texture and weight of flavour, irrespective of the colour. In this they match the wines of Burgundy. Unlike the wines of Burgundy however, ours thus far do mostly mature more quickly. It is hard to generalise, since longevity of a wine depends primarily on the cropping rate and dry extract of the wine, plus the manner of elevation. But in general, serious New Zealand pinot noir shows its best harmonising of young fruit and more mature savoury complexity at around the five to seven-year point. They will still be good to drink as mature wines for eight to twelve years, and some last longer.
As to the supposed regional characteristics of the wines, it is most unwise to either generalise, or be categorical. The supermarket wines are made first and foremost to meet a price point. In general they are simpler, maybe not all the wine has been in barrel, and sometimes they retain a couple of grams residual sugar which can scarcely be tasted, but makes the wines pleasantly fruity and 'easy'. In this category there may be two easily recognised sub-camps: the light pretty and fragrant wines of the young alluviums on the valley floor of the Wairau Valley, Marlborough, where it is near-impossible to achieve depth of pinot noir flavour and character; and secondly, yes, the darker more fleshy even plummy wines from particularly the broader Cromwell Basin zone of Central Otago. But note, some of these are deliberatively over-ripened and under-oaked, to make the kind of soft round juicy wines an undiscriminating market wants. They define the market, rather more than the region of origin. These are the two main camps of commercial New Zealand pinot noir, and represent most of the wines which have led to the generalisations about Otago.
For the more serious wines however, the wines of Martinborough, Nelson, Marlborough on the upper terraces / older soils, Waipara, and Central Otago, I increasingly am of the view that the range of styles being made in each district has more to do with the winemaker, the wines varying from lighter to darker, and from more fragrant to more savoury, in exactly the same way as the wines of Burgundy vary wildly from producer to producer. The top wine in the tasting reported on here is one of the greatest pinot noirs thus far made in New Zealand. It could have as easily have been made in grand cru Morey-Saint-Denis vineyards as in Nelson or Otago. There is nothing about it that defines an Otago stamp. The more important point is, it captures the elusive charm of great pinot noir, whether lighter or darker. And while Martinborough has a reputation for producing drier more savoury styles of pinot noir, there are matching wines from the deeper older soils of Marlborough, and both Nelson and Otago.
In the notes which follow, I first and foremost reward pinot noir varietal character, where the wines show full physiological maturity, the wonderful melding of florality and ripe berry character, and avoid both leafy grading to stalky green suggestions, or the opposite, the dreaded (by French winemakers) sur-maturité or over-ripeness, characterised by increasingly dark black-plummy smells and flavours. But note, slightly under-ripe wines may be very fragrant, the leafy concept grading almost insensibly into florals of the buddleia kind. One needs to smell a lot of flowers, as French winemakers do, to talk about pinot noir at all sensibly. Appropriate berry characters must then be complemented by, but not dominated by, sweet fragrant oak. Being a young wine country, there is still a tendency among our winemakers to think that if a little oak is good, then more oak is better. Too many of our Reserve Pinot Noirs are still just a barrel selection with extra time in barrel, rather than a wine grown from the outset at a lower cropping rate, to therefore be of greater dry extract, and better justify a premium price. Our pinot noir wines will in general improve greatly, when producers use less new oak, as chardonnay practice is starting to confirm (to the perceptive). Secondly, the wines must have presence in mouth, correlating with dry extract. This is the underlying rationale for the entire French Appellation d'Origine Controlée approach, with its emphasis on cropping rates (there expressed in hectolitres per hectare). For pinot noir, a thin-skinned variety, there is no correlation between richness of the wine, and depth of colour. In Burgundy, some of the greatest producers, Rousseau for example, produce wines almost invariably as light in hue as the lightest wines reported on here. Hence the importance I attach to reporting on colour, which in fact takes a surprising amount of effort, thousands of hand movements / glass to glass comparisons, to rank 57 wines accurately from darkest to lightest.
A word is needed about Grant Taylor, of Valli Wines. His wines absolutely dominated the tasting. I was disbelieving as the first half-dozen wines progressively revealed themselves. He is one of New Zealand's most gifted and most experienced pinot noir producers, with enviable experience in the Napa Valley of California in the 1980s. He came back to New Zealand in 1993, initially as winemaker at Gibbston Valley Wines. He was soon in demand as consulting winemaker to many fledgling wineries establishing in the new-found pinot noir land of Otago. During this time he maintained his consulting role in America, expanding to Oregon. He established his own winery, Valli, in 2006. These days he sails a little under the radar, with up-and-coming Otago producers perhaps putting more time into promotion and marketing etc. His greatest achievement in my view has been to exploit the extraordinary diversity of the Otago grape-growing region. He has taken the beautifully simple idea of making a definitive wine from each of the four main Otago sub-districts, districts which vary markedly in their heat summation and rainfall, and has made this idea his alone. In this, he illuminates the challenge that Burgundy presents to New Zealand pinot noir, where the Cote de Nuits is fractionally cooler than the Cote de Beaune. This is expressed in Burgundy via the northern wines at best showing more magical black cherry character, vs the red cherry of the south. Will Central Otago be analogous ? Thus far he has not embraced Alexandra, but has been prepared to tackle the most wayward of the Otago wine districts, the Waitaki Valley.
Examples of fine, cellar-worthy New Zealand pinot noirs. These are much more serious wines than the easy pinot noirs becoming popular via supermarkets and other price-led suppliers. From the left: 2015 Escarpment Pinot Noir Kiwa, infantile wine hinting at rose florals and cherry fruit, oaky as yet, 18.5 +; 2010 Misha's Vineyard Pinot Noir Verismo, showing a development curve more like Burgundy than New Zealand, a great sign, 18.5 +; 2012 Valli Pinot Noir Bendigo Vineyard, wonderfully floral and fragrant, hinting at Chambolle-Musigny, 19; 2012 Valli Pinot Noir Gibbston Vineyard, a complexity and depth rare in New Zealand pinot noir, comparable with the classed growths of Morey-Saint-Denis, 19 +.
THE WINES REVIEWED:
# The price given below is the approximate release price, where available.
Maturing pinot noir ruby of some depth, in the middle of the deepest quarter of the 57 wines. Bouquet is an astonishing evocation of a totally Cote de Nuits pinot noir bouquet, rich with dusky rose florals and exquisite sweet aromatic black cherry fruit in the style of a great Morey-Saint-Denis, simply wonderful. Palate shows a richness, pinpoint ripeness, complexity and depth extremely rare in New Zealand pinot noir, the flavours aromatic cherry all through, fresh and vibrant, beautifully lengthened on simpatico new oak. The concentration carries through right to the finish, like great Burgundy. This wine is at a peak of complexity now, but has years ahead of it, say 3 12 years at least. There is a certain magic in this wine achieving the top place. In theory one might expect Gibbston to produce the most exciting and burgundian wines in Otago, wines closer to the Cote de Nuits in style, since it is one of the cooler districts there. All too often though, the wines of the Gibbston district fall a little short. This wine is a wonderful achievement, which we as a pinot noir producing country can be immensely proud of. I am unable to account for my remarkably different rating for this wine now, compared with a bottle three (only) years ago. Mild reduction does gradually marry away, but the interval does not seem long enough to account for the difference. Perhaps even with screwcap, there can be some variation from bottle to bottle, for example depending on the level in the tank from which the wine is being drawn / first bottled vs last bottled, etc. [ Since writing this, I have experienced two totally different bottles of the same 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, one somewhat reduced, one perfect. Wine varies so much from bottle to bottle, even to a degree under screwcap, it is hard to be sure of any assertion. ] GK 06/17
Classic pinot noir ruby showing a little more age than the Gibbston wine, in the middle of the second-deepest quarter of the wines. Bouquet here is quite different from the Gibbston wine, but equally a wonderful expression of floral and fragrant pinot noir from the Cote de Nuits, lilac, buddleia and pink hedge-rose florals on all-red fruits, oak again perfect. Palate is limpid, succulent even, all the mouthfeel of fine burgundy, a truly international wine. The cropping rate and dry extract here are of grand cru quality. As befits a warmer viticultural zone in the Otago district, fruit analogies here are more red cherry dominated, again wonderful length and beautifully judged oak. The whole wine shows Chambolle-Musigny analogies. Intriguing that given the reputation the Bendigo sub-district has for being the warmest part of Otago (for grapes), the actual number of degree days vis-a-vis Bannockburn is virtually the same. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Quite deep pinot noir, with less age showing than (for example) the 2012 Moutere, in the top half-dozen for depth. Bouquet is understated and complex, opening up with air to reveal an attractive integration of red and black cherry fruit with cedary cooperage, all made fragrant with dusky dark red rose florals. As it breathes it develops a Gevrey-Chambertin quality and complexity reminiscent of the Valli Gibbston. Palate is neat, rich and taut, demonstrating a perfect point of picking, the whole wine surprisingly youthful, not yet mature, with further promise lying ahead. The more you taste it, the better it gets. This is exemplary firm Central Otago pinot noir, offering no evidence whatsoever to those who wish to detract from the districts pinot achievements by referring to them as fruit bombs. Rather, there is a fine Gevrey-Chambertin quality to this wine. Cellar 3 12 years, maybe longer. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, a little older / more oak-affected than the village wine. Bouquet is intriguing, a hint of a thyme-like aromatic as if it were from Otago, understated red rose florals melding with red and black cherry fruit, and sophisticated oak. It is not giving much away on bouquet at this stage, you have to work at it. Palate is neat and nearly as taut as the Verismo, attractive rich cherry flavours more in anticipation than revealed, the oak to a max but the fruit should wrap it up in time. A cellar wine par excellence, relative to the more accessible village wine. Cellar 5 12 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby of some depth, inseparable from the Gibbston Vineyard wine or maybe faintly younger, at the head of the second quarter of the 57 wines for depth. Again, the bouquet demonstrates all that one could ask for in one phase of precise pinot noir varietal definition. It shows a sensuous floral dimension centred on the buddleia / lilac / pink hedge-rose / violets spectrum, wonderfully fragrant, on red fruits. Palate extends the red cherry flavours, the wine slightly more tannic than the top two, and showing a little more maturity. Oak might be fractionally high, but only relative to the perfection of the top two. Nicely mature now, it will hold 3 8 years easily. GK 06/17
Quite deep pinot noir ruby with a little garnet showing, near the top of the second quarter for depth. Initially opened, the bouquet is quiet. It opens up in glass with swirling (or decanting), to show complex mature pinot aromas with dusky rose florals, red grading to black fruits, and a little more emphasis on cedary oak elevation than the wines rated more highly. Palate confirms the last point, the wine being markedly more cedary than the Valli wines. Length of cherry fruit on palate is beautifully extended on the cedar. There is no hint of the 2012 cold-year stalkyness that affected Martinborough in this vintage. Sophisticated wine but with oak to a max, approaching full maturity, cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Big pinot noir ruby, the third deepest wine. I am a bit worried about some of the Escarpment wines this year, as the double-blinded wines progressively revealed themselves. This wine too smells first and foremost of this nutmeg-spicy new French oak, which is not the first impression I want in pinot noir. I wonder if Larry and Huw have barrels from a new cooper, this year. Below are suggestions of red grading to black cherry, but it is hard to find. So you check the palate, where the impression is much better. There is vibrant cherry fruit of excellent concentration, and the oak retreats a little, thankfully, to give a wine of much better balance than Kupe. Less experienced tasters love oak, so expect these wines to be ranked highly by those who don't refer to the wines of Burgundy very often. In fact fruit richness here is exemplary, on reflection, and new oak does marry in with time, so this wine should come together attractively over the next five years, and score more highly then. Todays score anticipates that. If you wanted to be mischievous, the fruit richness here almost qualifies as an Otago fruit-bomb. Cellar 5 18 years. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, in the second quarter for depth. This wine has a big bouquet, big fragrant red cherry fruit in more distinctive oak than any of the wines marked more highly. The oak is quite spicy, almost a nutmeg suggestion. One would not want it any stronger. Palate shows a beautiful fruit / oak interaction, reminding of the Villa Maria wine but less subtle (at this early stage). They make a fascinating side-by-side comparison, being so different. I imagine a floral dimension will emerge, as the oak integrates: there is certainly potential here. Cellar 3 10 years, with interest. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, a little age showing, in the second quarter for depth. Bouquet is clear-cut pinot noir, fragrant but not clearly floral, lovely vibrant red cherry fruit, subtle oak. Palate shows more oak and a hint of spice, elegant and highly varietal cherry fruit, long, dry, the fruit sustained right through the cedary finish. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Quite big pinot noir ruby, in the first quarter for depth. Freshly opened this one is oaky too, but it breathes up more quickly than some of the Escarpments, such that dusky rose florals on black cherry fruit can be said to dominate the bouquet. Palate is a little cooler and leaner than Te Rehua, with the oak thus more noticeable. Here though this oak is not overtly nutmeggy, being more regular in style. This has the building blocks to become fragrant Martinborough pinot in five years. Cellar 5 15 years. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, in the second quarter for depth. Initially opened, there is a reticence, a faint muskiness, which quickly dispels with swirling / decanting. The wine opens to fragrant red grading to black cherry pinot noir, suggestions of dusky rose florals but not as explicit as the top wines, some new oak. Palate immediately reveals more oak, so the initial musky note on bouquet is probably just the hessian of new French oak, yet to marry in. There is a fair weight of cherry fruit on palate, oak maybe to a max, the whole winestyle more Cote de Beaune than Cote de Nuits. This may mark higher, once married up. It is both richer and riper than the standard 2014 Grasshopper, but ideally it needs a little more richness still. It is a first trial for a future Reserve wine, only 64 cases made, not generally sold but available on request. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, the lightest of the first quarter / darkest bracket. Bouquet is quiet but satisfying, the more you explore it, the more it reveals. The floral component is roses and violets, sweet but subtle, on an attractively harmonious cherry / oak interaction. Both lead into an almost ideal palate ripeness and weight for affordable pinot noir, with much more sophisticated oak handling than the floral but simpler wines such as the Gunn Reserve. Total style reminds of Pommard. One is getting much of the quality of the Villa Maria Reserve pinots here at half the price. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Quite big pinot noir ruby, in the first quarter for depth. Bouquet is big by pinot noir standards, quite a meaty even burly approach to pinot noir, fragrant but not really floral, more plummy than cherry, a lot of oak, a bigger winestyle altogether. Palate confirms bouquet, a rich solid wine reminding of Gigondas as much as pinot noir, the later palate a little tannic and drying. It is not a winestyle you associate with Olly Masters. It is appreciably fresher and cooler than the hotter-year 2009 from Wooing Tree, but they make an interesting comparison, side by side. Ollys wines stay youthful a surprisingly long time, like the wines of Burgundy, so this is only now showing some maturity. Expect it to lighten up and be more lissome once the tannins crust in bottle. Notwithstanding the lack of precise pinot noir beauty, this is an attractive mouth-filling wine. Cellar 3 10 years. GK 06/17
Big pinot noir ruby, some age showing, markedly deeper than the other Valli wines, the deepest wine of the 57 pinot noirs, in fact. This is a very hard wine to describe, it presenting a confusing mix of characters. In one way it smells both riper and oakier than the other Valli wines, yet there is a clear aromatic herbes note too. There are therefore reminders of (for example) Gigondas. But there is also a tell-tale fragrant stalky note, which grows on the palate, and detracts a little. With the rich fruit and slightly leathery flavour notes too, you end up wondering if there were raisined bunches as well as under-ripe ones, or maybe a significant whole-bunch component [ later, there is in fact less whole-bunch than the others ]. It is an interesting rich wine which will be great with food, but it is not exemplary Otago pinot noir in the way the other three are. You cant help feeling that the district is marginally too cool for great pinot noir, even though the total degree days are not much less than the Gibbston site. But, in the better years, the Gibbston Valley succeeds triumphantly. This would be analogous to ideal sites in Switzerland, vs the Cote de Nuits. The Waitaki Valley does seem to be the most challenging vineyard area in Otago. Cellar 5 12 years. GK 06/17
Big pinot noir ruby, the second deepest wine. This is an unusual wine, leading with a clear savoury herbes aromatic note immediately suggesting thyme and Central Otago, followed by prominent citrus-skin oak as often encountered in Riojas. Thus the wine is fragrant, but on a bouquet which is not immediately pinot noir varietal. Palate straightens things up a good deal, revealing supple red grading to black cherry fruit of some richness and length, the oak sweet, very fragrant, and soft so it does not intrude on the palate as much as the bouquet suggests it will. This is distinctive wine for the long haul, but unusual with reference to either Burgundy or New Zealand. It fits in with a tempranillo Pomal style from Rioja, or Ribera del Duero. Hence I have some reservations in scoring it highly. McKenna regards Kupe as his flagship wine. Cellar 5 15 years. GK 06/17
Colour is very close to but minutely deeper than the 2014 Reserve, suggesting that it had a little less time in barrel. Bouquet is a little simpler too, attractive lilac and rose florals in the Grasshopper style, fractionally less oak and maybe the fruit not quite so ripe as the 2014 Grasshopper Reserve, but clear red grading to black cherry pinot noir fruit. Palate is a good example of Otago pinot noir, as the Grasshopper so often is, with lovely fruit sweetness to the tail. Cellar 3 8 years. This 2014 Grasshopper is an attractive return to form, after two lighter years. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, a little age showing, at the tail end of the second quarter, for depth. Bouquet is fresh red grading to black cherry fruit, fragrant and varietal but not exactly floral, delicate oak. Palate follows beautifully, an attractive impression of dusky florality through the fruit, a good balance of berry to subtle oak, a trace of leaf to the tail (hence the freshness), the finish lingering well. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, a little age to the edge, in the fourth quarter for depth. Bouquet is lightly fragrant and floral again in a pink hedge-rose way, not smelling quite as oaky as the Block B wine, with red cherry fruit. Palate likewise has slightly more emphasis on red cherry fruit, the whole wine a little fresher than the Block B (or less oaky). It has quite a serious Volnay style to it. Though seemingly a light wine, fruit length is long and pleasing in mouth, noticeably burgundian. This is a deceptively easy wine to drink: it should be attractive with lighter foods. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
A beautiful pinot noir ruby, just in the top quarter for depth. Bouquet is wonderfully varietal, highly floral spanning the full range of buddleia / lilac to rose perfumes, on red grading to black fruits of appealing depth. Palate follows through with an emphasis on red and black cherry fruit, but less sophisticated oak elevation than the Valli wines. It is all fresh and vibrant in mouth, with a trace of pepper, but not the richness of the wines marked more highly. Even so, I have not tasted a Halo pinot noir of this depth before: it is as if Sacred Hill has access to new Marlborough vineyards on the older terraces, with their significantly higher clay content. This is lovely wine at an affordable price, demonstrating just how far forward pinot noir progress is in Marlborough. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, in the fourth quarter for depth. Initially opened the wine is mute. Decant it. It opens to a beautiful expression of dusky red rose florality on red grading to black cherry fruit, smelling supple and lightly oaked. Palate is in perfect harmony with the bouquet, the florals extending right into the flavour, giving a sensuous charm to the cherry fruit. Subtlety of oaking is great. This is not a big wine, but it falls into a darker Volnay style, highly varietal. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Ruby and some garnet, markedly older in appearance than the 2010 Verismo. Bouquet shows a complex interaction of red and black cherry fruit all browning now, with quite a lot of cedary oak marrying in, introducing a brown tobacco note like maturing bordeaux, unusual. Palate is slightly acid, quite rich, and cedary again, showing a lot of elevation complexity, unusual but not unknown in Burgundy. There have been odd Clos de Tarts like this, wines lacking noticeable florality. Scoring for this wine would vary wildly, in a group of tasters. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, a little age, near the top of the fourth quarter in depth. This is another in the wonderfully floral buddleia and lilac camp, with red cherry fruit little complexed by elevation. As a consequence the floral notes again go right through the red fruits palate, like the 2015 Gunn, but the finish is longer and richer in this wine. A good example of a pretty pinot noir, Volnay style. Cellar 2 5 years. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, some age showing, in the third quarter for depth. Bouquet is attractively fragrant and floral, clear red roses and red grading to black cherry fruit, highly varietal. Palate is slightly less, a slight edge of stalk giving a vibrant freshness to the flavour considering its age, since the wine is at full maturity. Attractively food-friendly. Will hold for several years. GK 06/17
Big pinot noir ruby, in the first quarter for weight of colour. I was asked to re-review this wine, since I had reservations about the first tasting, whereas it has been endorsed enthusiastically by others, both at home and overseas. Accordingly I waited till I had a batch of pinots big enough for it to be totally hidden in. Bouquet is complex, fragrant, a trace of aromatic herbes, some dusky rose florals, on black rather than red cherry fruit. Flavour is a mix of characters unusual for premium pinot noir, some pruney over-ripe notes, but also some stalky under-ripe ones, all a little acid to the tail. The nett balance is not fine pinot. Perhaps there was a whole-bunch component [ no ]. Palate is concentrated and long-flavoured in its style, quite tannic, the pinot charm of the Valli wines (for example) not so apparent here. It has the richness to cellar 5 12 years, and may harmonise. The point here is, if the cropping rate is reduced for an ultra-premium wine, there is the risk that any defects in the fruit such as under-ripeness may be more apparent in the finished wine. GK 06/17
Big pinot noir ruby, fractionally deeper than the Brothers wine, in the top six of the 57, for depth. Bouquet is darkly floral, on black rather than red cherry fruits, clean and fragrant. Palate reverses that impression, the fruit flavours and characteristics now seeming more red cherry, with less oak and less concentration than the Brothers wine, but the fruit profile a little more harmonious, even though total acid seems fractionally higher. There are hints of mixed ripeness here, too. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, some age showing, in the fourth quarter for depth of colour. Bouquet is sweet, ripe, lightly floral, clearly fragrant and varietal red fruits pinot noir. Palate shows red cherry, interesting oak with just a trace of Spanish flavours, the whole wine supple and charming with good balance and reasonable concentration. Cellar 2 5 years. GK 06/17
Elegant lighter and fresh pinot noir ruby, closer in depth to many Burgundy producers, in the middle of the third quarter for depth. Nothing light about the bouquet however, which shows an intensity of Chambolle-Musigny-like floral and rose notes which is attractive, on red grading to black cherry fruit. Palate is attractive, showing more sophisticated oak handling than the Halo wine but not the ripeness and depth of the Valli trio, with good length, but a trace of leaf. Even so, this is a wine to win disbelievers over to the merits of new-generation Marlborough pinot noir, even when not grown on the older soils. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Ruby, some age showing, in the third quarter for depth. Bouquet shows an attractive melding of red cherry fruit and a touch of thyme with fragrant cedary oak, at a first peak of maturity. Palate is neat, taut, ripe all through in a red cherry way, an attractive but noticeably lighter Otago pinot noir maturing well. On checking, I am unable to reconcile this tasting result with my previous review in 2015, other than to note that a very few overseas reviewers of critical repute do report markedly differing scores for the same wine, over time. Cork of course explains some of them, but not in this case. Cellar 2 5 years. GK 06/17
Fresh quite weighty pinot noir ruby, even a touch of carmine, in the top half-dozen for weight of colour, just within bounds. Bouquet shares some of the dusky rose florals of the Valli Gibbston, but without the complexity of elevation that wine shows. Likewise the palate is simpler than that wine, but nonetheless it shows good pinot noir aroma and black cherry flavours, in a noticeably fleshy wine of pleasant balance and length, but much simpler elevation. This wine is a perfect example of the soft so-called Otago fruit-bomb style of pinot noir. It is made this way intentionally, for its market. As noted earlier, this style does not characterise the region. Like the Valli Gibbston, this wine too has absorbed trace reduction since release. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, near the top of the fourth quarter, for weight. Bouquet shows lilac and buddleia florals on all-red fruits and berry, neatly balanced by light oak. Palate is similar, good ripeness, the wine lacking a little in concentration of flavour, but no stalky notes. It is surprisingly like the 2013 Grasshopper, from Alexandra illustrating yet again the perils of glib generalisations about regional winestyles. A fragrant food wine. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Big pinot noir ruby and garnet, in the first quarter for depth of colour. Bouquet suggests a hot year, rich, ripe and a little roasted, no florals exactly but attractively fragrant, another wine to remind of Gigondas. Palate is rich, concentrated, still some black cherry in the plummy fruit, so not as ripe as the bouquet suggests, but nonetheless burly for pinot noir. It is all a little oaky and tannic. Fully mature now, but will hold for some years. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, some age showing, in the second quarter for depth. Initially opened, this wine shows an herbes aromatic quality almost to excess, but it breathes off quickly. Bouquet is then rich, ripe, and oaky, tending leathery, losing pinot noir charm. Palate shows a firmer wine than the 2009 Sandstorm, not quite as rich, black cherry and plummy fruit, quite a lot of oak, certainly oaky by Burgundy standards. This too is fully mature, but will hold 2 6 years. There is a risk of the wine ending up oaky to excess. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, some age to the edge, in the third quarter for depth. Bouquet is fragrant but not really floral, more an interaction of berry and oak browning slightly now. Palate has more to say, an attractive blending of supple pinot noir red and black cherry fruit browning a little now with cedary oak, the wine showing better concentration than many of this apparent weight. Nett impression is quite Cote de Beaune. Cellar 2 5 years. GK 06/17
Lighter and older pinot noir ruby, the second to lightest wine in the 57. Bouquet is unusual for an Otago pinot noir, being light and ethereal such that blind you think it an older wine from the younger Wairau Valley alluviums. It is very fragrant in an integrated pinot noir red fruits browning now style, older redcurrant jelly maybe, not exactly floral, not much apparent oak. Palate is soft, light and pale but not weak (i.e. good concentration), like an old Rioja in a way, showing some soft slightly citrussy oak. There is no hint of leaf at all. Easy drinking indeed, but tasting like a wine much older than its date. Unusual. Hold a year or three only. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, a little age showing, in the third quarter for depth. Bouquet is in the lighter fresher New Zealand pinot style, buddleia and lilac florals, a hint of leaf, on redcurrant grading to red cherry fruit. Palate however shows better fruit than some in this lighter class, and better ripeness than the bouquet promised. Cedary oak is attractively in balance to the fruit, lengthening the flavour without dominating it. Fully mature now, will hold several years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, midway in depth, in the third quarter for depth of colour. Bouquet is lightly buddleia floral and fragrant, on red fruits, reminiscent of a Volnay style. Palate continues the bouquet harmoniously, fair fruit weight, a suggestion of aromatics reminiscent of Otago thyme, with reasonable ripeness and balance initially, but a little leafy and short to the finish. This is more a careful example of the earlier Marlborough pinot style, than an example of the deeper pinot noirs some producers are now achieving on the older soils. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, a little development showing, towards the head of the third quarter, in depth. Bouquet is distinctive in this fragrant wine, showing spicy oak influences with a little brett at the complexity level, on red grading to black cherry fruit. Palate has good berry, both red and black cherry suggestions, with noticeable fruit richness to the tail, marrying with the oak. This will be a very food-friendly wine, as it softens. Cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, in the second quarter for depth. Bouquet is another on the less complex elevation side, but scores highly for its precise pinot noir varietal character. There are faintly leafy buddleia and pink rose florals which are almost 'sweet' (in the sense of a rose like 'Peace'), on red cherry fruit. Because there is less elevation, the florals go right through the palate in a most enchanting way. Maybe the wine is not ideally ripe and concentrated, but at the price it offers fair pinot noir character. Cellar 2 – 6 years. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, some development showing, in the fourth quarter for depth of colour. Bouquet is classically pink roses floral pinot noir in an understated but pure way, on light red fruits. Palate shows better fruit richness than the bouquet suggests, redcurrant grading to red cherry fruit, beautiful ripeness in its light style with no hint of leaf, the fruit lingering right through to the long finish on subtlest oak. This is a real Volnay style. In its light charming way, it speaks more of pinot noir than the 2013 Moutere, at this moment. Cellar 2 5 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, the first in the third quarter, in depth. Bouquet is fresh, with lightly floral buddleia and lilac on red cherry fruit. Palate follows well, good red fruits, appropriate ripeness, not a lot of elevation complexity, but all clearly varietal and attractive in the lighter Marlborough style. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Lightish older pinot noir ruby, in the fourth quarter for depth. In the blind tasting, as one jockeys the wines back and forth to achieve a ranking from the highest-scored glass to the least, I had this wine and the 2011 Wooing Tree Reserve alongside each other, thinking them clearly closely related, though one a bit older. Interesting, re those who are convinced that Otago wines stand out. Bouquet here is again redcurrant jelly, lightly pink roses floral, attractive in a light way, all mellowed by oak relative to the standard 2013. Palate is the same, light favours but not weak or lacking concentration, a little younger and fresher than the 2011 Sandstorm, but extraordinarily similar. Lovely wines for lighter main courses, poultry etc, again in a maturing Volnay style. Cellar 2 4 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, in the third quarter for depth. Bouquet shows similar buddleia florals to the 2015 Gunn Reserve, on red cherry fruits, but all a little cooler, with a suggestion of redcurrant as well as red cherry. Redcurrant thoughts follow through to palate, the flavours fragrant red fruits but all a little light and cool, not exactly stalky but a hint of leaf, offset by the wine not seeming bone dry. Refreshing wine for lighter foods. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, in the third quarter for depth. Bouquet is sweetly fragrant, ripe, lightly floral on red cherry fruit, clearly pinot noir in an unsophisticated style. Palate is a little less, all red fruits, subtle oak, pleasant mouthfeel but a little short to the finish, also a stalky note scarcely apparent on bouquet. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, in the fourth quarter for depth. Bouquet is lightly floral in a fading pink roses style, on fragrant red cherries only, light oak. It is all a bit quiet, on bouquet. Palate shows a good deal more concentration than the bouquet suggests, and more oak too, but the wine is old for its age and not overtly varietal. It is unusual by the standards of Neudorf's Moutere Pinot, and bears little relation at all to the 2012 in this tasting. Finish is tending tannic on the oak, without pinot flavour to wrap it up. Has the substance to cellar 3 8 years, and may soften. The wine may just be in an awkward phase. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, a little age showing, at the tail end of the second quarter, for depth. Bouquet is light, sweetly floral in a buddleia and pink roses way, all red fruits. Palate is equally fragrant, fruit beautifully balanced to light oak, all red cherry flavours, not totally bone dry to the finish, an ideal introductory pinot noir. Cellar 2 5 years. GK 06/17
Quite big pinot noir ruby, in the second quarter for depth. Bouquet is complex in a familiar New Zealand pinot style, smelling quite rich so maybe a lower cropping rate, rather than simply a proposed Reserve wine given more oak. The problem is, if ripeness is imperfect, both steps increase the likelihood of leafy notes. It is a knife edge between leafy and floral, and many commentators do not differentiate. Thus this wine has a good volume of mature red cherry fruit browning now, plus faded leafy florals which were of the buddleia kind, and noticeable oak. Palate is long flavoured and supple, richer than the standard Riverby, the oak of good quality and cedary, but the flavours include a stalky note. The wine could be marked higher by those favouring leafy pinot noirs, in the way the Brits mark up green capsicum sauvignons rather than the red capsicum smells and flavours New Zealanders favour. Fully mature, drying just a little. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, at the lighter end of the third quarter for depth. Bouquet is light too, in the blind line-up smelling like a lightly red-fruited pinot noir from young Wairau Valley floor gravels, rather than the deeper darker wines now being developed on the older more inland terraces. There are light pink rose florals, red currants, pomegranate and red cherries only on bouquet. Palate is a little richer than the bouquet suggests, implying care with the cropping rate, with fresh red fruits right through shaped by subtle oak, just a hint of leaf. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, in the fourth quarter for depth. This is another wine in the light fragrant buddleia florals and redcurrant / red cherry fruit style, but with a clear suggestion of leaf. Palate adds a hint of raspberry to the redcurrant and red cherry, medium concentration, subtle oaking, but clearly leafy now, all a little cool. Pleasant medium pinot, to cellar 3 8 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, in the third quarter for depth. Bouquet is simple clean pinot noir in the sub-optimally ripe camp, florals at the buddleia level only, on redcurrant grading to red cherry fruit, fresh and youthful. Palate matches, redcurrant and pomegranate fruit as well as red cherry, all light and fresh, just escaping being leafy, with light cedary oak in good balance to the style. There may be a couple of grams of residual to the short finish, but otherwise it inclines to a Savigny-les-Beaune winestyle. Shorter term cellar, 2 5 years. GK 06/17
Pinot noir ruby, at the tail end of the second quarter, for depth. Bouquet is clearly buddleia / lilac florals in the lighter Marlborough style of pinot noir, pleasant red fruits, a little leafy as is so often associated with buddleia florals. Palate is refreshing red cherry pinot noir but with some leafy notes, not a lot of concentration or oak complexity, simply an attractive quaffing pinot noir, drier to the finish than some others in this family of wines. They collectively provide an affordable entry / introduction to the charms of the grape. Cellar 2 5 years. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, some age showing, in the second quarter for depth. This is another wine where, notwithstanding good colour, the varietal quality of the bouquet is let down by a clear leafy / stalky edge. The leafyness almost obscures light buddleia florality. Palate is better, a pleasant concentration of red cherry fruit, light oak in balance. Finish seems not bone dry, but that is offset by the freshness of the stalky note. Cellar a year or two yet. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby, in the third quarter for depth. This wine has an attractive floral dimension in the buddleia / lilac spectrum, on faintly aromatic red fruits including a hint of pomegranates as well as redcurrant and red cherry. But there is a suggestion of leafy stalk too, which one needs to check on palate. Flavour is pleasantly fruited, fresh and vibrant red fruits as for bouquet, subtly oaked, but this wine is more stalky than the Sacred Hill Reserve, the finish not quite bone dry. This family of commercial pinot noirs from Sacred Hill (Orange Label, Reserve, and Halo; Gunn Estate and Gunn Estate Reserve; Wild South) provides a great introduction to pinot noir the variety at an affordable price. More expensive wines are not necessarily any more varietal, but usually show more oak, greater depth and richness, and should cellar longer. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Good pinot noir ruby, in the second quarter for depth of colour. Bouquet shows clear-cut fragrant pinot noir varietal character, lilac and pink roses florals, on red grading to black cherry fruit. The wine is berry dominant, very little evidence of oak elevation at all. Palate continues the fruit-forward simple style, some Marlborough leafyness, again little oak, and a gram or two residual to the tail. Very much an easy quaffing winestyle. Cellar 2 6 years. GK 06/17
Big pinot noir ruby, some age showing, in the darkest quarter. Initially opened, this wine has an odd smoked fish note. It needs decanting, whereupon it opens up considerably. This wine does show the qualities people like to characterise all Central Otago wines by, namely fragrant ripe quite big plummy even fleshy fruit on both bouquet and palate. Flavour is indeed long and fleshy, soft new oak in one sense yet at the same time all a bit tannic. Though plump, there are some black fruit notes taking away some charm, and leaving a slight bitterness. Fully mature now, hold a year or two. In comparison with this example, some of the lighter wines are in fact more pretty and pinot noir varietal. GK 06/17
Older pinot noir ruby, in the third quarter for depth. Bouquet is fragrant but in a leafy way, the under-ripe notes curtailing light buddleia florals. Fruit analogies are redcurrants grading to pale red cherries, all browning somewhat now. Like the 2007, the palate retains surprisingly good fruit, the flavours akin to the bouquet, the fruit sweetness making you wonder if there are a couple of grams residual. These green-edged pinots do not score well as varietal wines, but nonetheless they work quite well with lighter foods. Fully mature, again will hold a year or two. GK 06/17
Lightish pinot noir ruby and garnet, the first wine in the fourth quarter for depth of colour. Bouquet has the characteristic leafy edge to the buddleia florals which so many wines from the floor of the Wairau Valley show. Red cherry fruit is browning now, all lightly oaked. Palate retains good fruit and a mature flavour, the fruit sweetness suggesting a fairly serious cropping rate, but there is a gram or two residual as well. It is a little leafier than the 2010. Fully mature, but will hold a year or two yet. GK 06/17
Light pinot noir ruby, the third to lightest wine of the fourth (lightest) quarter. Bouquet is youthful, pure, light at this stage but with the promise of light buddleia / lilac florals to come, on all red fruits, redcurrant and pomegranate grading to red cherry. Palate is a little cooler, but nearly avoids the green tinge in the earlier vintages of this label. It does not seem ideally concentrated to taste, but analysis shows it is in fact one of the richer ones. It should therefore score more highly by the time it is released. Cellar 2 6 years, to soften. GK 06/17