Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

The third Pinot Noir Conference in Wellington,  New Zealand (29 January – 1 February,  2007) was an outstanding success.  The true pinot style our best wines demonstrated was exhilarating to see,  and made one feel (even vicariously) very proud.  What great strides our pinots have made,  since the first 2001 Pinot Noir Conference !  It seems certain our pinots are now achieving greater complexity and consistency than Oregon,  long famous (outside France) for its achievements with the grape.  And if France / Burgundy at its upper levels still provides the yardstick in pinot noir,  our better wines not only capture some of their magic,  but also put a New Zealand spin onto the style.  In general that can be summarised as a relative fleshiness and juiciness of our pinots relative to the French prototype,  which is particularly evident in many Central Otago wines.  The issue we haven't sussed yet is how to make our pinots cellar-worthy (20 years,  not 10),  but admittedly that concerns few people these days.

Numbers enrolled for the 2007 Conference were approximately 455 for the complete event,  which is roughly twice as many as the 2004 Conference,  which in turn was more than the inaugural 2001 Conference. Delegates came from 16 countries,  with fully one third of them from overseas.  Greatest representation was from America (60,  California the majority but at least 12 different states,  fewer from Oregon than might have been hoped),  followed by Australia (36),  Canada (21),  United Kingdom (20),  Japan and Italy (4 each),  France and Singapore (3 each),  Brazil (2),  then Germany,  Hong Kong,  Ireland,  Malaysia,  Netherlands and Taiwan with single representatives.

One highlight of the tastings was the organisers' foresight in adopting 2003 as the key vintage to display New Zealand's achievement with the variety so far.  The wines were showing beautifully,  just starting on their plateau of optimal maturity.  2003 was arguably our finest vintage yet for pinot noir in New Zealand,  producing greater varietal character than the sometimes over-ripe 2002s in some districts.  2004 tended less ripe and harmonious.  2005 shows nearly as much promise as 2003,  which added great interest to the Producers' Tasting,  reported on in Pt II of this report.  One  interesting sidelight on the selected 2003 vintage is that Jancis Robinson published a comprehensive report on 120-odd New Zealand 2003s on 17 March 2005,  @ Purple Pages http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/tasting050317  She made no bones about the fact she was adopting a non-burgundy pitch for her scores,  but as always,  the words and relative rankings are more the heart of the matter.  It is great to have a completely different slant on our wines,  and I have quoted some of her observations,  in wines common to the two events.  Jancis concluded her introduction to the New Zealand pinot tastings thus:  So what are the wines like? In general I find them lighter and more refreshing than most California Pinots (no-one ever accused New Zealand wines of being short of acidity); strangely, in view of the relative rarity of Dijon clones in NZ so far, more burgundian than Oregon's; and much, much more forward and simple than the best red burgundy.  

Scope of report:  My goal in this pair of reviews is not so much to report on the Conference,  per se.  Already Terry Dunleavy has achieved a miracle of modern publishing,  by including his first impressions,  amounting to an astonishing eight (part) pages,  of the Proceedings in the already-published and distributed WineGrower 10(4),  February/March 2007.  This is the New Zealand wine industry's official A4-sized trade journal,  and the issue is a 92-page one.  How Dunleavy had this on members' desks 14 days after the Conference concluded is mind-boggling.  All credit to the man.  Likewise Wellington's main newspaper had a very perceptive shorter summary of the achievements of the Conference relative to the earlier ones,  from wine-writer Warren Barton.  This was in the enclosed weekend Indulgence section of the Dominion Post,  for Saturday Feb. 10.  Both these long-experienced people were seriously impressed.

The layout and content of the Conference,  and full details of the speakers,  is available at:  www.pinotnoir2007.co.nz   Better still,  a full audio record of the Proceedings has now been added,  to the Programme pages.  So one can get a really first-rate impression of some of the Proceedings.  What this doesn't easily convey is the extraordinary buzz there was amongst delegates and organisers alike.  The combination of formal Proceedings,  extensive Tastings,  and an even more extensive social programme involving some of Wellington's finest caterers and restaurants,  seemed to please all parties.

My review of the Proceedings will focus on the Tastings.  The report will be split into two.  Part I,  this one,  will cover the formal tastings in the Conference,  first by outlining where each wine fitted in to the Programme (though this is also available at the Conference website),  and then scheduling and describing all the wines in one rank order.  The order reflects solely my perceptions of the wines,  not the Conference as a whole.  The audio reveals much of what the panellists thought about the wines in the flights they sat on,  but it is fair to note that sometimes the panellists did not talk much about the actual wines in front of them.  Additionally,  I have skimmed much but not all of the audio,  to clarify my recollection of useful observations and thoughts about pinot noir,  which various speakers put before the Conference (see below).

Part II (a separate report) will schedule some only of the wines presented to delegates in the magnificent 100 Pinot Noir Producers' Tastings,  in which 100 New Zealand pinot producers offered samplings of their pinot noir wines.  I have concentrated there on the 2005 vintage,  as the cellar-worthy successor to 2003.  On average each stand had perhaps 3 wines on show,  often including a preview of the 2006 vintage from barrel.  The presentation of these Exhibitors' Tastings was superb.  The full set of wines was available to all delegates for two sessions during the Proceedings,  and there was also a sell-out public tasting on the third night.  This repetition of the tasting allowed overseas wine-writers a real chance to come to grips with the wines (to the extent one can, on the hoof).

THOUGHTS ON PINOT (mostly),  from the Proceedings:
( variously paraphrased:  mostly checked on the audio)

#   [ On - Why Pinot Noir ?]  What I love about pinot noir is that it demonstrably and magnificently does not fit into into the modern style of over-extracted,  over-oaked and miserably over-worked wine that seems to pass in connoisseur circles as great wine these days ... we live in an age of impatience,  an age which favours impact over quality,  style over substance ... of instant gratification ... [whereas] ... pinot noir is the antithesis of the age,  its greatest expressions lack immediacy,  rarely show weight,  are readily ruined by excessive oak or extraction,  and need time and effort to discern ... above all else pinot delivers infinite subtlety:  understatement,  refinement and delicacy are its calling cards ... this is the enduring fascination of pinot noir,  and that is why I love it.  Remington Norman,  PhD,  M.W,  author of The Great Domaines of Burgundy,  UK    
#   I try to listen to the story the wine is telling me,  to be sensitive to one element and another,  and also the relation to my conception of what is pinot noir.  Michel Bettane,  France
#   Pinot is all things to all people,  but above all else it must be beautiful.  Matthew Jukes, UK
#   Good pinot noir can be compared with the music of Mozart,  the ineffable elegance and poise,  the purity and appeal ...  Remington Norman,  UK
#   Pinot noir must avoid the Robert Parker syndrome,  that if big is good,  then bigger must be better ... quite a few pinots from New Zealand are over-worked and over-extracted ... they don't have to be inky-black to be great  ... [instead] pinot is all about the haunting finish,  the aftertaste,  the peacock's tail,  call it what you will.  It is a wine of finesse and incredible fragrance ... great pinot wherever it is made should have an elusive element to it which will have you swirling the glass again and again and again,  until you get to the point of almost being afraid to taste it,  because there have been so many wonderful things on the bouquet,  and you can't imagine learning anything more from the palate.  James Halliday,  Coldstream Vineyard,  Victoria
#   The single most important factor in pinot quality is yield,  much more than all the equipment.  Allen Meadows, USA
#   For pinot noir,  Burgundy is still the reference point,  though in one sense it is irrelevant.  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   For us French people,  floweryness in a pinot noir is a more noble aroma than fruit ... it is in the upper dimensions of the wine ...  Michel Bettane,  France
#   A great wine is always great,  from day one.  Allen Meadows,  quoting Matt Kramer,  USA
#   So often,  the Reserve label is not better wine,  just more oak.  Matthew Jukes,  UK
#   The Mt Difficulty Target Gully site is very important,  a potential grand cru for New Zealand.  Michel Bettane,  France
#   Pinot noir is a thin-skinned variety, for godsake ... don't try to raisin it or over-extract it ... the coarse tannins will accentuate.  Poh Tiong Ch'ng,  Singapore
#   Don't confuse concentration with extraction.  Concentration comes out of the vineyard,  it is viticulture ... extraction is what you do with those raw materials.  Allen Meadows,  USA  
#   ... the berry has no interest at all ... the interest is the yeast ... without the yeast there is no wine,  no wine civilisation,  and no discussion and no pleasure.  Michel Bettane,  France
#   Pinot noir:  no other winestyle encompasses the integrity of place as does pinot noir ... simply because very few places provide a natural home for this most capricious of varieties ...  Steve Smith,  NZ   (Conference Chairman)
#   New Zealand pinot noir ages 70% in the first 3 – 5 years,  and will then plateau for some years ...  Larry McKenna,  Escarpment Vineyard,  NZ
#   There is a tendency for the average American consumer to want to buy pinot noir,  but actually drink syrah or merlot-like wine.  Peter Godden,  AWRI,  Australia
#   I could listen to Jacques Lardiere [ winemaker,  Jadot ] all day long ... I don't always know what he is talking about ... but I shut my eyes and have this wonderful Frenchness flowing all over me ...  Oz Clarke,  UK
#   [ re clonal diversity or not ]  ... with pinot noir,  it is hard to feel you have your foot on a rock.  In Burgundy they often say,  you know what you start out with,  but in 10 years time,  how do you know ... they mutate so rapidly ... it is one more imponderable.  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   [ re clonal diversity or not ] ... we now have 11 clones planted,  and we are finding that the farming method is more influential than the actual clone ...  [ Blair Walter,  Felton Road,  NZ ]
#   [ re clonal diversity or not ] ... there is no free lunch,  if you get something you give up something,  and therefore I am of the belief that more clones are better than fewer clones,  and that over time it adds more consistency ... like rootstocks ... if you want productivity,  you don't get longevity ... it is a balance.  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   Whole bunch,  it is central to our style.  We know we would get a very different style if we de-stemmed,  but without it the wines lack something ...  James Halliday,  Coldstream Vineyard,  Victoria
#   In the Yarra Valley cool vintages are nine times out of ten the best ...  the character development of long slow ripening ... a lot of us are backing off hang time as a meaningful concept.  James Halliday,  Victoria
#   [ in tasting comparing four New Zealand vineyards ] ... it is terrific to see the evident house-style of each,  at such an early stage of development in New Zealand.  James Halliday,  Victoria
#   There is a tendency in California now to glorify pinots that are a little less subtle,  that are bigger,  and unfortunately they become cloying ... [whereas] ... the Martinborough wines have finesse ... relative to Otago they are already there,  consistent and magnificent wines.  Anthony Dias Blue,  USA
#   When you go to Burgundy,  it is the rare winemaker who goes on and on about the nose ... they may mention fruit but it is in passing ... what they are really after is mouthfeel and texture ...  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   The 2001 [ Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 ] is the odd man out,  and that is the one sealed with the out-dated closure ...  Matthew Jukes,  UK
#    These four vineyards [ Dry River,  Pegasus Bay,  Fromm,  Quartz Reef ] are all in the middle of telling a fantastic story:  the focus,  identity,  sense of place,  and sense of person ...  Oz Clarke,  UK
#   [ on the Dry River '03:]  ... a beautiful richness,  the thoughtful acidity,  and this distant grumble of stones that is so beautiful in the Martinborough wines ...  Oz Clarke,  UK
#   [ on the Fromm '96:]  ... like the grand bedroom of some baroque counter-reformation archbishop ... it's all dark stained oak,  heavy hangings,  and the odour of a brooding prelate lying sinfully wondering whether he had made the right career choice ...  Oz Clarke,  UK
#   [ on the Pegasus Bay wines:]  ... this marvellous mix of the sensuous,  the intellectual,  and the athletic ...  Oz Clarke,  UK
#   [ on Emerson's beer:]   Rudi introduced me to Emerson's beer ... and having frequently gone to Australia and looked in vain for a decent pint,  you then come to New Zealand and find this country is becoming rampant with good pints ... and it starts way down in the frozen south.  Oz Clarke,  UK
#   [ on Quartz Reef Bendigo Estate '02:]  ... a soft yet mineral and wonderful richness of red fruit – not black,  as dense as red can be without getting into black – beautifully done.  Oz Clarke,  UK
#   The No 6 [ 2003 Mt Difficulty Target Gully ] for me is a great wine,  because he has complexity,  everything is integrated,  the body has refinement,  the tannins are more complex,  the evolution is there ... this is a great place to make pinot noir ... I like very much the style.  Michel Bettane,  France
#   [ on the Arcadian '02 ]  ... the siren alluring me onto the rocks is the 75% whole cluster,  it's a wine component I enjoy,  and therefore I am seduced by it more than I should be.  James Halliday,  Victoria
#   A light wine can be a very very nice wine,  so long as it is not thin ...  Poh Tiong Ch'ng,  Singapore
#   ... classic burgundian wine,  power without weight ...  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   Stems ... add a certain noblesse to the aroma,  you get this floral content ... as in DRC,  in Dujac or Arlot ... when deftly used they give you an extra sense of complexity both aromatically and on the palate ... but,  they reduce early accessibility,  they add longevity,  you have to cellar for longer.  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   I think Matt Kramer is the single best wine-writer around today ...  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   ... to be a good writer about wine,  it requires an imagination ... even if I don't like what I see in the glass today,  what might I see with time ...  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   It is absolutely evident between the Chambertin and the Mt Difficulty Target Gully,  these two wines are from the same family ... there is no sense to say New Zealand pinot noir ... it is a great individual expression of pinot noir ...  Michel Bettane,  France
#   To convince the public that New Zealand makes not good but great pinot noir,  ultimately the wineries will have to invest in putting aside vintages ... there is no point in saying your wines are great unless you have the living evidence of vertical tastings of 10 or so vintages ... that is the only way to show people you have great wines.  That is why the old world is so successful.  Poh Tiong Ch'ng,  Singapore
#   [ on the '03 Chambertin ]  I really dislike oak,  as a general proposition.  Generally I am of the view that less is more.  Ultimately I like wines where the oak is essentially invisible ... it is not that you can pick it up on nose,  but if it affects texture ... [ in the Chambertin ]  it is not a longterm issue ... the terroir will show,  the oak will become invisible.  Allen Meadows,  USA
#   One of the great fascinations of pinot noir to me is the diversity of styles.  We must continue to protect that ... and to celebrate the individuality of the wines from our differing countries.  That is a central issue to increase recognition of pinot noir internationally.  John Comerford,  Tastings Convenor
#   This word tension or nervosité is an obvious cornerstone of the best pinot noir we make ... it is the opposite to big and sweet ... it is important not only to pinot noir,  but to wines that sit well with food ... that is New Zealand's wine future.  Steve Smith,  NZ  
#   In this Conference,  for pinot noir we have been imbued with a sense of confidence,  something we often lack as New Zealanders,  confidence to rely on what we have naturally:  elegance,  fruit complexity,  fantastic flavours,  and natural acidity.  And confidence to avoid the temptation to push the limits of extraction,  of size,  of alcohol and residual sweetness.  While there may be some short-term gain to score points with size,  this is not our place in the world.  Steve Smith,  NZ
#   With pinot noir,  you have achieved in 20 years what my country took 200 years to do ... but you need 25 years more ...  Michel Bettane,  France
#   My vision for New Zealand pinot noir is:  in my lifetime to see old vines on beautifully tended sites making great wines that can sit comfortably (not once,  but many times) alongside great burgundy ... not as a look-alike,  but as our own individual expression of pinot noir ...  Steve Smith,  NZ  (Conference Chairman)

If I were to pick a highlight tasting from the entire Conference,  in terms of learning it would have to be The Australian Wine Research Institute's contribution to one of the 'side-show' sessions,  The Pinot Noir Maker:  The Nature of Ferments.  This was not a plenary session.  The speaker was Peter Godden,  and the subject was Brettanomyces,  or brett.  Brettanomyces (= Dekkera) is a 'normal' fermentation yeast in the same group as the main fermentation yeast Saccharomyces.  

He presented wine samples for evaluation with varying amounts and ratios of the two main odoriferous chemicals produced by Brettanomyces,  in its metabolising of fructose and glucose.  The characteristic odours come principally from  4-ethylphenol and 4-ethylguaiacol.  4-ethylphenol is the main one,  and it was great to see confirmed / analysed wines with clear brett character as one knows it commonly from many everyday European wines:  vaguely horsey / seal-wallow / animal / barnyard,  and the so-called band-aid character (until you put a freshly-peeled band-aid in a wine glass and see how tenuous the analogy really is,  the band-aid being much more antiseptic / carbolic).  Threshold for 4-ethylphenol  is roughly 300 micrograms / L,  but it varies wildly,  depending on the congeners in the wine sample,  and oak especially.  

In contrast,  the wine high in the other by-product of Brettanomyces smelt much more appealing,  with clear clove,  spice,  bacon and generally savoury notes,  such as one often finds in southern Rhone wines,  and some (earlier) Bannockburn Vineyard (Victoria) and Danny Schuster wines.  This is the smell of 4-ethylguaiacol,  threshold around 60 micrograms / L,  which is always present in lesser ratio to 4-ethylphenol,  and is never found without it.  Note the thresholds for perceiving these chemicals vary enormously from taster to taster,  and from wine sample to wine sample,  depending on the total chemistry of the complex cocktail that is red wine.

The key thing to take out of this marvellous tasting was:  don't get too hung up about some brett character in a wine.  Nobody except researchers had heard of brett in wine,  less than 20 years ago,  yet as soon as a famous wine-writer caught on to the brett character and started writing about it,  everybody in me-too fashion wanted to be able to recognise it.  The fact is,  a little can be very attractive in wine,  as discussed in the report in the Syrah Symposium.  But now we have the ludicrous situation where beautiful wines are dismissed in tastings by smarty-pants commentators,  who have trained themselves to achieve acute recognition of this natural component,  so they can comment on traces nobody else sees or cares about.  Certainly winemakers need to be on guard about this yeast in their wineries,  for it is a spoilage yeast.  Outside the winery,  however,  it can be churlish to crucify otherwise magnificent wines on a small technical detail.  

The main thing the consumer needs to know is that wines with brett character will dry out in cellar faster than brett-free wines.  And,  that if there is any trace of unfermented sugar,  brett character will increase markedly in bottle,  unless the wine was sterile-filtered.  With so many better-quality wines these days being either not filtered,  or coarse-filtered only,  this is a relevant detail.  And oxygen facilitates brett growth in such circumstances,  so screwcap will slow down brett development relative to cork.  But even so,  my observation is,  not many people reject old Chateauneuf-du-Pape bottles at the dining table.  And even in blind formal tastings,  the fine wine with trace brett will often be rated more highly by even a skilled (though non-technical) group than the pure one alongside.  2003 Rousseau Clos de Beze is a perfect example.  Incidentally,  the researchers can find no evidence to support the notion that some grapes are in themselves more prone to brett than others.  Winery practice is the key – brett can be kept down to essentially un-detectable levels,  or virtually excluded,  with appropriate precautions.  For help in achieving that,  we are fortunate in the southern hemisphere,  for the Australian Wine Research Institute is arguably the pre-eminent authority on all aspects of Brettanomyces and its control in wineries.   See also some comments in my report on the Syrah Symposium,  where bretty wines loomed larger.

THE TASTINGS:  The views of the chairman and panellists for each tasting session are now available as  audio @  www.pinotnoir2007.co.nz/Programme

Chair: Prof. Warren Moran;  Panel: Michel Bettane, Andrew Caillard MW, Geoff Kelly, Larry McKenna.
Is it regionality or temperate climate that makes the Pinot Noirs of New Zealand so distinctive?
2003  Carrick Pinot Noir
2003  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir
2003  Dog Point Pinot Noir
2003  Greenhough Pinot Noir Hope Vineyard
  2003  Johner Pinot Noir
2003  Mountford Pinot Noir
2003  Peregrine Pinot Noir
2003  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Taylor's Pass

Chair: Neil Hadley MW;  Panel: Anthony Dias Blue, James Halliday, Matthew Jukes, Allen Meadows, Jerry Shriver.
The evolution of their pinot style,  as shown by three vintages from each of four well-known wineries.
2003  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2001  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2000  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2003  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5
2002  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5
2001  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5
  2003  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir
2001  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir
2000  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir
2003  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard
2002  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard
2000  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard

Chair: Michael Brajkovich MW;  Panel: Bob Bath, Jacques Lardiere, Andrew Caillard MW, Frank Prial, Leslie Sbrocco.
The evolution of their pinot style,  as shown by three vintages from each of another four well-known wineries.
2004  Dry River Pinot Noir
2003  Dry River Pinot Noir
2001  Dry River Pinot Noir
2001  Fromm Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard
1997  Fromm Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard
1996  Fromm Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard
  2004  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna
2003  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna
2001  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna
2004  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate
2003  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate
2002  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate

Chair: John Comerford;  Panel: Michel Bettane, Bob Campbell MW, James Halliday, Matthew Jukes, Allen Meadows, Poh Tiong Ch'ng.
Wines from Australia,  California,  France,  Oregon,  New Zealand.  Where do the New Zealand wines sit in the context of world class wines from elsewhere.
2002  Arcadian Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard
2003  Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Alexander Vineyard
2003  Cristom Vineyards Pinot Noir Louise Vineyard
2003  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe
  2002  Louis Jadot Nuits-St-Georges Boudots
2003  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully Single Vineyard
2003  Paringa Estate Pinot Noir
2003  Rousseau Chambertin

The 100 Pinot Noir Producers' Tasting (each day):  a selection of these wines is written up in a separate report Pt II,  presented with this one.

(alphabetical within each level)

2003  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully Single Vineyard   19 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $73   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5, 5,  9 years,  harvested @ c 1.8 t/ac;  12% whole bunch,  5 day cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 24 days cuvaison;  13 months in French oak 40% new;  Robinson '05:  This bottling from a single, relatively high vineyard is much deeper coloured and at the moment less distinctive and expressive than the regular bottling. Presumably it will unfurl and overtake the other wine with time. 18;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  nearly a flush of carmine and velvet,  much more a pinot colour than the 2002 Quartz Reef Bendigo.  Bouquet is dramatically lighter and more floral than the Bendigo,  a quite superb Cote de Nuits-like aromatic evocation of the daphne / roses / boronia and violets florals of great pinot noir.  Palate likewise is lighter and more fragrant than the Bendigo,  yet like it has layers of flavour and the inbuilt succulence of fine pinot,  on magically subtle new oak.  Those who prefer a deeper richer almost syrah-styled pinot will rate the Bendigo 2002 higher,  but this Mt Difficulty is simply one of New Zealand's greatest pinots yet.  My top wine of the entire 2007 Pinot Noir Proceedings.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna   19  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $85   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5,  2/10 and others,  19 years,  harvested @ 2.4 t/ac;  10% whole bunch,  28 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 60% new;  no fining,  coarse filtration;  www.pegasusbay.com ]
In colour,  bouquet and texture,  this wine is a fractionally lighter,  more floral and fragrant,  more elegant and sensuous,  and less tannic version of the marvellous 2003.  The depth of black cherry and darkest plum on palate is velvety,  and yet the wine is still aromatic and crisp.  It is not quite as Cote de Nuits-fragrant as the top two Otago wines,  yet the palate is magnificent.  Pegasus Bay pinot is evolving into something very beautiful,  as the proprietors place more emphasis on building the critical floral dimension of their wines.  And with less sur-maturité,  it should be possible to get those alcohols down to or under the critical (in sensory terms) 14% mark.  Even more so now,  a winery to watch.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Peregrine Pinot Noir   19  ()
Cromwell 70%,  Gibbston 30%,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $38   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and others,  up to 8 years,  harvested @ 2.2 t/ac;  10% whole bunch,  up to 8 days cold soak,  up to 23 days cuvaison;  11 months in French oak 40% new;  Robinson '05:  Quite deep crimson. Very full, opulent initial impression. Very distinctive. One of relatively few wines with a real beginning, middle and end to it. The 2003 and 2004 vintages here were overseen by Michelle Richardson. Fine tannins, perceptible acidity.  18.5;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Big ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet,  fractionally darker than the Mt Difficulty Target Gully.  This is another bouquet with dramatically Cote de Nuits floral lift,  such as one might find in a great Clos de la Roche not too much influenced by new oak.  There is lilac,  boronia,  dark roses and violets all through,  totally pure,  against black cherry fruit.  Palate is aromatic and classical black cherry pinot,  not quite as rich and succulent as the Bendigo maybe,  but more elegant.  This wine inspired French wine-writer Michael Bettane to comment (approximately):  first-rate perfume,  delicacy,  length;  great music,  great story.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe   18 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ cork;  clone Abel,  6 years,  harvested @ 1.2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  4 days cold soak,  14 days cuvaison:  12 months French oak 50% new;  Robinson '05:  Dark crimson. Very sweet with a little oak obvious. Lots of jewelly fruit but quite a bit oak too. Just slightly too much which is a shame – not as delicate as the best Martinboroughs.  16;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Big ruby,  a little more flush of carmine and velvet than the straight Peregrine or Mt Difficulty.  This is a little more like the Bendigo wine,  not giving its all so readily,  and greatly benefitting from decanting.  It opens to darkest florals like the Bendigo,  darkest cherry and bottled black doris plums,  clearly varietal in a deep rich way.  Both bouquet and palate are differentiated from the other top wines by a subliminal hint of flowering mint.  Palate is closer to the Peregrine and Mt Difficulty,  superb black cherry length,  not the tannin of the Bendigo.  The texture on palate may be superior to the top two wines,  and there is no doubt that in five years this Kupe is going to be a contender for the topmost 2003 New Zealand pinot noir.  At this stage the bouquet is almost nascent.  The aftertaste however is divine,  real kirsch.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna   18 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $85   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5,  2/10 and others, 18 years,  harvested @ 1.2 t/ac; 15% whole bunch,  6 days cold soak,  24 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 60% new;  no fining,  coarse filtration;  Robinson '05: Dark healthy crimson. Sweet, quite simple, beetroot and spice. Lots of gas. Distinctive rather than necessarily better than the regular bottling.  16;  www.pegasusbay.com ]
Dark ruby,  clear carmine and velvet,  nearly as dense as the 2002 Bendigo.  Bouquet is darkly floral,  closer to the Bendigo than the other top wines at this stage,  but wonderfully pure.  Palate is oakier than some,  darkest cherries and bottled plums,  a hint of bacon,  some spice on the oak,  marvellously varietal.  In taste terms (bacon apart),  one would be hard put to explain how this Waipara wine differs in its regional character (or terroir) from the Central Otago Bendigo.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/07

2002  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate   18 ½ +  ()
Cromwell,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5 and others,  3 years,  harvested at 1.9 t/ac;  up to 10 days cold soak,  15% whole bunch,  29 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 42% new;  coarse filtration;  www.quartzreef.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  big for pinot noir.  Bouquet is very dark pinot noir at the maximum point of still retaining florals,  and despite the given alcohol,  not seeming fumey.  Floral notes include darkest roses,  violets and boronia,  on pure black cherry and darkest bottled plums fruit,  much more cherry than plum.  Palate is remarkable,  concentrated black cherry,  not too oaky,  and unlike many Otago 2002s,  still fresh despite the power and weight of the wine.  Fruit to tannin ratio is good,  dark and lightly spicy,  long flavoured.  Great New Zealand pinot,  to cellar 5 – 12 +  years.  GK 01/07

2003  Greenhough Pinot Noir Hope Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and others,  some vines up to 24 years, harvested at under 2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  up to 7 days cold soak,  up to 27 days cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 37% new;  Robinson '05:  Dark blackish purple. Something rather odd on the nose. Sweet start, rather charming essence of Pinot + gas. Probably not a long liver!  16;  no website ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  much the same weight as the 2003 Mt Difficulty Target Gully,  but fractionally older.  Bouquet is a little more developed than the wines rated higher,  showing beautiful pinot noir varietal character in fragrant oak,  possibly with an invisible whisper of brett complexity.  Palate brings up the boronia florals on a succulent dark cherry complexity,  beautiful lingering fruit,  oak slightly more noticeable than some (like the 2003 Prima Donna),  and the whole wine a little looser.  This is a clearly burgundian glass of pinot noir,  crying out for food.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate   18 ½  ()
Cromwell,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $70   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and others,  4 years,  harvested at 1.7 t/ac;  up to 10 days cold soak,  6% whole bunch,  wild yeast,  30 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak none new;  coarse filtration;  Robinson '05 (on the standard label):  Good deep colour. Very rich and broad yet confidence and well balanced, mainly from a new vineyard in the early-ripening Bendigo area. Very sweet and gentle with lots and lots of fruit with no excess of acid or tannin. Very well managed and harmonious although at 14.5 per cent quite big. 18.5;  www.quartzreef.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet,  close to the 2003 Mt Difficulty.  Bouquet is quieter than some top wines,  yet with air opens with similar dusky florals to the Kupe (less the thought of mint),  wonderfully pure and deep.  Palate is not quite as rich and layered as the top wines,  nor as oaky as the 2003 Prima Donna,  but the whole wine is wonderfully complete aromatic pinot noir in the style of a Cote de Nuits wine of a riper year.  This will give great pleasure.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard   18 +  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $65   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5, 5 and 22,  up to 23 years,  harvested c 2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed;  6 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  20 days cuvaison;  10 months French oak 40% new;  not fined or filtered;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  a wash of velvet,  lighter than many of Moutere-based pinots from Neudorf.  Like the '03 Rousseau Chambertin,  this is a markedly oak-affected pinot noir bouquet,  in a rich fragrant seemingly spirity wine reminding of some top Chateauneuf du Papes,  more red fruits than black.  Palate is velvety,  fragrant oak,  good length and succulence,  firmed by the oak.  There are reminders of the Mondavi Reserve Pinot styles of a few years ago too,  in a positive sense.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Rousseau Chambertin   18 +  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $310   [ cork;  clones 113, 114, 115 and others,  40 – 45 years,   harvested @ 0.9 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  5 days cold soak,  wild yeast,  16 days cuvaison,  18 months French oak 100% new,  no fining or filtration;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  some velvet,  much the lightest of the top wines.  Initially opened,  all this wine smells of is fragrant new oak,  and while there is palpable fruit on palate,  the immediate flavour is oak too.  With air the wine opened considerably,  and the following day there were better indications of what it might be like in eight years or so.  There is a slight floral component (though the hot year has diminished this,  and it's hard to separate from the fragrant vanillin oak),  and the palate now shows clear red and black cherry fruit of great concentration and absolute purity.  But great pinot is about the beauty and floral dimensions of its bouquet as much as anything,  and this Chambertin simply misses the boat on that score.  It is a warm-year wine which is always going to be shaped by its evident new oak.  This gives it some characters in common with classically-styled Pauillacs.  Overseas comment on the wine included the view that the 100% new oak was invisible,  which puzzled many.  Thus,  as an exposition of pinot noir varietal character,  this wine at this stage did not speak to me as eloquently as the wines rated more highly.  Michele Bettane however thought it: not far from perfection.  With hindsight,  having now seen the '03 Rousseaus,  a wine such as their grand cru '03 Ruchottes-Chambertin,  which shows a more sensitive approach to oak influence (25% new),  would have matched the new world wines better.  Normally I would suggest Clos de la Roche with its similar oak handling,  but in '03 the Rousseau is a bit bretty,  which might have de-railed the debate.  For the Chambertin,  as a rich burgundy reflecting its year,  this Rousseau will cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Carrick Pinot Noir   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and others,  up to 8 years,  harvested @ 2.4 t/ac;  5% whole bunch,  5 days cold soak,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  11 months in French oak 35% new;  coarse filtration only;  Robinson '05:  Deep blueish crimson. Firm, spicy opulent fruit on the nose. Lots of structure. Extremely fruity and winning. 18;  www.carrick.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  a wash of velvet.  Bouquet is delightful floral and blackfruits pinot,  with good boronia analogies,  all deep and attractive.  Palate however is a bit abrupt at this stage,  good fruit richness,  but quite a load tannins,  though they are pleasantly ripe.  I liked this wine more than some commentators,  one referring to it as 'foursquare'.  All it needs is cellaring,  I think,  and once the tannins crust,  a more supple and fragrant burgundian pinot will emerge.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Dog Point Pinot Noir   18  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ cork;  clones 10/5 and others,  up to 23 years,   harvested @ 1.9 t/ac;  100%  de-stemmed,  up to 8 days cold soak,  wild yeast,  28 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 50% new;  not fined or filtered;  Robinson '05:  Unusually Burgundian wine made from Burgundian clones planted above the valley floor. Very subtle nose and palate and obviously an ambitious but sensitive hand in the winery. Impressive. 18.5;  www.dogpoint.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  some velvet,  a close match to the Chambertin.  Bouquet is intriguingly floral,  with a lighter fraction to the florals,  the buddleia and daphne-like aromas blending with deeper boronia and violets,  plus a savoury threshold trace of brett.  Palate by analogy shows some lighter blackboy fruit,  with red cherries as well as black,  fragrant new oak,  and superb texture as if elevage included lees stirring,  all very burgundian.  This is one of the best Marlborough pinots so far,  ripe all through,  and not alcoholic.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ screwcap;  clones 5 and 6,  9 years,  harvested @ c. 2.5 t/ac;  up to 21% whole bunch,  up to 8 days cold soak,  up to 23 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 30% new;  not fined or filtered;  Robinson '05:  Much more obviously sweet than the Block 3. Deep, dark, cherries and prunes, made from vines that were planted in 1993, pre history for Central Otago. Lots of tannin – not nearly ready. 18.5;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Rich pinot noir ruby and velvet,  a similar weight to the 2003 Pegasus Prima Donna but more oak- affected.  Bouquet is huge,  but tending massive on plummy fruit and a lot of oak,  markedly less floral than the top wines.  Dark bottled plums dominate.  Palate lightens things up considerably,  with attractive black cherry as well as darkest bottled plums,  the oak now more in a supporting role,  but still unsubtle alongside the equally big Bendigo.  To best communicate varietal specificity and vineyard achievement to this Conference,  I feel Felton Road would have been better served at this forum if they had submitted their standard pinot label.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $65   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and others,  up to 23 years,  harvested c. < 2 t/ac;  5% whole bunch,  up to 9 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 23 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 25% new;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  One sniff and this is obviously Martinborough,  with an evident pennyroyal component which is clearly aromatic.  There are good florals as well,  lighter in style than the Otago wines,  on red and black cherry fruit.  Palate is fragrant too,  red and black cherries again,  a thought of red currants and a trace of stalks in comparison with the best southern wines,  yet supple.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2001  Fromm Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $64   [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 9 years,   harvested @ 2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  5 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 18 days cuvaison;  16 months French oak 20% new;  www.frommwineries.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is much the most open and breathing of the three Fromm wines in the Conference tasting,  showing good redfruits reminiscent of the Dog Point,  but a little richer,  heavier,  and oakier.  Red and black cherry and red plum dominate the flavours,  with nearly some mid-palate florals.  This is more the direction I would like to see the Fromm wines develop towards,  when compared with their heavier / locked-up wines.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Alexander Vineyard   17 ½  ()
Santa Maria,  California,  USA:  13.5%;  $45   [ US$;  clones 2A,  113,  115 and others,  9 years,  1.5 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  3 days cold soak,  10 days cuvaison;  18 months French oak 100% new;  not filtered;  www.aubonclimat.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  on a par with the Rousseau Chambertin.  As in Pinot Noir 2001,  the Au Bon Climat wine was very much in the warmer-climate strawberry-oriented style of pinot,  floral at the sweetpea and buddleia level,  on red fruits.  Palate is exactly the same,  sweetly fruited and succulent,  but entirely in the simple red fruits spectrum.  This wine too shows a subliminal aromatic akin to the pennyroyal of Martinborough pinots.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Mountford Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ cork;  modern clones,  15 years,  0.8 t/ac;  some whole bunch,  up to 7 days cold soak,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  up to 16 months French oak 33% new,  some batonnage on lees;  not fined or filtered;  Robinson '05:  Very pure fruit with great vivacity, fine tannins and notable refreshing acidity that nicely delineates the fruit. Bitter cherry flavours. Less than 10 per cent new oak. This is the first vintage with fruit from a hillside block in it. 18;  www.mountfordvineyard.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little deeper than the Dog Point.  Bouquet clearly shows the lighter fraction of pinot florals,  buddleia and lilac,  set on redfruits and blackboy peaches.  Palate too is in that vein,  some reminders of Volnay,  lovely weight and succulence,  just a hint of an aromatic such as pennyroyal.  This is already seductive and food-friendly wine.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2004  Dry River Pinot Noir   17 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $77   [ cork;   clones 10/5 and others,  up to 28 years,  not irrigated,  harvested @ 2.3 t/ac;  22% whole bunch,  up to 10 days cold soak,  15 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 25% new;  sterile filtered;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet,  but much lighter than some Dry River pinots have been.  And on bouquet too,  this is a change of approach for the winery,  the wine showing an obvious whole-berry component in a juicy presentation of dark plums more than black cherry,  making one think of roto-fermenter shiraz / ± merlot blends from Australia.  Palate is juicy and spicy,  clear nutmeg,  faint stalks,  in bottled plums.  This wine may reflect a step towards a lighter and more floral wine style for Dry River,  or it may merely be the result of a cool season.  The fruit still shows some of the dark plummy sur-maturité characters McCallum prefers in his pinots.  This vintage may not cellar as well as some years have done,  perhaps 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Taylor's Pass    17 +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $55   [ screwcap;  clones 5,  113 and others,  3 years,  1 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  up to 16 days cold soak,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  10 months French oak 58% new;  coarse filtration;  Robinson '05:  Some fragrance, some sweetness after a very dark purple start. This one is really trying to seduce and stands out from most Marlborough wines. Still a little exaggerated but better than most. Expensive though. 16.5;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  some velvet,  older than many.  Bouquet is delightfully aromatic,  without arousing any suspicions of contaminants such as eucalyptus,  giving a great lift to essentially blackboy and red fruits,  plus midrange florals such as lilac and rose.  Palate is rich,  a lot of new oak,  pleasing red fruit flavours all a little oakier than the Au Bon Climat,  finishing a little tannic and short at this stage.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2000  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 23 years,  harvested c. 2 t/ac;  5% whole bunch,  up to 9 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 26 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 25% new;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Good pinot ruby,  ageing.  Bouquet is both floral and red-fruited,  in a pleasant red cherry pinot now showing some maturity.  It is not so clearly floral as the Martinborough Vineyard,  but neither is it so leafy.  There is a much better plumpness of redfruits and hence mouthfeel on this,  making it more pleasingly varietal,  and burgundian to a degree.  Good drinking,  or will hold another five years.  GK 01/07

2003  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir   17  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ cork;  clones 10/5 and others,  up to 20 years,  harvested 2 t/ac;  100% destemmed,  up to 7 days cold soak,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 45% new;  coarse filter;  Robinson '05:  Mid crimson and very pale rim. Some sweetness and quite bright energetic fruit. Very slightly stewed fruit but this is definitely the best Marlborough Pinot so far. Lots of oak and acid on the finish. Certainly ambitious. 16;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is a clear example of Marlborough pinot at the lighter end of the floral range,  as if from a warmer climate.  Buddleia and lilac are dominant,  on fruit notes of red cherries and blackboy peach.  Actual ripeness within these parameters is good,  and fruit weight and mouthfeel are surprisingly good.  This is a fragrant and pretty wine well illustrating a New Zealand style of pinot noir akin to minor Beaune wines,  avoiding the leafyness and skinny palate seen in some similarly-coloured examples of the variety.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2001  Dry River Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  clones 10/5 and others,  up to 25 years,  not irrigated,  harvested @ 2 t/ac;  20% whole bunch,  up to 10 days cold soak,  16 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 20% new;  sterile filtered;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  some velvet,  a little older.  Bouquet is in the rich Dry River style,  but surprisingly fragrant,  darkly plummy and faintly pruney,  maybe with some dark boronia floral suggestions too.  Palate likewise is darkly plummy,  with nutmeggy spice on the oak.  This is rich and succulent wine with some thoughts of Chateauneuf-du-Pape arising (like the Neudorf),  but more plummy.   Even though there is a raisiny component in the fruit (which is a long way from red and black cherry),  it finishes relatively lightly on the tongue.  This vintage sat in the pinot tasting much more comfortably than I have given the proprietor credit for in previous reviews (of other vintages).  Interesting.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2002  Louis Jadot Nuits-St-Georges Boudots   17  ()
Nuits-St-Georges Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $104   [ cork;  clone local mass selection,  up to 50 years,  harvested @ 2.2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  2 days cold soak,  wild yeast,  34 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 35% new,  not fined or filtered;  www.louisjadot.com ]
Rosy pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the Conference wines.  Bouquet is clean,  fragrant,  pure simple red fruits burgundy,  in a more old-fashioned style with a trace of brett.  There is not the delightful varietal exposition one can find in some smaller Burgundy estates these days,  the wine instead being more a simple 'burgundian' example of pinot,  fragrant,  attractive,  easy drinking.  It was over-praised at the Conference,  like the Rousseau.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Johner Pinot Noir   17  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $34   [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 10 years,  harvested @ 0.8 t/ac;  10% whole bunch,  5 days cold soak,  21 days cold soak;  15 months in French oak 50% new;  filtered; Robinson '05: Deep, bright, healthy crimson. Very concentrated and deep-flavoured on the nose. Lively acidity and very soft tannins. Quite distinctive. The acid not tannin card again. Fresh, direct. Vibrant. 17;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  a wash of carmine and velvet.  Bouquet on this wine is a standout in the field,  being reminiscent of cru beaujolais,  and a good one.  The whole bunch component is much more evident than in the Dry River,  though the given percentage is less.  Palate is delightfully fleshy,  soft,  yet well-balanced in its style,  with suggestions of ripe black cherry fruit,  and much less oak than the Dry River.  With the relative lack of tannin,  however,  it may not cellar so well.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  perhaps longer.  GK 01/07

2002  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard   17  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5,  5 and 22,  up to 22 years,  harvested c 2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed;  6 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  21 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 40% new;  not fined or filtered;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Older pinot noir ruby,  lighter and older than the Chambertin.  In this hierarchy,  this is the first of the wines to exhibit a cool leafy fragrance in the floral component,  on red fruits.  In mouth there is a novel citric,  nearly grapefruit (+ve) complexity note in the blackboy and red cherry fruit,  plus a hint of pennyroyal.  Blind,  I would think this a Martinborough wine.  Richness is good,  but physiological ripeness is tending warm-climate and a little lacking.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $62   [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 24 years,  harvested @ 1 t/ac;  15% whole bunch,  6 days cold soak,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 33% new;  coarse filtration; Robinson '05:  Deep crimson. Sweet, perfumed, violets, remarkably burgundian. Very lively mouthfeel – very fragrant and delicate. Some mushrooms. Although this isn’t BIG there is a convincing framework for future development. 18;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  older than many '03s.  Bouquet has features in common with the '02 Neudorf Home wine,  there being a clear leafy fragrance in a bright floral buddleia aroma,  on red fruits.  Palate is fresh,  red currants and red cherries,  a leafy going on clearly stalky component,  all light in this company.  The wine gives the impression of being overcropped / under-ripened,  which given the (by local standards) grand cru pricing,  is not compatible with standard grand cru cropping rates.  There is some flesh though,  and the wine is pleasant fragrant drinking.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 01/07

2001  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna   16 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5,  2/10 and others, 18 years,  harvested @ 1.2 t/ac; 100% de-stemmed,  6 days cold soak,  18 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 60% new;  no fining,  coarse filtration;  www.pegasusbay.com ]
Dense ageing ruby,  some garnet.  This wine is in the earlier,  heavier Pegasus Bay style,  with some features reminiscent of the 2001 Dry River.  It is an almost raisined and massive version of pinot noir,  yet with a hint of dark boronia florals too.  Palate is rich,  velvety,  darkly cherry and oaky,  some plums,  all darker and oakier than the Dry River of the same year.  There is a lift to it which could take one to pinot noir in a blind tasting,  but the whole wine is more Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  very rich.  In such a tasting,  it would score more highly than in the pinot context I am adopting here.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 01/07

2001  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 21 years,  harvested c. 2.4 t/ac;  5% whole bunch,  up to 9 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 22 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 25% new;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  maturing.  The 2001 is similar to the 2000,  with fragrant maturing red cherry fruit,  and a suggestion of strawberry on bouquet.  On palate however,  the wine is shorter,  and slightly stalky.  This is where the relatively inconsequential Jadot shows its burgundian style,  being similarly light but avoiding any hint of stalks.  Maturing now,  but will cellar 1 – 5 years too.  GK 01/07

2003  Dry River Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  clones 10/5 and others,  up to 27 years,  not irrigated,  harvested @ 1 t/ac;  22% whole bunch,  up to 10 days cold soak,  15 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 25% new;  sterile filtered; Robinson '05:  Exceptionally dark purple – quite unlike any other of these wines to look at. Rather masked by oak and extraction at the moment.  Sucking matchstick sensation. Sour finish. But after a couple of hours this started to come round. Obviously very ambitious but this should not be opened for AGES!  15;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the biggest colour of the Conference.  Bouquet is as extraordinary as the colour,  darkly omega plums with raisiny overtones,  very pure,  but more vintage port-like than pinot.  Palate is enormously concentrated,  raisiny and finest prunes,  completely off the sur-maturité scale for any concept of pinot noir as in Burgundy (which I continue to think a worthwhile reference point in pinot endeavours).  So,  this is a pinot in an incongruous style.  But it is pure and harmoniously balanced at its ripeness levels,  and Californian speakers liked it.  It is the opposite pole to the Martinborough Vineyard wines,  more Chateauneuf-du-Pape than burgundy.  Yet these two nearly neighbouring vineyards and their wines do illustrate that somewhere between their styles,  there lies the potential for fine pinot.  Cellar 5 – 20 years maybe,  for the fruit richness is colossal.  GK 01/07

2000  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 21 years,  harvested @ c. 1.3 t/ac;  15% whole bunch,  4.5 days cold soak,  up to 15 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 33% new;  no filtration;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is lightly floral,  fragrant and leafy in a browning way,  a suggestion of mushrooms,  on fading red fruits.  Palate is more clearly red currants and red cherries,  a wine very consistent with the 2003,  but much older relative to it than the elapsed time would suggest.  This would fit in with the suggested lack of ripeness and dry extract.  Approaching full maturity,  but will hold 1 – 5 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Paringa Estate Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Mornington Peninsula,  Victoria,  Australia:  13.7%;  $55   [ AU$;  clones C15V and others,  up to 17 years,  harvested @ 2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  5 days cold soak,  up to 14 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 50% new;  medium filtration;  www.paringaestate.com.au ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is an impossible wine to assess,  for though not seen blind at the Conference,  the first and main thing it had to say on bouquet was eucalyptus.  Since the point of pinot noir is its floral charm and precise varietal characters,  any sample of the grape that says more about its country of origin than the variety cannot be taken too seriously.  This is where the whole permissive concept of terroir becomes tiresome in the extreme.  But persevering,  there are pretty red fruits,  and in mouth,  the approach and texture fits within the range of styles for pinot noir.  It is closest to the Au Bon Climat,  the red fruits of a warmer climate,  showing good strawberry succulence.  This should cellar for 3 – 10 years.  Score has to be arbitrary.  In the commentary from the international panel,  not one speaker was prepared to say the wine was euc'y,  though Bob Campbell hinted at it.  Several appeared not to notice at all.  All very odd.  GK 01/07

2002  Arcadian Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard   16 +  ()
Monterey County,  California,  USA:  13.7%;  $80   [ US$;  Pisoni clone,  24 years,  harvested @ 1 t/ac;  75% whole bunch,  3 days cold soak,  10 days cuvaison;  22 months in French oak 75% new;  not fined or filtered;  www.arcadianwinery.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  one of the lightest.  Bouquet is light and simple,  strawberry pinot from a warmer climate,  a little brett,  pleasantly in style for that kind of pinot noir.  Palate shows a suggestion of succulence and good mouthfeel,  but the flavour is tending phenolic and one-dimensional in a browning strawberry way,  and the brett increases a little.  Good food wine.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 01/07

2002  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5   16 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  clones 5 and 6,  8 years,  harvested @ c. 2.5 t/ac;  up to 18% whole bunch,  up to 8 days cold soak,  up to 24 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 30%  new;  not fined or filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet on this wine has with even a little age moved a long way from pinot,  and now shows ugly coffee'd oak to excess,  on plummy fruit.  Palate is better,  rich plummy fruit,  but the delicacy and floral charm of pinot the variety is lacking.  On this showing,  my earlier doubts re over-ripeness in some of the 2002 Felton Pinots seem justified.  Development in cellar may be uncertain.  It may lose some of these tannin-related components,  and lighten up.  It has the fruit to cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/07

2003  Cristom Vineyards Pinot Noir Louise Vineyard   16  ()
Williamette Valley,  Oregon,  USA:  14.5%;  $45   [ US$;  clones 5,  113,  115 and others;  10 years,  harvested at 2 t/ac;  40 – 50% whole bunch,  3 – 4 days cold soak,  wild yeast,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  18 months French oak 63% new;  no filtration;  http://cristomwines.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  but old for its age.  Bouquet is clumsy in the context of this tasting,  being let down by varnishy older oak,  around reasonable red fruits and threshold VA.  It is near-impossible to recognise if there were originally floral components,  against this background.  Palate is appropriate as to mouthfeel,  red fruits,  but all old for age,  and diminished by the cooperage.  It is richer than the '01 Ata Rangi,  but clumsier.  Looks to be a short-term cellar proposition,  but unlikely to achieve beauty.  GK 01/07

2001  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5   16  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ clones 5 and 6,  7 years,  harvested @ c. 2.5 t/ac;  up to 24% whole bunch,  up to 9 days cold soak,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 30%  new;  not fined or filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is oaky,  and a little bretty to first inspection,  with red fruits,  all quite developed.  Palate is again seriously oaky,  upsetting the balance of the wine,  but there is a savoury herbes character which would be pleasing if there were a better fruit to oak ratio.  Like the 2002,  the cellar future for this wine seems uncertain.  GK 01/07

2000  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard   16  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5,  5 and 22,  up to 20 years,  harvested c 2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed;  6 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  32 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 40% new;  not filtered;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Lightish ageing pinot noir ruby,  with some garnet.  Bouquet is lesser on this wine,  with noticeable brett complexity on mushroomy browning red fruits,  smelling harmonious but old for its age.  Palate is still rich but slightly stalky.  This is another wine with some of the qualities of a rustic Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  It would be great with a venison casserole for example,  but looked unhappy in a formal tasting.  Should hold for several years on the richness,  but become more rustic,  and drying to the finish.  GK 01/07

1997  Fromm Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard   16  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 5 years,  harvested @ 1.6 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  5 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 18 days cuvaison;  16 months French oak 35% new;  www.frommwineries.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  weighty for its age.  Initially opened,  this wine is drab,  on retained fermentation odours.  Well aerated and breathed,  bouquet is of an older soft red wine showing some reductive tendencies,  scarcely varietal.  Palate is rich,  a little oaky,  but here suggestions of a big plummy pinot can be seen,  with good fruit still.  This will hold for some years yet.  It needs decanting,  then vigorously pouring back and forth from jug to jug to aerate,  before use.  Score has to be somewhat arbitrary,  in these circumstances.  GK 01/07

2001  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir   15 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 22 years,  harvested @ c. 1.9 t/ac;  15% whole bunch,  6 days cold soak,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 33% new;  coarse filtration;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby and garnet,  maturing.  Bouquet is leafy red fruits,  vaguely floral on the leafiness,  where North Island (NZ) pinot used to be.  Palate is clearly leafy going stalky,  one kind of minor pinot in the sense of red currant fruit still with some mouthfeel,  but pinched and with some green flavours.  More Loire than Burgundy pinot noir.  Too physiologically immature to improve in cellar,  but will hold 1 – 5 years.  GK 01/05

2004  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate   15  ()
Cromwell,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $70   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and others,  5 years,  harvested at 0.8 t/ac;  up to 8 days cold soak,  100% de-stemmed,  27 days cuvaison;  11 months French oak 15% new;  coarse filtration;  www.quartzreef.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  a lovely colour.  Unlike the other two Bendigo wines,  this vintage was clearly reductive,  making the bouquet withdrawn.  Palate had good red fruits,  but with a hardness from the entrained sulphur,  giving a plain almost stalky flavour.  Another wine to aerate vigorously,  pouring from jug to jug,  before use.  It will cellar 5 – 12 years,  and improve somewhat,  but is unlikely to sing.  GK 01/07

1996  Fromm Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard   14  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ clones 10/5 and others,  up to 4 years,  harvested @ 2 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed,  5 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 18 days cuvaison;  16 months French oak 50% new;  www.frommwineries.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  young for age.  And the reason for the youthful appearance is apparent as soon as one smells the wine,  for it is seriously reductive.  Palate shows big plummy fruit,  all locked in by the retained fermentation odours,  a time capsule.  It is conceivable but unlikely that the reductive components will precipitate 20 years from vintage,  but in general this was not a good wine to show in a formal pinot noir comparative evaluation.  Sadly,  the 2004 in the Exhibitor's tasting was much the same.  It will hold in cellar for another 10 – 15 years,  but is unlikely to blossom.  GK 01/07