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

"A celebration of the captivating pinot noir grape and all its regional nuances"

Background to the Tasting
2007 marks the eighth celebration of pinot noir in the formal public tasting 'Pinot at Cloudy Bay',  all held at the Marlborough winery and overseen by Kevin Judd,  Chief Winemaker / Director.  They were initiated in 2000,  a venture modelled on the Cabernet Sauvignon celebration built up by David Hohnen at sister-vineyard Cape Mentelle,  in the Margaret River district of West Australia.  Right through those 8 years,  the selection of pinots has been largely the responsibility of John Comerford,  lawyer and wine judge of Wellington,  who has been involved with Cloudy Bay in one capacity or another since the original land purchases in the early 1980s.  Latterly,  Cloudy Bay winemaker Nick Lane has increasingly contributed to the selection process.

About 18 wines are presented in a blind tasting of three flights,  from the vintage three years previous.  The goal each year has been to illustrate recent achievements in the main pinot noir districts France,  Oregon & California,  New Zealand,  and Australia to a degree,  via wines which have had a chance to settle in bottle,  post-bottling.  This year's wines included examples from Burgundy (Vosne-Romanee,  Chambolle-Musigny,  Gevrey-Chambertin,  Pommard),  Sancerre,  Oregon (Willamette Valley,  Yamhill County),  California (Sonoma Coast,  Napa Valley)  Victoria (Beechworth,  Mornington Peninsula),  Tasmania,  and New Zealand (Martinborough,  Marlborough,  Nelson,  Waipara,  Central Otago).  New Zealand and Australian wines ranged up to $80-odd,  the American ones up to US$60,   and the French to c. $390 per bottle.  None of the $100 + French wines ended up in my top 6 wines.  

This 2007 Pinot at Cloudy Bay celebration attracted c. 132 participants all told,  with people from as far afield as Australia (15),   Auckland district (19),   Wellington district (18),  rest of North Island (7),  Marlborough (52 ),  Nelson (5),  Canterbury (15) and Germany (1).  The fee this year was $250,  to taste 19 pinot noirs with a retail value of about NZ$2000,  plus a sumptuous sit-down lunch.    

Preparations for the tasting are exemplary.  A detailed booklet giving production details and background info for each wine is posted out a couple of weeks beforehand.  I found on arrival the wines had been temperature-stabilising for the tasting in a constant-temperature room for 8 days before the event.  On the day of the tasting,  once all the wines were opened,  a sample from each and every bottle (19 wines x 13 bottles = 247 bottles) was assessed not by one winemaker, but by a team of six winemakers and senior wine judges.  This bespeaks an attention to detail which is rare to the point of being unknown in wine industry presentations.

The tastings are held in a barrel hall which had also been warmed for some days prior.  Yes,  there was an ambience of oak,  but it seemed simpatico,  and certainly did not interfere with working out which wines were too oaky.  There are 19 XL5 international tasting glasses for each taster,  all highest quality Schott-Zwiesel glasses (none of the cheap and nasty chamber-pot-weight things used for wine festivals),  making 2500-odd of these quite expensive items all held by Cloudy Bay.  That bespeaks a serious winery – I don't know any other New Zealand winery which could do that.  Tasters gather in an adjoining room while the samples are being poured,  then file in for the flight.  Twenty minutes or so are allowed for tasting each flight of six wines,  then the tasters return to the adjoining room to discuss that flight,  while the next flight is poured.  The number of backroom staff is such that this all proceeds very smoothly indeed.  And the silence once tasting started was a pleasure to behold.

Another great feature illustrating the attention to detail in this event,  is the specific request in the prior mail-out asking tasters to "refrain from wearing fragrance".  So many tastings these days are spoilt by self-centred / thoughtless attendees stinking to high heaven.  And latterly,  both sexes are offending in this game – one of Wellington's worst offenders is male !

Once the three flights of wines have been tasted,  each with two industry-related people speaking to the wines,  and questions and comments dealt with,  the identity and hence country of origin of each wine is finally revealed.  This produced some surprises,  for both tasters and speakers,  and highlighted how very 'burgundian' some of the non-Burgundy wines were.  The benefits of blind tasting ...  Tasters then adjourned to Pelorus sparkling (what else) and savouries,  as precursor to an epicurean three-course lunch.  The balance of the wines from the tasting is offered at this stage,  poured rather than help-yourself to preclude excess enthusiasm for favoured labels,  and a little later some of the lesser bottles rejected from the formal tasting are used,  those not bad enough to be classed as corked.

The 2004 Vintage
In the introduction to the tasting as a whole,  and the first flight of wines,  John Comerford offered a thumbnail sketch of vintage conditions in each district represented.  New Zealand,  France and Tasmania all shared variations on a vintage where many sites produced grapes less than ideally ripe,  particularly with respect to their phenolics and tannins.  And indeed the comment 'leafy' or 'stalky' cropped up frequently in discussion,  as it does in the notes following.

Victoria,  Oregon and California enjoyed warmer and drier seasons.  The first two are seen as near-ideal vintages,  whereas there is some concern about excess heat and high alcohols in California.  But in the same way New Zealand viticultural districts are well spread out,  so in California conditions can be very different between districts.

And as the 2003 vintage in Bordeaux has recently demonstrated,  given modern technology and techniques it is easier to manage vineyards and winemaking to optimise wine quality in a warmer season.  Cooler vintages with their leafy,  stalky and sometimes even green smells and flavours are much harder to retrieve harmonious quality wines from.  As always,  however,  committed growers in special sites can achieve miracles in the most unlikely season.  So vintage notes can only be the broadest indication.  As always,  ultimately one has to taste,  to tell.  For us in New Zealand,  sadly we cannot taste before we order,  and are therefore dependent on the palates of northern hemisphere advisors,  when it comes to securing the international yardstick for pinot noir,  which remains Burgundy.  There are few reviews of these wines in the mainstream review sources Jancis Robinson,  Robert Parker,  and Wine Spectator.  Those available are summarised in the notes below.  This is an acute problem for those trying to secure good northern hemisphere wines for events such as this Cloudy Bay celebration.  There may be more info in the websites specialising in pinot,  Allen Meadows / Burghound,  and Stephen Tanzer / International Wine Cellar.

Any supposition that the wines from Burgundy must inevitably dominate an international pinot noir tasting is simply no longer true,  as the results from this tasting clearly show.  That was the single most exciting outcome from this particular batch of wines,  though it has no general application.  The quality in this particular tasting came more from the new world than the old.  The French were unlucky on the day,  the consequence of a less than ideal vintage.  Some of the French wines were quite simply disappointing,  showing their pricing on reputation rather than actual achievement to be a minefield for buyers.  

And it is hard to escape the conclusion that the New Zealand wines shone,  in this group of wines.  The best were not only vividly varietal,  but interestingly burgundian as well.  They weren't breathtaking,  as truly great burgundy can be,  but we didn't have any wines at that level.  In general the concept of a wine being burgundian conveys a strong implication it will be fragrant,  floral and beguiling with cherry-like fruit on bouquet,  and variously velvety and long (though not necessarily big) on palate and aftertaste,  with flavours redolent of cherries,  berries,  flowers,  mushrooms and sometimes savoury casseroles.  It will be delightful with food,  not dominating,  not aggressive,  just accompanying and enhancing a variety of dishes.  And that after all is what wine is about.  The New Zealand wines in this tasting showed that with falling cropping rates leading to improved mouthfeel as measured by dry extract,  and more attention to ripening to the exact point for maximum floral and fruit complexity without leafiness,  the era of great New Zealand pinot noir is almost upon us.

Acknowledgements:  I greatly appreciate Chief Winemaker / Director Kevin Judd's invitation to report on the 2007 Pinot at Cloudy Bay celebration,  and help from Senior Winemaker Eveline Fraser and Marketing Coordinator Colleen Walker to optimise the experience.  The viticultural and wine-making detail was assembled by John Comerford,  in co-operation with the Cloudy Bay winemakers.  This is an unenviable task,  which can become protracted.  It greatly enhances and consolidates the tasting experience,  however.  John kindly agreed to my using this material (now a little abridged) in the italicised section of each review.

Please Note:  the views below are mine alone,  and do not reflect any consensus view,  or the thoughts of the organising team.  I have however taken note of the discussion.


2004  Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard
2004  Brokenwood Pinot Noir Beechworth
2004  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir
2004  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road
2004  Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin les Champeaux Vielle Vigne
2004  Giaconda Pinot Noir Nantua Vineyard
2004  Domaine Hudelot-Noellat Richebourg
2004  Kooyong Pinot Noir Ferrous
2004  Littorai Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Savoy Vineyard
2004  Domaine Alphonse Mellot [Pinot Noir] En Grands Champs
  2004  Domaine de Montille Pommard les Pezerolles
2004  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace Single Vineyard
2004  Domaine J-F Mugnier Musigny
2004  Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere
2004  Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir Etzel Block
2004  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna
2004  Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Marlborough (Growers Collection,  Eaton Vineyard)
2004  Stefano Lubiana Pinot Noir
2004  Whetstone Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Hirsch Vineyard

2004  Littorai Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Savoy Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Mendocino,  California,  USA:  14.2%;  $ –    [ cork;  US$55;  clones 114,  115,  667,  777 & Pommard,  age 12 years;  100% de-stemmed,  5 – 8 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  22 days cuvaison;  15 months in French oak 50% new;  no fining,  no filtration;  www.littorai.com ]
Deepish ruby,  some velvet,  in the deepest three for depth of colour,  about a max for pinot noir.  Bouquet is immediately big,  velvety,  fragrant,  very deep so at first one asks:  is this another over-extracted hefty new world misinterpretation of pinot noir.  But exploring further,  and with a little air,  there is a darkest roses / violets floral-like lift to the fruit,  and there are dark cherry notes,  so dark they seem almost raisined,  but not roasted.  On palate the wine completely redeems itself,  rich fruit of great poise,  saturated black cherry flavours with tannins as much from grape skins as oak,  and the wine not unduly dominated either by the fragrant oak or alcohol.  Yes,  it is very big as pinot noirs go,  and some tasters felt it was excessively oaky as well,  but it is strictly varietal in a blackfruits style,  and has the mouthfeel and structure of grand cru burgundy of a very ripe year,  plus good acid balance.  I think it has the fruit and dry extract to absorb the oak.  There must have been grand cru burgundies something like this,  in some of the ‘great’ vintages of the past – 1959,  1949,  1945 (or earlier,  though not much new oak in those days).  It should be a top-notch bottle in 5 years,  and cellar for 15 +.  It would not however appeal to those who prefer a dominance of red fruits in their pinots.  GK 06/07

2004  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna   18 +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $82   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Prima Donna is a barrel selection made in favourable years from special batches;  clone 10/5,  vine age 22 years;  100% de-stemmed,  7 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  28 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 50% new;  no fining,  coarse filtration;  www.pegasusbay.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deepest,  youngest and brightest.  Freshly poured,  the wine shows a lot of oak including toasty notes,  and excess alcohol,  raising doubts as to whether there will be the fruit to absorb the components.  Such fruit as one can see is darkly cherried,  with some bottled black doris suggestions.  Floral and particularly lighter fraction florals are less apparent,  initially.  In mouth however the freshness of primary fruit is marvellous.  Later with more air,  the wine expands considerably,  the fruit developing good deep floral and velvety qualities in the darkest rose and violets spectrum on bouquet,  and increased length to fully match the oak on palate.  The finish at this stage is still oak-dominant,  but the fruit and acid balance to oak looks good.  Like the Littorai,  this is pinot noir in a bold new-world heroic style,  but the key requirements for fine pinot noir are there:  florals,  fresh cherry-related fruit,  appropriate dry extract and great mouthfeel.  This will score higher in 3 – 5 years.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace Single Vineyard   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $75   [ screwcap;  clones UCD5,  UCD6 & 13,  age 10 years;  80% de-stemmed,  20% whole bunch,  6 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  24 days cuvaison,  12 months in French  oak 36% new;  egg-white fining,  polishing filtration;  Spectator:  Smooth and rich in texture, with lively acidity balancing bittersweet chocolate-scented cherry and dusky herb flavors, persisting nicely against fine tannins on the finish. To 2012.  89;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  just above halfway in depth but one of the freshest,  with carmine hues like the Pegasus.  Bouquet is more fruit-oriented than the Pegasus,  like it a little down on lighter florals at this stage,  but showing some deeper notes on red and black cherries which smell concentrated.  With air this wine expands considerably,  staying very primary,  but the depth of black cherry fruit and black doris plum on firm acid is promising.  The balance of fruit to oak is more in favour of the fruit than the other three top wines.  Even in the blind tasting,  the concentration of Otago-like dark fruits is noticeable,  in this case with slightly elevated acid.  To judge from the 2003 Mt Difficulty Target Gully which showed so beautifully at the 2007 Pinot Noir Conference,  this will have a lot more to say for itself in a year or two,  and like the Pegasus Bay will score higher.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin les Champeaux Vielle Vigne   18  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $90   [ cork;  vine age 79 years;  underlying limestone;  100% de-stemmed,  3 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  18 days cuvaison,  18 months in French oak 20% new;  no fining,  no filtration ]
Ruby,  classic pinot noir colour just below midway for depth.  One sniff and this is truly burgundian pinot noir,  showing the full range of varietal characters from sweet florals through red to black cherries plus almost cedary oak,  with just a trace of heightened vinosity and savoury complexity from subliminal brett.  The floral components on bouquet are really beautiful,  centred in the red roses and boronia spectrum.  In mouth the crispness of the zingy red cherry fruit is just a little fresher than is ideal for the grand cru burgundy I initially thought it must be,  but the flavour is classical burgundy.  At this stage the oak is a little apparent,  perhaps not quite the weight of fruit to completely wrap it up,  in contrast to the Littorai.  That keeps my score out of the top rank,  but this is lovely wine,  archetypal pinot noir (in conventional terms),  more classical than the Littorai.  Interestingly,  nobody commented about the oak balance on this wine,  thanks to its total French style I guess.  Being 2004 Burgundy,  one could say it was under-fruited,  rather than over-oaked.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ cork;  clones 113,  115,  667 & 777,  vine age 4 – 5 years;  90% de-stemmed,  10% whole bunch,  4 – 7 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  20 – 28 days cuvaison,  9 months in French oak 50% new;  no fining,  no filtration;  Spectator:  lithe and distinctive, with a definite minerality and a touch of loamy earth to the ripe cherry and currant flavors, lingering beautifully on the generous finish. Tannins are well-submerged and its sense of delicacy is welcome. To 2011.  93;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Classic pinot noir ruby,  below half-way in depth,  close to the Fourrier.   And like the Fourrier,  right from first pour,  bouquet on this wine epitomises varietal pinot noir.  There is the full spectrum of pinot noir florals,  from the lighter sweet buddleia aromas through roses to boronia – sweet boronia – this is a lovely bouquet.  Palate shows red and black cherry fruit perfectly poised,  classical pinot noir flavours,  reasonably subtle fragrant oak,  but slightly firm acid balance.  It is not a big wine,  but it is elegant,  fully up to premier cru standards,  richer than the Cloudy Bay,  nearly on a par with the Pipeclay,  expressing precise and pure varietal character.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $42   [ screwcap;  clones predominantly 10/5,  UCD5 & 667,  with 113,  777 & Abel,  vine age 5 – 20 years;  100% de-stemmed,  5 – 7 days cold soak,  wild and cultured yeast fermentation,  21 days cuvaison,  11 months in French oak 45% new;  egg-white fining,  coarse filtration;  www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Colour is traditional burgundian pinot noir,  lightish ruby,  among the lightest three.  Bouquet is like the Pyramid Valley in some ways,  immediately floral and precisely varietal on red cherry fruit more than black,  but in this case a purer wine,  not showing brett complexity.  That also means it is a simpler wine,  and one can tie oneself in knots trying to analyse this matrix of positive and negative components in a wine,  to arrive at a score that reflects overall quality ranking.  Mouthfeel and texture belie the light colour,  there being attractive fruit weight,  and delicious flavours reflecting exactly what pinot noir should be,  complexed by subtle toasty oak.  At the stage when ‘volunteers’ were speaking to the wines while still all blind,  I commented this wine was of good premier cru quality and style,  not quite the richness of a grand cru.  Now,  labels revealed,  and the wine more breathed,  I stand by that.  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir has quietly increased in concentration,  mouthfeel and precise varietal character over the last 5 years,  and the trend line is promising.  With recent land purchase in sites more optimal for Marlborough pinot noir,  and an expressed commitment to this variety,  the long term prospects for Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir being up there with their sauvignon blanc are exciting.  The Cloudy Bay pinot style is subtle / classical,  in contrast to the heroic Pegasus approach.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Domaine de Montille Pommard les Pezerolles   17 +  ()
Pommard Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $125   [ cork;  vine age 20 – 60 years;  some underlying limestone;  winemaking details not supplied but alternative sources suggest 100% de-stemmed,  2 – 3 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  15 days cuvaison;  French oak  30% new;  light fining;  Robinson (cask sample):  Very, very rich and zappy.  17+;  Spectator:  Robust and firmly tannic, with juicy cherry, earth and pomegranate-tinged flavors wrapped within. Frank and muscular, but with good length. Best from 2009 – 2015. 89 ]
Traditional French pinot noir ruby,  the lightest in the set.  Bouquet is classic Pommard,  and therefore close to many middle-weight and rosy red New Zealand pinots.  There are good florals from buddleia through roses to boronia,  and red fruits from ripest red currant to red cherry and red plum.  This is so Martinborough,  except the latter frequently have a pennyroyal edge.  Palate is remarkably like the Cloudy Bay,  identical acid balance,  a little plumper but also brettier,  perhaps simpler in its fruit descriptors and oak style.  This is pleasing premier cru burgundy from a lighter year.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere   17  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $55   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5,  UCD5,  22,  667 & 777,  age 26 years;  100% de-stemmed,  6 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  up to 30 days cuvaison,  11 months in French oak 40% new;  partial egg-white fining,  no filtration;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a much lighter wine than the Moutere Pinot Noirs of the later 90s.  Freshly poured the wine shows a slightly closed quality,  quickly dissipated either by decanting,  or swirling.  Bouquet then shows some mixed florals and red fruits,  some blackboy peach as well as red cherry,  plus the alcohol a bit obtrusive.  Palate is red cherry clearly,  good flesh but a slight edge of acid and phenolics,  a leafy note but not stalky.  I would expect this wine to build bouquet in bottle,  given this balance,  and look more impressive in a couple of years.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Marlborough (Growers Collection,  Eaton Vineyard)   17  ()
Omaka Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $42   [ screwcap;  clones UCD5,  UCD6,  114,  115,  667,  777 & Abel,  vine age 4 years;  100% de-stemmed,  4 – 5 days cold soak,   wild  yeast fermentation,  27 days cuvaison,  18 months in French oak 30% new;  no fining,  no filtration ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  This wine marked some kind of dividing line,  between pinots which were delightful and hedonistic to drink,  and those which were for some reason just a little simpler and less stylish,  even though they might be equally varietal.  For some,  it is the presence of brett,  as in the Pyramid Valley,  which gives the wine a certain charm with food.  Bouquet on this pinot is very burgundian indeed,  at a more serious level than the Pommard,  but fragrant in that style.  There are sweetly floral red fruits,  red and black cherries,  plus subtle brett complexity heightening vinosity.  Palate is a little less,  lighter,  slightly acid,  but the flavours are delicious,  highly varietal.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Kooyong Pinot Noir Ferrous   17  ()
Mornington Peninsula,  Victoria,  Australia:  13.5%;  $ –    [ supercritical ‘cork’;  AU$52;  vines 8 years;  100% de-stemmed,  4 – 7 days cold soak,  wild  yeast fermentation, 15 – 20 days cuvaison,  18 months French oak maturation 30% new;  no fining,  light filtration;  www.kooyong.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  towards the lighter end.  A gaggle of wines in the middle of the ranking all show the lighter,  fragrant and pretty side of pinot noir,  clearly varietal.  Writing this up now,  all identified,  the first thing to say is:  here is an Australian pinot noir with no hint of euc’y characters.  It can be done !  Bouquet is close to the Pommard,  pleasing florals,  sweet red fruits including a touch of the strawberry characterising warmer climates,  but also red cherry substance to lengthen,  beautifully subtle oak and good acid balance.  Dry extract is better than the light colour suggests,  and though not as rich as the Cloudy Bay,  it is enough to give true pinot noir mouthfeel.  This is a pretty wine,  easily under-estimated,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Bethel Heights Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard   16 ½  ()
Willamette Valley,  Oregon,  USA:  14.2%;  $ –    [ cork;  US$40;  clone Pommard,  vine age 18 years;  75% de-stemmed,  25% whole bunch,  5 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  19 days cuvaison;  10 months in French oak 25% new;  egg-white fining;  Parker / Rovani 165:  An outstanding offering … displays plummy aromas of dark cherries, flowers, and spices. Medium to full-bodied and pure, this black cherry-dominated beauty exhibits a satiny texture, lovely freshness, and a long, pure finish.  To 2014.  91;  www.bethelheights.com ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby,  burgundian.  Bouquet is light,  not clearly varietal,  instead the aromas slightly baked and stalky light red,  with a varnishy / raw-oaky suggestion from the cooperage.  In mouth the wine is immediately more pinot,  but since the quality of pinot noir is critically judged on bouquet (at least in cooler viticultural climates),  the wine gets off to a bad start.  There are red fruits including red cherry,  but all a little oaky and stalky,  even though the mouthfeel is quite good.  Physiologically under-ripe pinot to cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Brokenwood Pinot Noir Beechworth   16 +  ()
Beechworth,  Victoria,  Australia:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  AU$24;  clones MV6,  114,  115,  age 4 – 5 years;  100% de-stemmed,  2 days cold soak,  cultured yeast,  7 – 10 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 50% new;  light fining,  light filtration;  www.brokenwood.com.au ]
Ruby and velvet,  maybe a suggestion of carmine,  the second deepest.  A change of pace at this point in the ranking.  This wine smells big,  rich,  soft,  round,  and bretty,  with a hint of almond.  It is not clearly varietal on bouquet,  unlike the similarly deeply-coloured Littorai.  In mouth there is velvety fruit richness,  some pinot noir black cherry and dark bottled plums,  plus a certain looseness,  fleshiness and a faint compost character (like a jar of bottled plums long-open and just starting to ferment),  all accentuated by brett.  An aromatic note creeps up in the later palate,  perhaps a little minty though not unpleasant enough to be classed as euc’y.  It would be easy to can this wine completely,  but on balance it is OK as a rather big and shambling warm-climate example of the grape.  Cellar 3 – 12 years,  for there are tannins to soften.  GK 06/07

2004  Patricia Green Cellars Pinot Noir Etzel Block   15 ½ +  ()
Yamhill County,  Oregon,  USA:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  US$60;  Pommard clone,  age 17 – 18 years;  55% de-stemmed,  45% whole bunch,  5 – 6 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  14 days cuvaison;  11 months in French oak 40% new;  no fining,  no filtration;  www.patriciagreencellars.com ]
Older ruby,  some velvet,  towards the deeper end.  Freshly poured,  there is a somewhat reductive suggestion on this wine,  entwined with toasty oak and a smoky coal-fires note.  Below are indeterminate red fruits,  more bottled plums than anything.  Palate shows some ripe fruit,  but is relatively raw and primary in this company,  bottled plums,  no florals,  no cherries,  but nonetheless a pinot noir mouthfeel let down by this pervasive coal-tar quality.  The softness and richness are initially attractive,  one ends up feeling the wine is pinot (from a warm climate),  but the finish is grubby and the style wayward,  at least in international / classical company.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/07

2004  Domaine Hudelot-Noellat Richebourg   15 ½ +  ()
Vosne-Romanee Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  14%;  $290   [ cork;  vine age 55 – 80 years;  underlying limestone;  winemaking details not supplied but alternative sources suggest some stem retention, some cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  15 – 18 days cuvaison;  matured in French oak 50 – 100% new for grand cru wines ]
Older paleish ruby appropriate to burgundy,  towards the lighter end.  This is a style of pinot noir we have been familiar with in New Zealand in earlier days,  so it is good to see they are still made in France in some years,  and even at the grand cru level.  Bouquet is fragrant,  with some florals in the sweet pea / buddleia lighter end of the floral spectrum,  but in those florals is the leafiness of physiologically immature grapes.  There is also an MLF note like cottage cheese (+ve),  which would look better in chardonnay than pinot noir.  Palate confirms all the suspicions formed on bouquet,  the flavour clearly leafy and acid,  even stalky,  the fruits no more noble than red currant plus faint red cherry and red plum.  A clearly varietal wine,  exquisite oak handling,  but a minor example at any price.  Will cellar in the shorter term,  but won’t improve conspicuously,  so not worth it.  GK 06/07

2004  Stefano Lubiana Pinot Noir   15 ½  ()
Derwent River,  Tasmania,  Australia:  13.5%;  $42   [ screwcap;  clones mainly MV6,  also 114 and 115,  vine age 8 – 13 years;  85% de-stemmed, 15% whole bunch, 5 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation, 15 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 20% new;  sterile filtration;   Robinson: mealy and lively and interesting with real follow through. Some hessian-like aromas but convincing. 17;  www.stefanolubiana.com ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby,  in the lightest three.  Bouquet approximates pinot noir in style and weight,  but instead of florals there is a suggestion of burnt-plastics odour which is negative and pervasive.  Palate is tending leafy,  clear red fruits,  red currants and nearly red cherries,  varietal but acid and stalky to the finish,  lacking the supple textural qualities that characterise the better of these wines (and differentiate good pinot noir from lesser).  Would cellar 2 – 6 years,  and may harmonise further.  GK 06/07

2004  Whetstone Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Hirsch Vineyard   15  ()
Sonoma Coast,  California,  USA:  14.1%;  $ –    [ cork;  US$48;  clones Mt Eden & Pommard,  vine age 10 (Mt Eden) and 12 (Pommard) years;  100% de-stemmed,  6 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  16 days cuvaison;  11 months in French oak 33% new;  no fining,  no filtration;  www.whetstonewinecellars.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  clearly the deepest colour in the tasting,  not a desirable pinot colour.  Bouquet is distinctive,  with a stewed dark fruits plus crushed lawsoniana (cypress) quality to it,  not at all varietal,  but not unpleasant.  Palate is big,  fat,  juicy,  lacking acid,  with an interesting lucerne hay ‘sweetness’ in the indeterminate red fruits.  This is outside international norms for pinot noir,  but as big soft warm-climate ‘dry red’ (perhaps not bone dry) it is OK.  Charitable speakers at the tasting offered the view it was an amarone version of pinot noir.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/07

2004  Domaine J-F Mugnier Musigny   15  ()
Chambolle-Musigny Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $390   [ cork;  vine age 55 years;  some underlying limestone;  100% de-stemmed,  4 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation, 18 days cuvaison;  18 months in French oak 20% new;  no fining,  no filtration;  www.mugnier.fr ]
Pinot noir ruby,  above halfway in depth.  Bouquet is a very mixed affair,  showing stalky red fruits in an estery and red rhubarb stalks way,  in varnishy older cooperage.  In mouth there is red currant and under-ripe red plum fruit,  but all tasting phenolic and somewhat sour,  with some brett too.  Actual weight of fruit is quite good,  in the modest stalky style that seems to characterise so many 2004 burgundies,  but the flavours make it not worth cellaring.  Previous vintages have had wonderful reviews.  GK 06/07

2004  Domaine Alphonse Mellot [Pinot Noir] En Grands Champs   14  ()
Sancerre,  Loire Valley,  France:  13%;  $ –    [ cork;  £48.50;  vine age 62 years;  underlying limestone;  100% de-stemmed, 10 days cold soak,  wild  yeast fermentation,  26 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak maturation 100% new;  no fining,  no filtration;  www.mellot.com ]
Good pinot ruby,  exactly the mid-point wine in depth of colour.  Initial impressions on bouquet are negative,  an ersatz wine smelling of amyl acetate,  bubble-gum and varnishy and raw oak,  as if the wine were chipped.  Palate reveals fruit lacking physiological flavour maturity,  red currants,  rhubarb stalks and acid,  vaguely varietal at best,  but some fruit weight.  A stalky QDR pinot,  not worth cellaring.  Good however to learn the British pay £48 for this wine,  and the Americans up to $100.  This could stimulate some challenges from down under.  Only fair to say previous vintages have reviews in the low 90s,  and are said to be 'very burgundian'.  GK 06/07

2004  Giaconda Pinot Noir Nantua Vineyard   13  ()
Beechworth,  NE Victoria,,  Australia:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  AU$65;  DFB;   average vine age 12 years;  90% de-stemmed,  10% whole bunch,  3 – 4 days cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation,  20 days cuvaison;  15 months French oak maturation 50% new;  no fining,  no filtration;  Spectator:  Tangy and a bit aggressive, with sharp acidity and a nip of tannins, that makes the blueberry and plum flavors stumble a bit. Best after 2007. 85;  www.giaconda.com.au ]
Pinot noir ruby,  in the middle for depth of colour.  Bouquet is non-varietal,  and non-winey too,  showing grubby and reductive characters in old stewed dark fruits,  all infused with bayleaf – unattractive.  Palate has rich physical fruit,  but sour,  stalky and very bretty flavours exacerbated by the bayleaf.  Only the physical structure has pinot noir suggestions – the smells and flavours are out of class,  and displeasing.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/07