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

The tasting reported on below has been one of the most rewarding pinot noir exercises I have undertaken.  You can learn a lot,  really getting to know 30 or so wines including some benchmark ones,  if they are studied over several days.  Conserving sample quality overnight with refrigeration or ice works well,  in testing and checking ideas.  A couple of the wines are repeats from the Central Otago pinot noir review reported on 15 Nov 2010,  where winemakers wanted a reassessment.  Offering reassessment is standard practice on this website.  But as I tasted and re-tasted the wines,  and compared this one with first that one,  then another,  and in due course found out which wine was which,  the wines set me thinking.

Should New Zealand pinot noir seek to emulate the wines of Burgundy ?
In a country still (for wine) pathetically dependent on "overseas" approval,  it is worth noting that some overseas commentators are rather good at being deceptively patronising about our wines,  along the lines of:  awfully good pinot noirs,  but they can't be confused with Burgundy.  Well,  I dispute that.  First and foremost,  the proposition is just like Bordeaux:  the probability that wines from elsewhere may not match the finest of the first growths in their greatest years is utterly irrelevant to comparison with the generality of the better wines of Bordeaux,  for the generality of wine-lovers.  And so it is for Burgundy.  Those great wines are more and more trophy items.  The comparisons must be made with benchmark wines which uphold their districts,  but are still accessible to wine-lovers for a special treat.  In Bordeaux that means most of the classed growths (and a few selected bourgeois crus),  and in Burgundy,  the premiers and grands crus,  leaving aside first growths and certain fabled wines.

To those who doubt that assertion,  I suggest taking a well-respected but still (just) accessible Burgundy winemaker such as Drouhin or Rousseau,  and selecting nine or so of the wines from a reasonable vintage ranging from simple village labels through premiers crus to their very best $500-plus grands crus.  To these add a couple of dozen New Zealand wines from good districts,  likewise ranging in aspirations from district wines to the very best (or most expensive) of the district,  in this case a $175 Reserve pinot noir from Central Otago.  Then mix all these wines up in the most rigorously blind presentation format and sequence you can devise,  where cheating is impossible.  Then rate the wines on one criterion:  achieved pinot noir quality.  Please note this is not a guessing game to identify which are the French wines.  The goal is to establish which wines best capture the elusive varietal quality of that most floral,  fragrant and sensuous grape,  pinot noir.  Some European wine people have difficulty with this approach,  simply because they are so familiar with and accustomed to established house styles (including faults) in Burgundy,  and therefore confuse house style with varietal parameters.

If this exercise is faithfully done,  New Zealand will be found to already be making many pinot noirs which rank with a cross-section of those of Burgundy,  and can sometimes be confused with them.  It is important to note that the average technical standard of New Zealand pinot noirs is higher than those of France.  Many European wine commentators have difficulty isolating and identifying technical faults,  and mistakenly think they are part of burgundy style.  Progressive New Zealand winemakers do not wish to match those aspects of burgundian pinot noir,  though some are ready to concede that subliminal amounts of certain 'faults' may be desirable for ultimate complexity.  Already,  many New Zealand winemakers have registered that pinot noir is not about size,  extract,  depth of colour,  over-ripeness or power.  Rather more the goal for pinot noir is subtlety,  florality and fragrance,  beauty,  elegance,  and texture and persistence (dry extract) in mouth.

It is clear from this tasting that some of our most thoughtful winemakers are now focussing on the realisation that the tending dark and ample pinot wines which have characterised Otago thus far do in fact display rather much of the character the Burgundians in general dislike – sur maturité – though some in the new world adore it.  In New Zealand our very particular temperate climate allows us the special opportunity of seeking to emulate the great wines of Burgundy.  This is gradually being achieved,  by those of a mind to do so.

Some,  perversely and with perhaps a suggestion of inverted snobbery,  think striving to match the wines of Burgundy is not a worthwhile goal at all.  I would argue that it is always good practice to match the original or model,  before presuming to better it.  This is what the Japanese have so brilliantly done in the postwar era,  be it cameras or cars.  The other hazard of the gung-ho 'make our own style' approach is the risk of pursuing completely wayward winestyles,  as a couple of the wines in this tasting unequivocally illustrate.

The simple probability is,  if we can make pinot noirs which can be confused with reputable pinot noirs from Burgundy,  the world will beat a path to our door.  To my mind therefore,  it is a goal well worth pursuing.  In doing so,  our next challenge in New Zealand at this stage is to combine the pinot virtues mentioned three paragraphs above with longevity in bottle – the latter is the key area where the better wines of Burgundy continue to excel.  At the moment,  the average New Zealand pinot noir is best drunk within five years of vintage,  and the best will cellar 5 – 8 years,  occasionally a few more.  To achieve Burgundy standards of 5 – 10 years for village wines,  and routinely 10 – 20 years for premiers and grands crus,  I suspect we will need first and foremost greater vine age,  which only time will solve,  and then continuing attention to cropping rate and achieving exact and appropriate ripeness,  and finally more experimenting with longer elevages in a lower percentage of new oak.  Several of the wines show we need dry extract first,  before saddling the wines with undue new oak.  Conversely,  the finest New Zealand pinot noir in the set turns out to have only 16% new oak.  Further thoughts on these issues emerge through the tasting reviews,  below.

Seeking to match the better wines of Burgundy (premiers crus in general,  some grands crus too) is the ideal immediate way forward for New Zealand pinot noir.  Those who achieve this step will be well-placed to shape the definitive New Zealand pinot noirs of the future.  Once our burgundian pinot noirs have confirmed they will cellar well and develop further character in bottle,  they will receive more critical acclaim.  Already the very best are good for 10 years,  so we are well on the way.  But in truth,  it is largely wine aficionados who cellar wine at all.  In the meantime therefore,  New Zealand pinot noir is already capable of providing everyday consumers with much of the pleasure of the wines of Burgundy,  at a more affordable pricepoint

THE WINES REVIEWED:  PINOT NOIR     [ at each points level,  the sequence though intended to be alphabetical,  is in fact more by chance,  certainly not rank ]

2008  Babich Pinot Noir Winemakers Reserve
2007  Carrick Pinot Noir
2007  Carrick Pinot Noir Excelsior
2008  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Calvert
2008  Deep Cove Pinot Noir
2008  Explorer Pinot Noir
2008  Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard
2008  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh
2007  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh
2006  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh
2008  Misha's Vineyard Pinot Noir High Note
2008  Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere
2008  Neudorf Pinot Noir Tom
2007  Peregrine Pinot Noir
2007  Peregrine Pinot Noir The Pinnacle
2007  Prophet's Rock Pinot Noir
2008  Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Calvert
  2007  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate [ black label ]
2007  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir [ white label ]
2007  Domaine Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze
2007  Domaine Rousseau Chambertin
2007  Domaine Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin
2007  Domaine Rousseau Clos de la Roche
2007  Domaine Rousseau Clos St-Jacques
2007  Domaine Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin [ Village ]
2007  Domaine Rousseau Les Cazetiers
2007  Domaine Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin
2007  Domaine Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin
2007  Seresin Pinot Noir Rachel
2007  Seresin Pinot Noir Sun and Moon
2007  Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir [ Diam ]
2007  Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir [ screwcap ]
2008  Wild Earth Pinot Noir
2009  Wild South Pinot Noir

2007  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir Bendigo Estate [ black label ]   19  ()
Bendigo district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $75   [ screwcap;  4 clones from 9-year old vines hand-harvested @ 1.8 t/ac,  co-fermented with wild yeasts and 20% whole-bunches;  total cuvaison including cold-soak up to 31 days;  c. 14 months in French oak 16% new;  bottled unfined and unfiltered;  www.quartzreef.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is dramatically floral and cherry-red fruits,  almost a kirsch quality (+ve),  wonderfully fragrant,  pure and appealing.  Palate shows an excellent concentration of fragrant red cherry and some black cherry,  on beautifully subtle oak,  all as understated as the Rousseau top wines,  yet it turns out to be Otago.  After the flavour,  concentration,  texture and dry extract,  the oak handling in particular demands the highest praise.  This is sensational New Zealand pinot noir,  one of the very best ever made,  a wine which will eclipse many same-vintage burgundy grands crus.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Chambertin Clos de Beze   19  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $546   [ cork;  up to 22 months in 100% new French oak;  Rousseau owns 1.4 ha,  9.2% of the vineyard;  making approx 500 cases;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  above midway in the depth of colour sequence,  scarcely distinguishable from the Craggy Range Calvert.  If there is one wine in the set that displays exemplary pinot noir varietal quality,  this is it.  The depth of the boronia,  violets and dark roses on bouquet is a total delight,  the quality of oak is reminiscent of Peregrine's The Pinnacle but subtler,  and the aromatic red and black cherry is breathtaking.  In mouth,  the wine fulfils all the promise of the bouquet,  not as rich as a year like 2005 but making up for that in beauty,  harmony,  balance,  and precise varietal flavour.  A pinot noir winemaker only needs to taste a wine like this once a year,  to be completely focussed for the other 364.  Sadly,  few bother in New Zealand.  Only two winemakers in the entire Wairarapa Valley were sufficiently interested in the absolute qualities sought in pinot noir,  to attend this benchmark Rousseau tasting.  When you think about it,  it is a rare occasion when a Rousseau tasting does not provide a benchmarking experience,  so a critical opportunity has been lost here.  2007 was a perfectly serviceable year in Burgundy,  Wine Spectator rating it 90 points and noting particular success in Gevrey-Chambertin – Rousseau's centre of operations.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Peregrine Pinot Noir The Pinnacle   18 ½ +  ()
Cromwell Basin & Gibbston,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $175   [ screwcap;  second release,  after 2005 inaugural;  8 clones hand-harvested;  up to 7 days cold soak,  up to 24 days cuvaison;  11 months in French oak 48% new,  then 6 months in French oak some new;  not fined or filtered;  83 cases only;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  the same weight as the Bendigo Block wine,  but a little fresher.  What a joy it is to see these appropriate colours for pinot noir (in a world sense) becoming more the norm in New Zealand.  It has been a long haul.  Bouquet is special on this wine,  reminiscent of Rousseau or Drouhin grands crus,  where you can detect there is fragrant vanillin new oak,  melded with the boronia florals,  but it is so subtle.  Palate like the Bendigo Estate is red fruits prominent,  though just like the Cote de Nuits,  the florality of fine black cherries is apparent too.  Palate however is a little oakier than the Bendigo,  but what a superb quality of oak this is.  Sometimes when you read of burgundy in 100% new oak,  or the Guigal grands crus in 100% new oak for 42 months,  one wonders in despair if the French have access to oak of a quality we never see in New Zealand.  This wine suggests otherwise.  Oak is at a maximum,  but the fruit is up to it.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  perhaps a little longer.  GK 11/10

2008  Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere   18 ½  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $54   [ screwcap;  nil whole bunch,  wild-yeast fermentation;  total cuvaison extending to 26 days;  12 months in French oak 28% new;  not fined or filtered;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Elegant pinot noir ruby,  close to the Grasshopper 2008,  what a change from earlier days at Neudorf.  Oh boy,  is this fragrant and floral,  there is almost a Musigny-like quality to this quintessentially pinot noir varietal bouquet.  The floral components have a light fraction to them,  as well as sensuous boronia and dark red roses,  fruit is red cherry grading to black,  and even on bouquet,  it smells rich.  The palate is wonderful:  taste this alongside the Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin Cazetiers,  which it resembles in some ways,  and the vastly richer fruit is a standout.  This is clearly a grand cru cropping rate wine.  The absolute quality of the Nelson fruit is slightly different from the Otago wines,  there being a fragrant hint of sweet leaf,  like holygrass (+ve).  Is this the best straight Neudorf Pinot Noir so far ?  There certainly have been some lovely designated-vineyard wines,  but this is great.  I very much like the way this label has evolved over the last 15 years.  Memorable wine to cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 11/10

2008  Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $69   [ screwcap;  several clones hand-harvested at varying yields < 2 t/ac;  extended cold-soak and cuvaison c.20% whole-bunch;  all wild yeast;  MLF also wild and 11 months in French oak c. 25% new;  no fining or filtration;  introduction to the Calvert concept 25 Nov 2008;  intriguing new website;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  about a maximum for the variety.  Bouquet is supremely sweet and floral at the dark roses and boronia level,  on clear red and black cherry fruit and subtle oak.  In mouth the florals are quite aromatic and permeate the youthful fruit,  though some marrying-up is still needed.  Within the Otago tending darker and well-fruited context,  this is even more varietal than the Craggy Calvert,   but with respect to its oaking it is also a little simpler.  Either way,  this is fine New Zealand pinot noir,  to cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Carrick Pinot Noir Excelsior   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.6%;  $85   [ screwcap;  3 clones,  hand-picked late April from c. 11 year-old vines at 1.4 t/ac;  c. 5 days cold-soak,  wild-yeast fermentation with c.15% whole-bunch,  up to 27 days cuvaison;  MLF and c.17 months in French oak c. 50% new;  neither fined nor filtered;  147 cases;  www.carrick.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  nearly on a par with the Pyramid Valley wine,  so tending marginal for pinot noir.  Bouquet is bold and youthful,  much less together than the same-year Pinnacle.  The depth of dark florality is remarkable for such a dark wine,  and there is an integration of black cherry and quite a lot of oak which is impressive,  making the wine later described as boisterous (Pyramid Calvert) seem almost delicate in comparison.  Palate is enormously concentrated,  nearly too ripe in its balance of black fruits to red,  a touch of the old Mondavi Reserve aromatic oak lengthening the flavour further.  This 2007 can be cellared with total confidence:  the cropping rate must have been very low to achieve this tactile feel of fruit richness (dry extract) on the tongue.  One goal of the Excelsior project has been to produce a pinot noir which has longevity in bottle.  This one seems richer even than the same-year Pinnacle,  and should therefore cellar for longer.  It should fine down in bottle and gain in charm.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/10

2008  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Calvert   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $48   [ screwcap;  hand-picked @ c. 2.25 t/ac;  15% whole-bunch component,  6 – 8 days cold-soak,  wild-yeast fermentation,  3 – 4 weeks cuvaison,  MLF and 10 months in French oak 33% new on lees;  RS < 1 g/L;  introduction to the Calvert concept 25 Nov 2008;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  a whole size less than the Felton,  deeper than The Pinnacle.  Bouquet is close to the Peregrine Pinnacle,  faintly fleshier,  but a similar quality of soft fragrant slightly vanillin oak (which in the first blind tasting at Regional Wines,  Escarpment winemaker Larry McKenna instantly picked as a Craggy wine).  Palate shows red fruits more than black,  dramatically less black in comparison with the Felton,  which since the three contributing proprietors harvest all at the same time,  goes to show how important the wine making component is in wine style.  The palate is a delight,  soft,  long and sensuous,  another tasting sweet on the fruit richness.  The increasingly subtle oak-handling in this wine compared with previous vintages is praiseworthy.  This wine will give much pleasure.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 11/10

2008  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh   18 ½  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $36   [ screwcap;  5% whole bunch;  10 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.grasshopperrock.co.nz ]
Beautiful pinot noir ruby,  fractionally lighter than The Pinnacle.  This is wonderful wine,  exquisitely pure light and fine on sweet buddleia,  red roses and red cherry aromas,  so much so one doesn't immediately register quite how burgundian / Cote de Beaune it is.  This bouquet is very special,  and a little unusual for Central Otago,  where the average of the pinot noirs tends darker.  In mouth the red fruits expand,  some black cherry now too,  and the fruit richness seems almost sweet,  giving a tactile impression of dry extract.  Oaking is beautifully subtle.  Textbook pinot noir,  with much better physiological maturity than the 2007,  and affordable,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  VALUE.  GK 11/10

2007  Prophet's Rock Pinot Noir   18 +  ()
Bendigo,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ cork;  hand-picked and sorted;  5% whole-bunch;  wild yeast fermentation;  16 months in French oak 35% new;  no filtration;  RS nil;  975 cases;  website a holding page only;  a wine for which re-assessment requested;  www.prophetsrock.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is very floral at the buddleia grading to red roses spectrum,  a touch of cherry-pie too from the vanillin of new oak,  on red-fruits pinot noir.  Palate is red fruits dominant,  quite fleshy,  not the 'authority' of the Moutere,  but totally international class pinot noir with full fragrance,  but no stalks.  This is another special wine for Otago,  being so fragrant yet without leaf.  Presumably the perspex character detected in the previous sample was cork-related,  yet it is encountered from time to time – there is a suggestion in one in this batch.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Chambertin   18 +  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $546   [ cork;  up to 22 months in 100% new French oak;  Rousseau owns 2.1 ha,  16.7% of this pre-eminent vineyard;  making approx 725 cases;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is by far the oakiest of the Rousseaus,  and at this stage it is interfering with varietal expression.  At the moment it does not seem as fine as the oak in either The Pinnacle or Clos de Beze.  On palate the same suggestion of coarseness shows through,  on good cherry fruit showing both red and black ripeness levels.  Fruit richness,  ripeness and length of flavour is greater than the Ruchottes,  so like Excelsior this wine needs putting aside for 5 – 8 years or so to harmonise.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 11/10

2008  Pyramid Valley Pinot Noir Calvert   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $60   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  25% whole-bunch,  up to 5 days cold-soak,  wild-yeast fermentation,  c. 28 days cuvaison;  MLF in barrel and 14 months on lees in French oak 25% new;  unfined and unfiltered;  700 (vs 140 the previous year) cases;  introduction to the Calvert concept 25 Nov 2008;  www.pyramidvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  maybe some carmine and velvet,  one of the three darkest / biggest colours in the tasting,  getting marginal.  Bouquet in one sense is what you'd expect from the colour,  a big aroma as if there were some saignée,  almost too much.  There are qualities of blackboy peach and dark plum,  and black more than red cherry,  all boisterous alongside the Craggy interpretation of the same fruit.  In mouth,  the wine continues boisterous and chunky,  not the subtlety of the top wines,  bolder but less oaky than Excelsior,  seemingly stronger and richer than the Felton Road,  yet undeniably varietal.  This will fine up with time in cellar,  but when it comes to excellence in pinot noir,  less can be more.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir [ screwcap ]   18  ()
Lowburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ screwcap (89% of the bottling,  balance Diam – see below);  hand-harvested;  10 months in French oak 33% new;  fifth  vintage;  appealing if fiddly website format,  more info would optimise;  re-evaluation requested,  since I was uncertain as to the closure in the previous sample;  www.surveyorthomson.co.nz ]
Elegant pinot noir ruby,  identical to the Rousseau Clos de Beze.  Bouquet is distinctive on this wine,  and improves with decanting and taking air for a while.  It is darkly floral, with an intriguing smokey undertone which is probably brett-related at a trace level – I have seen similar in some Clos de la Roche wines over the years.  Fruit is black more than red cherry,  palate is sensuous dark cherry,  oaking is a delight,  and the varietal flavour is long.  This is very burgundian,  in a  traditional way.  See further discussion for the same wine closed with Diam,  below.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/10

2008  Wild Earth Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn & Lowburn districts,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $40   [ screwcap;  2008 not on website,  if like 2007:  hand-harvested;  no whole-bunch,  some wild yeast;  up to 3 weeks cuvaison;  c.8 months in French oak 30% new;  fined and filtered;  www.wildearthwines.co.nz ]
Attractive pinot noir ruby.  Harking back to the overseas-originating theme of New Zealand pinot noir not being confuseable with the wines of Burgundy,  try this one alongside the Rousseau Clos de la Roche.  Both are red roses floral,  clear red cherry in the fruit,  oaked at a surprisingly similar level,  and all in all remarkably alike.  The only significant difference is a certain freshness and fleshyness of the fruit in the New Zealand wine.  Perhaps this is the result of a shorter time in newer oak,  rather than sustained maturation in equally clean but on-average older oak cooperage.  The Wild Earth might be slightly higher alcohol,  but it is the remarkable similarity which enchants,  all the same.  I cannot explain the marked discrepancy between today's ranking of this wine,  and a review 9 months previously.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Clos de la Roche   17 ½ +  ()
Morey-Saint-Denis Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $255   [ cork;  up to 22 months usually in one third new French oak;  Rousseau owns 1.5 ha,  8.8% of the vineyard,  making approx 490 cases;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Light pinot noir ruby.  Unusually for a wine from the Clos de la Roche vineyard,  this is an understated and unshowy wine,  all red fruits and light roses florals,  clean,  pure and lightly fragrant.  Palate follows similarly,  all red fruits,  initially a certain austerity like the village Gevrey,  but on closer examination,  and once it is well-breathed,  it is richer.  Very well-breathed,  an English tea-rose quality permeates both bouquet and palate,  and is enchanting,  real burgundy.  The key thing about these lighter Rousseau wines is,  though lighter there is no hint of stalk,  such as lets down the standard Peregrine.  Their ripening is pinpoint,  at the redfruits level mostly.  Deceptive wine,  therefore,  it is actually richer than the Cazetiers though communicating less well,  cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/10

2008  Misha's Vineyard Pinot Noir High Note   17 ½  ()
Bendigo,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $45   [ screwcap;  6 clones,  >50% crop-thinned to concentrate fruit character,  hand-harvested @ 1.3 t/ac;  wild-yeast ferment,  24 day cuvaison;  c.10 months in French oak 300-litre hogshead only,  34% new;  coarse filter only;  2184 cases;  great website;  www.mishasvineyard.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little fresher than the Craggy Calvert,  similar weight.  This wine forms a perfect bridge between the 2007 Peregrine standard and the 2008 Felton Calvert,  in the sense of ripening.  It is all red fruits,  but has neither the leafy hint of the Peregrine,  or the encroaching black cherry of the Felton.  On the palate though,  just a hint of stalk creeps in,  with very understated oaking.  Concentration is not up with the top wines,  but the flavours are delightful.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Ruchottes-Chambertin   17 ½  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $305   [ cork;  up to 22 months usually in one third new French oak;  Rousseau owns 1.1 ha,  32% of the vineyard,  making approx 350 cases;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  right in the middle of the field.  Bouquet is a little exotic on this wine too,  not exactly floral,  but it is fragrant red-fruits pinot noir with a slightly gamey note which is probably trace-brett-related.  Palate is beautifully ripe,  all red cherry,  subtle oak,  lingering well,  slightly richer than the Cazetiers,  but less rich than the Clos de la Roche.  This will be good food wine.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh   17 +  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  if like the 2008,  c. 5% whole bunch;  10 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.grasshopperrock.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  darker than The Pinnacle,  above midway.  Bouquet is explicitly floral and fragrant pinot noir,  the quality of the floral notes very diverse,  from buddleia to boronia (which is perfectly possible if several ripeness levels are harvested).  Purity is excellent.  Flavours are red cherry grading to black,  the wine a little fleshy and soft as if under-oaked,  a little blackboy peach weakening the focus.  This does not seem to have the grip of the 2008 wine,  just a hint of leafyness and less even fruit ripeness / quality maybe.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Clos St-Jacques   17 +  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $377   [ cork;  up to 22 months in 100% new French oak;  Rousseau owns 2.2 ha,  33% of the vineyard;  making approx 725 cases;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby,  well below midway.  Bouquet is beautifully floral at the red roses and boronia level,  lifted by the vanillin of new oak,  all on a red cherry base.  Palate has some of the fleshyness of the paler New Zealand wines,  and in my blind tasting certainly did not come through as obviously French,  being all at the red cherry level only.   There is slight disappointment here,  as one of Rousseau's top reds by reputation,  since it is so much paler and fleshier / less authoritative than the Close de Beze.  I wonder if it is chaptalised rather much.  The quality of the new oak is great,  though.  Cellar 3 – 12 years,  maybe to surprise.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Les Cazetiers   17 +  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $168   [ cork;  up to 22 months in mostly second-year French oak;  Rousseau owns 0.6 ha,  4.9% of the vineyard;  making approx 200 cases;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  well below midway in depth.  Bouquet is fragrant and varietal,  all red fruits,  and mostly older oak,  with just a hint of soft old-style Rioja to it.  Palate is light but not weak,  red cherry only but no red currants so properly ripe,  sustaining oak,  pleasing 'serious' but not substantial burgundy,  richer than the Village wine,  but close to it in style.  Several 3 – 12 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin   17 +  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $253   [ cork;  up to 22 months in mostly second-year French oak;  Rousseau owns 0.5 ha,  5.8% of the vineyard;  making approx 175 cases;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the Rousseau grands crus,  well below midway in the field.  Bouquet is the lightest of the Chambertin variants too,  but it is pure with fragrant red fruits and some vanillin,  but not exactly floral.  Palate is red cherries,  some new oak,  deceptive in its weight,  seeming light,  but like the Clos de la Roche (but less so) there is more to it than might be supposed.  At the price,  it makes the village wine seem good value (!),  for one has to focus very hard to find the greater concentration here.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Peregrine Pinot Noir   17  ()
Cromwell Basin 80%,  Gibbston 20,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  nil whole bunch;  10 months in French oak,  35% new;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  minutely deeper than The Pinnacle.  Bouquet is distinctly different from Pinnacle,  not quite the uniform ripeness,  so there is an enhanced florality showing more lighter buddleia fractions as associated with less ripeness,  plus a hint of sweet flowering mint.  Palate follows perfectly,  red fruits more than black,  soft and succulent,  lovely fruit sweetness,  highly varietal,  gently oaked,  a little leafy but avoiding the massive component in the Carrick standard wine for the same year.  I seem to have tasted / reported on this wine frequently,  and the range of scores reflects the previously-quoted wise words of Harry Waugh,  that (American views of tasting exactitude notwithstanding) any score reflects that wine on that day,  relative to the wines it is tasted with.  On this occasion,  the exact redfruits character of even the smallest Rousseau,  with no hint of leafyness / mixed ripeness,  means that leafyness / green suggestions in other wines have been considered more negatively than on other occasions.  This is the reality of wine-tasting,  whether for individuals or groups.  It helps to explain why medal results even from well-regarded judgings also vary.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/10

2008  Babich Pinot Noir Winemakers Reserve   17  ()
Awatere & Marlborough Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $29   [ supercritical 'cork';  5 clones,  7% whole-bunch fermentation,  14 months French oak,  some new;  www.babichwines.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  close to the Prophet's Rock.  Bouquet improves greatly with air-time to reveal a sweetly floral and beautifully varietal red fruits pinot noir,  with great purity.  Below the red cherry there is a hint of almond,  and subtlest oak.  Palate is not quite so focused,  a little of the looser blackboy peach character creeping into the red cherry,  but oaking is attractive and the whole wine is distinctly more-ish.  The pace of change in Marlborough pinot noir towards more accurate and international pinot noir varietal character is exciting.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin   17  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru,  Burgundy,  France:  13.5%;  $244   [ cork;  up to 22 months in mostly second-year French oak;  Rousseau owns 1.4 ha,  4.4% of the vineyard;  making approx 450 cases;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little below midway.  Bouquet is sweetly floral at the boronia level,  but also a little piquant,  just a hint of white pepper as in cool-year Cote Rotie – perplexing,  but not unknown in imperfectly ripe pinot noir.  In mouth,  the florality triumphs,  on red cherry fruit,  the oak soft and subtle,  the whole winestyle surprisingly Drouhin in one sense,  puzzling.  There is an undertone of leaf,  though,  and the wine is more beguiling than substantial,  I suspect.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Domaine Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin [ Village ]   17  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $149   [ cork;  Rousseau owns 2.2 ha of unclassified vineyards in the village;  old oak only;  www.domaine-rousseau.com ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the set.  Bouquet is not light,  however,  showing explicit florality at the buddleia / clearly red fruits end of the floral spectrum,  plus vanillin suggestions from seemingly new oak.  Palate is lightish,  not the concentration of the higher-rated wines,  but nonetheless explicitly pinot noir at the red cherry level,  riper than red currants,  not stalky at all.  The bouquet suggestion of new oak is not evident on the palate,  which once one gets the ID fits in – though it is conceivable that discreet use of chips could be practised in village wines,  even at Rousseau.  I mean,  would they tell you ?  It is a little hard to accept 2007 Village Gevrey at $149,  though,  when the 1966s were around $3.60.  On the Reserve Bank Inflation Calculator for the elapsed years,  $52 would be more appropriate – in several senses.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Carrick Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  5 clones hand-picked,  reduced crop;  negligible whole bunch 2007,  pre-ferment cold soak c.5 days,  plus c.10 days cuvaison with 70% wild yeast;  c.14 months in French oak c. 30% new;  light filter only;  www.carrick.co.nz ]
Big ruby for pinot noir,  one of the darker wines.  Bouquet is very ripe, showing a degree of sur maturité which leaves behind red fruits and florality,  and introduces fragrant dark plummy notes instead.  Palate is awkward,  with suggestions of mixed ripeness now apparent,  both darkly plummy notes and some stalky suggestions evident too,  in quite an oaky setting.  This is a burly but attractive pinot noir which will cellar well,  but will not I suspect achieve the burgundian finesse of some of its subtler compatriots,  or the more even and appropriate ripeness evident in the Excelsior wine of the same year.  Interesting wine therefore,  to cellar 5 – 12 years on its size,  for it is still clearly varietal and may fine down.  GK 11/10

2006  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh   16 ½ +  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.3%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  if anything like the 2008,  c. 5% whole bunch;  10 months in French oak,  30% new;  www.grasshopperrock.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby.  First impression on bouquet is oak,  on modest red fruits,  fragrant but not floral.  Palate is in keeping,  but there is better fruit than supposed,  all red fruits with a touch of red currants,  not exactly stalky.  On palate though,  alongside the Rousseau village wine,  it is clearly a little leafy.  It is still attractive wine at its point of ripeness,  setting the foundation for evolution through to the delightful 2008 vintage from Grasshopper.  Cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 11/10

2007  Quartz Reef Pinot Noir [ white label ]   16 ½ +  ()
Bendigo,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  6 clones,  hand-picked;  5% whole bunch,  c.20 days cuvaison;  c.14 months in French oak,  33% new,  balance 1 & 2-year;  fined;  www.quartzreef.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  a little age showing,  well above midway in depth.  There is an odd note on the newly opened bouquet,  a suggestion of burning perspex noted before in certain Otago wines which dissipates with ventilation,  leaving a fragrant slightly exotic red and black fruits aroma like 50 / 50 canned guavas and stewed plums.  Palate is much better,  richly fruity in this unusual but attractive style,  a trace of stalk below.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  There is certainly a vast difference in fruit character between the white label and black label Quartz Reef wines.  GK 11/10

2007  Seresin Pinot Noir Sun and Moon   16 ½  ()
Omaka Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $109   [ screwcap (harder to open Stelvin Lux);  hand-harvested,  60% of fruit from higher-clay older hill-soils;  no whole-bunch;  cold-soak and extended cuvaison to c.24 days;  17 months in French oak perhaps half new;  c.58 cases;  useful website;  www.seresin.co.nz ]
Big ruby and velvet,  the darkest of all the wines,  not really a pinot noir colour.  Bouquet to first impression is not very varietal either,  a disquieting pennyroyal and mint quality nearly as distracting and as strong as eucalyptus in Australian wines.  It may indeed be dilute eucalyptus.  There is big dark fruit but no clear varietal analogies,  together with an underlying stalky thread.  Palate confirms the worst fears,  revealing a big unsubtle wine showing very uneven ripeness from over-ripe and plummy (dominant) to stalky / leafy and inappropriate components,  really old-style New Zealand misguided pinot.  The total impression is rich and mouth filling,  quantitatively OK but not qualitatively,  recognisably pinot noir but not for the right reasons.  Cellar 3 – 12 years,  in its style.  For a contrasting view,  see Neal Martin,  Wine Advocate #184,  reproduced in the Seresin website technical page for the wine (at foot),  noting that some of his descriptors are simply inappropriate for fine pinot.  There is still a real problem in pinot noir assessment,  both individually and in judging arenas,  which thoughtful winemakers thankfully are now recognising.  GK 11/10

2007  Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir [ Diam ]   16 ½  ()
Lowburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ supercritical 'cork' 11% of the bottling,  89% screwcap,  see above);  hand-harvested;  10 months in French oak 33% new;  fifth  vintage;  appealing website format,  more info would optimise;   re-evaluation requested,  since I was uncertain as to the closure in the previous sample – it would appear to have been Diam;  www.surveyorthomson.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little age showing.  Bouquet is odd on this wine,  a scented and clearly bretty European-styled aroma,  on red fruits.  Palate is much more varietal,  red cherry dominant but a suggestion of black,  plus an undertone of stalk suggesting mixed ripeness.  The nett result is better than the first impression,  giving good varietal drinking.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  When the IDs revealed the very different scores for the screwcap and Diam version of this same wine,  I compared them more closely.  The Diam wine is much older in colour,  bouquet and fruit character,  so those qualities noted as positive complexity in the screwcap bottling are obtrusive and becoming negative in the Diam one.  I was intrigued by the difference in cellaring time offered in my original drafts.  All is now explained.  Another small triumph for screwcap.  GK 11/10

2008  Neudorf Pinot Noir Tom   16 +  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  this is the former Nelson label,  not all Moutere fruit;  8 clones hand-picked,  cold soak,  wild yeast fermentation;  8 months in French oak 15% new;  not fined,  minimal filtration;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  the third to lightest.  Bouquet is sweetly perfumed,  more at the sweet-pea and buddleia level,  raising some doubts as to the absolute fruit ripeness.  In mouth it is all red fruits,  even some red currants and a hint of strawberry,  but mainly red cherry.  There is not the leafyness feared,  but there is a certain simplicity of elevage,  the finish is not so sustained,  and there is not the concentration of the more highly-rated wines.  Perhaps some of it is held in stainless steel.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 11/10

2008  Explorer Pinot Noir   16  ()
Cromwell district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  a sub-label of Surveyor Thomson;  no info ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  one of the lightest.  Bouquet is light,  fragrant,  and tending European in the old style,  slight entrained reduction giving a spurious florality on all-red fruits.  Palate is little hard on the sulphur and some acid,  fruit at the red currants to some red cherry only level,  then surprisingly reasonable dry extract for the light colour,  again reinforcing the European impression.  Cellar 2 – 7 years in its style.  GK 11/10

2007  Seresin Pinot Noir Rachel   16  ()
Omaka Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $57   [ screwcap (harder to open Stelvin Lux);  3 clones,  hand-harvested,  60% of fruit from higher-clay older hill-soils;  no whole-bunch;  cold-soak and extended cuvaison to c.24 days;  15 months in French oak some new;  useful website;  www.seresin.co.nz ]
Big ruby and velvet,  with the Seresin Sun and Moon and the Pyramid Calvert the darkest of all the wines.  Bouquet is quite exotic and tending Australian,  an oaky malt-extract and lucerne hay quality to it,  with a whisper of mint and aniseed,  which is not varietal.  Oak and stalks are evident on bouquet too.  In mouth,  the balance of undesirably mixed ripenesses in the fruit gives a nett texture of pinot noir,  but the flavours are eccentric.  Fruit richness is good,  and it is perfectly enjoyable as red wine in its own way.  Odd shirazes from Geelong have been reminiscent of this wine.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  though the stalkyness is at peril of increasing.  GK 11/10

2008  Deep Cove Pinot Noir   15 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn & Pisa districts,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $30   [ screwcap;  a sub-label of Wild Earth;  hand-harvested;  some wild-yeast ferments;  c.16 days cuvaison;  perhaps 8 months in French oak one third new;  fined and filtered;  www.wildearthwines.co.nz/inc/sped/uploads/files/Wild%20Earth%20Deep%20Cove%20PN08%20note.pdf ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is unusual,  a little sacky initially but with air revealing a mix of red currants,  red cherries,  and cooked silver beet stalks,  quite fragrant but all a little stewed and lacking focus as pinot noir.  Palate is pleasantly red fruits including red cherry,  clearly varietal in a modest reasonably well-fruited bourgogne rouge way.  More QDR pinot,  but will cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 11/10

2009  Wild South Pinot Noir   15  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  Wild South appears to be a supermarket label owned by Sacred Hill;  info is sketchy;  RS 1.2 g/L;  www.wildsouthwines.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  the second lightest of the set.  Bouquet is light redcurrant pinot noir with a confectionery note of chaptalising,  leading into a red fruits palate which is not bone dry,  but is clean and lightly varietal in a modest and not very concentrated sense.  More QDR pinot,  but should cellar 2 – 4 years.  GK 11/10