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

The Invitation and later hand-out for this Library Tasting (14 Nov. 2013,  Regional Wines & Spirits,  Wellington) included the following material.  Most New Zealand pinot noirs are best between five and eight years after vintage,  but the good ones will run a little longer.  New Zealand 2003-vintage pinot noirs were the subject of special tastings in both the 2007 and 2010 Pinot Noir Conferences,  when the wines were 4 and 7 years old,  respectively.  In the latter Conference the wines did not come across as well as I would have hoped.  When our pinots achieve something of the longevity of the wines of Burgundy,  we will know that pinot noir has really arrived in New Zealand.  Increasing vine age will help that goal.

Meanwhile,  10 years later,  here is a selection of some of the best New Zealand pinot noirs from the vintage,  including some from the Conferences,  and some others so we have a sampling from all the main districts.  I have back-up bottles of all those not sealed with screwcap,  so tasters will receive what is listed.  Note that in several cases the vineyard's top wine,  or the one I consider their top for the year,  is presented,  not the standard wine.  This makes it tougher for wineries putting all their efforts into one representative label,  but should give us a more exciting tasting.

The 2003 vintage:  
Martinborough:  Ata  Rangi have much the best vintage log in the district.  It reflects their experience,  but can be taken as a general indication:  Yields were slashed in half due to severe, recurring spring frosts and poor weather at flowering. Hardest hit blocks failed to crop at all. The average yield was less than 1 t/acre. Plenty of lovely warm days through the summer, but overall it was variable with some very cold temperatures in February. Harvest was thankfully very settled and dry, though cool. The spring frosts meant that fruit set timing (and therefore ripeness) was all over the place –  it was definitely a year for hand-picking fruit. Leaf canopies were notable for their openness and scrappiness, a hangover from the frosts and wind. Quite a Burgundian season (warm summer, cool autumn) and one with very exciting potential.  Another wine which will benefit hugely from decanting.  A vintage to cellar.

Otago:  The vintage summary in my 2010 review of the 2009 Central Otago Pinot Noirs reports:  Cold slow spring,  but no frost damage.  Reasonable flowering,  mixed early summer,  good February and very dry March promised well.  Cool April with some frosts lengthened ripening positively,  a good volume of more fragrant and elegant wines than 2002 which looked exciting around the time of Pinot Noir 2007,  but not all have been as long-lived as initially hoped.  Perhaps not the concentration for excellence.  Those perfectly cellared are mature now,  many others fading.

Burgundy:   Jancis Robinson reports (paraphrased) that 2003 was an exceptionally capricious year,  with the wines reaching new heights of unpredictability.  The season was warm,  sometimes too warm for the delicate pinot noir,  the grapes were picked early,  skins were thick,  tannins high,  and acid low.  In general reds did better than whites,  but even at the same proprietor,  there is great variation.  Even so,  she still has a scattering of 18 or 18.5 ratings in her marks,  a high score from her,  even where other wines in the same stable are 14 or similar.  Wine Spectator are more favourable,  perhaps as one might expect from America for a warm year,  rating the vintage 90 –  93,  and saying for the Cotes de Nuits:  Exotic, ripe and concentrated; the best are destined to be classics.  Robert Parker rates the vintage 88 –  91.

The Tasting:
The 2003 New Zealand pinot noirs have been discussed at some length in previous articles on this website.  For the 2010 Pinot Noir Conference,  a bracket of 2003 New Zealand wines was shown in the formal tastings,  as an opportunity to illustrate mature New Zealand pinot.  In the event,  this didn't work out too well,  many of the wines tasting tired.  In writing them up,  I felt obliged to speculate the wines may have suffered misadventure between the winery and the presentation,  since they showed quite differently from my expectations,  and earlier published estimates of longevity.

Accordingly,  I approached this tasting and the opportunity to revisit the 2003 pinot noirs with a good deal of direct interest.  The first thing to say is,  it astonishes me how few people know how to decant wine.  Before other tastings,  I watch winemakers doing extraordinary things,  like pouring out the whole bottle,  for example.  You ask Google,  and are obliged to watch American know-alls brandishing allegedly mature wine like Indian clubs.  In a culture which values consumption over conservation,  who needs to think about over-aeration,  or sediment ?  The second detail is,  it still seems likely to me that the 2003 wines were mishandled in their presentation in Pinot Noir 2010.  Naturally,  you are not allowed to say this in New Zealand,  where the Pinot Noir Conference has become an industry holy cow,  and criticism is verboten.  Unless the speaker is from overseas,  of course ...

Whether the wines sat in a hot delivery van somewhere for some hours,  or just were over-handled / exposed to air for too long before the tasting stage,  I do not know.  But in decanting these wines appropriately,  carefully-cellared bottles some three years later seemed in relatively better condition than the wines in the Conference (for the same labels).  For decanting,  the key requirement with older wines,  or wine suspected of being old,  is to hold the bottle vertical and dislodge any sediment in the neck with a gentle sideways shake,  then leave the wine standing up a month ahead of tasting.  On the day of the tasting one has to remove the capsule top and cork without disturbing the sediment at all,  then slide the wine from one bottle to another with the least possible disturbance,  cutting off the flow at the first sign of fines.  The dregs go in a glass.  At this stage,  jugs are out.  The dregs can then be assessed for reduction,  etc,  and only then,  if needed,  is the decanted wine adjusted by aeration.

In conducting the tasting,  in introducing them we talked about some of these things,  and noted that for this exercise there was a French foil.  I expressed the hope that when we reached the ranking analysis I put up on the whiteboard,  every one of the 12 wines would have somebody nominating it to be the French wine.  This worked out pleasingly,  with 8 of the 12 wines considered a likely candidate for France.  Unfortunately,  yet again the French wine was not a particularly good example of pinot noir,  so while it showed how wonderfully in style New Zealand pinot noir has the potential to be (we're talking about the fruit of 10 years ago),  the French wine signally failed to illuminate either the New Zealand examples of pinot noir,  or what pinot noir the winestyle should be about.

The moral again is,  New Zealand pinot noir is already much better than most northern hemisphere commentators give it credit for.  And for me,  in running tastings like this,  the future lesson must be:  put at least one premier cru in any batch of New Zealand pinot noirs up for assessment,  since this reputable village wine simply did not cut the mustard.

Writing up the wines has been difficult.  Half the wines are pleasing,  yet none of them is 'perfect' (in a workaday sense of the word,  not an infinitely demanding one such as that deployed in the Jancis Robinson website).  Acid streaks here,  green notes there,  too much oak elsewhere.  This is where several hundred years of experience in Burgundy makes all the difference between good wines and great wines,  and the fact that good bottles of fine (and expensive) French burgundy are magical.  But as I have said before,  it is simply unrealistic to flail ourselves because our best pinot noir wines do not match the greatest examples of French pinot noir,  which are the preserve solely of the very wealthy.  Linked with this therefore is the observation that the Robert Parker website idea of a 100-point wine is much more relevant to 99.99% of the wine world than the Robinson 20-point one is.  An individual has a chance of tasting a Parker 100-point wine,  in a lifetime.  Not so,  Robinson.  So there is a reality issue.  Though,  to look at the gratuitous and inflated scores for New Zealand pinot noirs emerging from so many New Zealand wine commentators,  you would think New Zealand pinot noir now lead the world totally.

Seven of the 12 wines rated 'top wine' for at least two tasters,  so there was much to enjoy in this tasting.  What a thrill it will be to run pinot noir tastings like this 2003 one with wines from the promising 2009 and 2010 vintages,  the viticulturists meanwhile having learnt so much more about optimising evenness of ripening in the crop,  and with more attention now to fruit-sorting at harvest.  Likewise the best winemakers (at least) have now tasted a good deal more fine pinot noir from around the world (which essentially means from France and Oregon),  and thus have a clearer vision of what they are striving to create.  Scoring for today's tasting is a little harder than most of my previous scores for the same wines,  reflecting that I too have thought more about pinot noir,  the most elusive winestyle on earth.

Prices below are an indication of the original price.  The New Zealand pinot noir market is a little more competitive now than then,  and better value too.


2003  Dog Point Pinot Noir
2003  Drouhin Pommard
2003  Dry River Pinot Noir
2003  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe
2003  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3
2003  Greenhough Pinot Noir
  2003  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir Marie Zelie
2003  Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully
2003  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard
2003  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna
2003  Richardson Pinot Noir
2003  Schubert Pinot Noir

2003  Richardson Pinot Noir   18  ()
Cromwell and Gibbston Valleys,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  the first vintage from Michelle Richardson,  formerly the high-profile chief winemaker at Villa Maria;  hand-harvested,  cold soak,  small part whole-bunch,  MLF following spring,  French oak 40% new,  less than 12  months;  Cooper,  2006:  The delightfully perfumed, silky-smooth 2003 vintage is … deep ruby, with a scented bouquet. Fleshy, with strong ripe-cherry, plum and spice flavours, buoyant, supple and very harmonious, it's delicious already, but should also mature well, ****½;  bottle courtesy of Rob Bishop and Shelley Hood;  www.richardsonwines.co.nz ]
Mature pinot noir ruby,  in the middle for colour,  just right.  Bouquet is sweet and delightfully floral,  in the dark roses,  violets and boronia sector,  exciting,  more Cote de Nuits than Cote de Beaune,  perhaps faintly leafy against 'ideals'.  Palate is fine and elegant,  red grading to a little black cherry,  really burgundian,  a lovely balance of fragrant fruit to subtle oak,  and with a pleasing acid balance.  Perhaps there is a trace of leaf,  but mainly in the sense the wine is still fresh and lively,  contrasting with several of the others.  It is corny to say the wine is feminine,  given a female winemaker,  but it is,  and good pinot noir lends itself to that interpretation.  Fully mature now,  attractive.  GK 11/13

2003  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe   18  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ 44mm 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;  Cooper doesn't have 2003 Kupe,  but in 2007 I thought:  in five years this Kupe is going to be a contender for the topmost 2003 New Zealand pinot noir,  18.5 +;  Julia Harding @ Robinson,  2012:  Bright ruby. Lovely gentle aroma of red fruit and herbs. Then quite tight and almost austere on the palate. A little tense with the acidity standing out on the finish. No whole bunches. I thought this was from 2005 because it seemed still so youthful. 16.5;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  well above halfway in depth,  fresher and a little deeper than the Richardson,  promising.  Bouquet is subdued initially,  and remains shy in terms of a floral component.  There is good fragrant black cherry grading to plum fruit on both bouquet and palate,  and quite a suggestion of vanillin.  I have not classed that as floral,  however,  assuming it to be the ratio of new oak.  Where this wine wins acclaim is on the palate.  It is masterly.  Fruit is ripe,  perhaps slightly too ripe for optimal florality,  but the key thing is,  there are no stalky notes such as several others show,  and there is good fruit richness.  Oak is at a maximum.  This is one of the few wines to clearly have several years ahead of it,  perhaps up to 5,  if you like mature pinot noir.  GK 11/13

2003  Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $73   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and others 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;  no Cooper,  so GK:  this Mt Difficulty is simply one of New Zealand's greatest pinots yet.  My top wine of the entire 2007 Pinot Noir Proceedings  19 +;  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 ]
Perfect pinot noir ruby,  the palest of the wines,  more how a grand cru Rousseau 2003 would be showing.  Once aired,  the bouquet is the most floral and most beautiful wine in the set,  but not for long.  There are clear rose grading to boronia floral qualities,  on red more than black cherry fruits.  It is arguably the most perfectly ripe of the top wines,  lacking the hint of leaf in the Richardson,  yet more fragrant and piquant than the Kupe.  Then it fades.  In mouth this wine is now a little past its peak,  and is drying a little.  Fruit has an autumnal quality to it,  some browning in the red cherry.  As the fruit fades,  the oak will become less subtle.  I'd hoped for more from this,  in earlier reports,  but perhaps the cropping rate / dry extract is not quite at the level needed for long ageing.  Kupe is setting a good lead,  in this respect.  GK 11/13

2003  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3   17 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested @ c. 2.5 t/ac;  some whole-bunch,  up to 8 days cold soak,  up to 23 days cuvaison;  c.15 months in French oak some new;  not fined or filtered;  Cooper,  2005:  the powerful tightly-built 2003 vintage is deep in colour, with lovely concentration and poise. Offering an abundance of ripe, sweet cherry and spice flavours, it is savoury and complex, with a firm backbone of tannin. It should unfold superbly over the next few years, *****;  Robinson,  2005:  Quite bright ruby with subtle gradations towards the rim. Some coffee – quite fresh and attractive. Very honest and straightforward rendition of the treacle side of Pinot. Really racy with a good dry finish. Tannins just a little stringy on the finish. Not pure but a good, if slightly over-extracted example, 17;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Mature pinot noir ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet opens with a suggestion of decay,  for which pretentious wine people like to affect the term sous-bois,  and then a thought of leafyness.  Leafyness and florality intergrade,  and there is quite a good volume of bouquet,  but it is not quite sweet enough.  Palate is a great step up,  immediate red grading to black cherry fruit,  beautifully subtle oak alongside some of these wines,  the nett impression being very much a burgundian pinot noir.  Blair Walter experiments with a percentage whole bunch,  and in maturity,  you can't help feeling the ripeness of the tannins in stem and seed fractions was not quite optimal this year.  The leafy component seemed greater than the Richardson,  so that wine appears more complete,  in burgundian terms.  The Felton is richer,  though,  and on another day it could easily be the top wine in the set.  Fully mature,  but will hold a little longer,  fading gently,  the impression of leaf maybe increasing.  GK 11/13

2003  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir Marie Zelie   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $179   [ 48mm cork;  hand-harvested clone 10/5 23 years old,  and other younger clones,  sorting table;  10 – 15% whole bunch,  4 – 5 days cold soak,  up to 20 days cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 100% new,  plus 4 months in new and one year;  not fined or filtered;  900 bottles;  Cooper,  2009:  The gorgeous 2003 … Full and moderately youthful in colour … finely scented … silky, highly complex flavours, already highly seductive. It's an arrestingly rich wine (as it should be, given the price), for drinking now onwards, *****;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby and noticeable garnet,  the second deepest wine by quite a margin,  despite the garnet.  When you have a $179 New Zealand wine in a tasting,  the rigorously blind presentation comes into its own.  Bouquet is really strong on this wine,  by New Zealand standards.  The aromatic component in Martinborough wines (particularly) which I call 'pennyroyal character' is here becoming obtrusive,  again,  by New Zealand standards.  It is nearly comparable with Australian flowering mint (Prostanthera),  but it escapes being euc'y.  So in one sense the wine is highly floral,  and boronia being Rutaceae (which includes Citrus),  a case can be made for the wine being great on bouquet.  The main thing is,  unlike the other dark wine,  the Dry River,  it does smell like pinot noir,  even though the new oak component is to a max or excessive,  as the garnet in the hue suggests.  In mouth,  there is remarkable fruit richness,  but the level of oak and the aromatics make one think of Gran Reserva tempranillo.  Acid is a bit high,  too.  The Kupe shows a better expression of pinot noir,  on palate,  I think.  One certain thing about this wine is,  it is rich,  and has some years ahead of it.  The risk is the fruit will recede,  leaving the oak stranded.  It is already a little too furry in texture for fine pinot noir.  Corduroy instead of velvet.  Remarkable and impressive New Zealand wine,  though,  and with bold foods,  it will impress.  Cellar a further 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/13

2003  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir Prima Donna   17 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $85   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5,  2/10 and others,  18 years,  harvested @ 3 t/ha (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;  Cooper,  2006:  The 2003 is boldly coloured, very powerful and concentrated, with layers of flavour, impressive complexity, and great cellaring potential, *****;  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 ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  a similar weight to Kupe but a little older in hue,  suggesting more oak exposure.  Bouquet is strong,  with a new leather note one winemaker interpreted as being slightly aldehydic / trace oxidation,  on rich black cherry fruit.  It is fragrant but not exactly floral,  so like the Marie Zelie it is tending wayward in a burgundian sense.  Fruit richness on palate is marvellous,  though,  with black cherry only and a suggestion of browning plum – perhaps this one too was originally a bit too ripe to optimise florality.  Oak is again noticeable,  in the New Zealand style,  and as the fruit retreats,  oak furryness will increase.  There are still several years left in this wine.  GK 11/13

2003  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard   17 +  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $73   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5,  5 and 22,  up to 23 years,  harvested @ c.5 t/ha (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;  Cooper, 2006:  The voluptuous 2003 vintage is deeply coloured, fragrant, savoury and complex, with beautifully rich, ripe flavours – ranging from cherries, plums and spice, to raisins, nuts and liquorice – and firm underlying tannins. It’s a very bold style, but retains clear varietal character. Drink now or cellar,  *****;  Tanzer,  2005:  Saturated deep red. Red raspberry fruit overshadowed by sweet, spicy oak and caramel on the nose. Fat, lush and ripe, but not as sweet or forward as the basic bottling despite the soft texture. Less sappy and more oaky pinot, finishing with more evidence of wood tannins, 87;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Mature pinot noir ruby,  just below midway.  Like the Felton Road wine,  as age creeps up on the wine balance,  components which were previously complexity in the flush of youthful fruit now look less convincing.  The wine is fragrant partly from trace oxidation,  but there is a clear leafy quality in the fading florals.  Palate shows good fruit,  but both oak and stalk suggestions are apparent,  the former exacerbating the latter.  Some acid too.  In retrospect,  more perfect ripening,  or sorting of the fruit,  seems needed.  Oak is greater than the Felton Road,  but it is uncanny how similar these two wines are,  for districts so far apart climatically and in kilometres.  This too has the fruit to hold,  but it is unlikely to improve.  GK 11/13

2003  Dog Point Pinot Noir   17  ()
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;  Cooper,  2006:  Beautifully fragrant, with deep, purple-flushed colour, it is mouth-filling and rich, with concentrated plum, cherry and spice flavours, and firm yet velvety tannins. Combining power and elegance with great flair, its still youthful; open 2006 +, *****;  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 ]
Mature pinot noir ruby,  just above midway in depth.  Bouquet is distinctly autumnal,  in style for mature pinot noir,  not exactly floral,  but certainly fragrant,  Beaune more than Cote de Nuits.  Palate continues that thought,  red cherry fruit now browning,  good richness,  not as oaky as some,  the whole wine tending savoury and making one think of beef / steak dishes.  That is not a euphemism for brett,  all these wines seem spick.  This 2003 wine was a forerunner of the new-generation Marlborough pinot noirs,  fruit from older soils,  and much richer and more ageworthy.  Fully mature,  but will fade gracefully,  since it lacks leafy notes.  GK 11/13

2003  Greenhough Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Waimea Plains,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap;  clones 10/5 and others,  some vines up to 24 years, harvested at under 5 t/ha (2 t/ac);  100% de-stemmed,  up to 7 days cold soak,  up to 27 days cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 37% new;  Cooper,  2005:  The stylish 2003 was fermented with indigenous and cultivated yeasts … It’s a powerful yet exceptionally elegant wine, notably concentrated, vibrant and youthful, with layers of flavour and a finely poised, lasting finish, *****;  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;  www.greenhough.co.nz ]
Mature pinot noir ruby,  age showing,  in the middle for depth.  Bouquet is fully mature but clearly varietal pinot noir,  quite autumnal,  red fruits,  some leafyness.  Palate follows naturally,  red fruits now browning,  acid up a little,  the wine a little short now,  a suggestion of stalkyness as the berry fades,  yet still pleasing and better with food.  Drink up.  GK 11/13

2003  Schubert Pinot Noir   16 +  ()
Taratahi mostly,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $45   [ 48mm cork;  5 clones of pinot noir hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed,  cold soak,  21 days cuvaison,  followed by 13 months in French oak,  75% new;  Taratahi 5 km SSW Masterton;  Cooper,  2005:  It shows some colour development, with strawberry, spice and herb aromas in a muscular (14.5% alcohol), savoury, firm style with good complexity and harmony. Quite advanced for a 2003, its drinking well already, ***½;  Robinson,  2005:  Smells like an attractively developed cocktail – definitely more complex than most on the nose. Quite long and marked acidity. Pretty confident though … even if there is a hint of rusty nails on the finish,  16.5;  www.schubert.co.nz ]
Mature pinot noir ruby,  more garnet than some.  Bouquet is vanillin-fragrant on oak rather more than berry,  the oak covering up a leafy component well.  On palate,  however,  there is no longer the fruit to carry the oak,  so while there is pleasant vinosity there is not a lot of pinot noir varietal character.  Berry ripeness is reasonably good,  considering most of the fruit is from the slightly cooler Masterton district,  red fruits more than black,  a little leafy.  Needs food,  drink up.  GK 11/13

2003  Drouhin Pommard   16  ()
Pommard,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $60   [ 48mm cork;  hand-harvested,  fermentation (some stalks) and cuvaison in both s/s and wooden vats 15 – 18 days;  less than 18 months in mostly older barrels;  the only review I can quickly find is my own,  2006:  Good ruby,  one of the lighter wines ... rose florals,  and cherry and plum fruit but with little or no new oak,  beautifully warm-year varietal.  Palate is plump,  velvety,  the tannins not as obviously furry as lesser-ranked wines,  but not quite as sensuous as the Clos de la Roche – presumably the latter has more new oak.  This wine gives a marvellous taste of both the vintage and the subtle Drouhin style,  at a good price.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  18;  www.drouhin.com ]
Good mature pinot noir ruby,  almost identical to the Target Gully,  the second to lightest.  Bouquet is fragrant,  but (in this bottle at least) some oxidation and age rather more than florality or variety.  In mouth it is better,  absolutely straightforward Cote de Beaune at full maturity – disappointingly past full maturity,  in truth – browning strawberry and redcurrant fruit,  and distinctly furry oak as if all older.  Burgundian yes,  but no charm.  Drink up.  GK 11/13

2003  Dry River Pinot Noir   15  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $69   [ 44mm cork;  clones 10/5 and others,  up to 27 years,  not irrigated,  harvested @ c.1 t/ac;  22% whole bunch,  up to 10 days cold soak,  15 days cuvaison;  12 months French oak 25% new;  sterile filtered;  Robinson '09:  This still looks a very youthful crimson. Very definitely Martinborough not Musigny. Sweet start and smooth texture. Relatively low acidity (2003 was a particularly hot vintage, as in Europe oddly enough.) Seems a bit frozen in terms of development, without much subtlety and with a pretty drying finish. No charmer,  16;  www.dryriver.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  dense,  not a pinot noir colour,  much the darkest wine.  And nor is bouquet at all varietal,  being dark and baked,  toffee apples,  cocoa and nutmeg.  It smells heavy and glucosey,  not even comparable with good Chateauneuf-du-Pape,  comparable only with traditional over-ripe Languedoc.  Palate has some of the softness of pinot noir,  but the flavours are caramelised raisins and prunes,  no freshness,  no varietal affiliations,  sadly irrelevant in a pinot noir tasting.  Some people liked its richness,  however.  Also on the plus side,  in its style,  it will cellar for another 3 – 10 years.  

At the time of its promotion and release in 2004,  Dry River described the wine as:  … concentration with elegance and delicacy of expression.  In those days,  they also enclosed a promo-sheet with their mail-out,  reproducing the views of winewriters of a known sycophantic streak,  needless to say all fulsome in their praise of Dry River wines.  Later the same year I published a review of this 2003,  having bought the wine,  and commented:  McCallum's pinots have been over-ripe and weighty for some years now,  but this latest example is perverse … Any number of fat rich wines from the south of France offer similar sensory qualities … 16.   I often wonder,  do all those winewriters who praised these Dry River Pinot Noirs to the skies on release ever go back and taste the wines in maturity (this would presume them actually buying the wine),  or ever re-read their ridiculous me-too reviews in the light of later evidence ?  New Zealand winewriting,  like Australia's,  suffers immensely from parochialism.  GK 11/13