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

Geoff Kelly  MSc (Hons)

Invitation to the tasting:
Six years (or seven) is a sweet spot in cellaring for reputable New Zealand pinot noir.  The 2009 and 2010 vintages are pretty good in most of our pinot districts.  We will have at least one wine from each major pinot zone,  except Waipara.  Instead there will be the chance to see how a Waitaki Valley wine (nearly Canterbury – not at all says the proprietor !) stacks up,  in a strictly blind format.

But the other aspect I am looking forward to is the quizzical one:  are these ~ $180 New Zealand pinots worth the money,  or do they simply appeal to people easily seduced by the quality of the oak,  or the superfluity of the packaging,  rather than the absolute quality of the wine ?

We will have one sound $100 burgundy in the mix,  to see to what extent New Zealand examples of pinot noir capture the essence of pinot noir the grape.  I am deliberately using a straightforward and available French wine of good repute (Jancis Robinson,  17),  and around the $100 mark,  to benchmark the complete batch of wines,  rather than just the premium-priced ones.  

For my Library Tastings the presentation is based on 12 wines all out at once,  so comparisons can be made.  Note however the pours are small (30 ml) to both enable more to share sometimes rare bottles,  and to lower the entry price.  Please come prepared to sniff and sip and savour rather more than initially drinking.  Such a small volume can very easily be consumed,  without thinking.  The wines will be presented blind,  so our assessment is not clouded by views offered in the tasting notes in the hand-out.

Results of the tasting:
This was an immensely rewarding tasting,  providing an overview both of New Zealand pinot noir wine achievements at years 2009 / 2010,  and the extent to which quite discrete parts of the country,  separated by many kilometers and varying to a degree in climate,  nonetheless are all achieving remarkably creditable interpretations of the classic pinot noir style – 'classic' meaning comparable with the wines of Burgundy,  understood.

For me the key issue that emerged was the tension between point of picking,  and the achieving of florality in the final wine.  This is a critical component in the true expression of varietal character in pinot noir,  but it is a matter of fact that highly floral wines can only be achieved with pinpoint accuracy,  by avoiding over-ripeness / sur-maturité.  Consequently there is the acute risk of picking too early,  and thus producing wines with hints of leafyness,  stalkyness,  or worse,  actual green notes,  plus elevated total acid.  A number of our wines displayed elements of misjudgment in this knife-edge decision,  which in some cases was exacerbated by the proprietor's enthusiasm for a whole-bunch component in the primary fermentation.  Deciding when to pick must be a nightmare for the quality-driven pinot noir producer.  The most highly-rated wines below retain florality,  but had critically deferred picking beyond the point of leafyness.  In this issue,  adopting a percentage of whole-bunch (a tactic which enhances florality in the final wine) vastly increases the risk of also extracting leafy / tending green notes.  This is because in New Zealand we have difficulty achieving perfectly ripe tannins in seeds and stems in most of our pinot noir zones,  and particularly at a point sufficiently early in the ripening sequence to still achieve optimal florality.  

It is the quality of florality,  and the heightened 'zing' and hint of aromaticity,  which makes Cote de Nuits wines in good years critically superior to the essentially warmer-climate wines from the Cote de Beaune.  And also in this whole discussion we must not forget the old French adage for pinot noir (in pre-Parker days):  bourgogne vert,  bourgogne vieux.  That concept opens a veritable minefield,  but curiously,  one of the wines in the tasting,  the Ostler,  exactly exemplifies the proposition.  

In conducting my tastings,  the wines are presented blind.  Before any discussion of the individual wines takes place,  tasters are asked to individually decide on and vote from wine one through to wine 12,  and while the wines are still blind,  for:  their favourite wine;  the second favourite wine;  their least wine;  plus a few supplementary questions,  in this tasting simply:  is this the French wine;  is this a $100-plus wine.  Three of the wines were over $100:  the French wine 2010 Drouhin Clos des Mouches,  $121;  2010 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir Marie Zelie,  now up to $225 at the vineyard,  though first released to retail at $185,  and 2009 Peregrine Pinot Noir Pinnacle,  $175.

Pinot noir is a subtle variety,  in which traditionally the concepts of florality and perfection of ripening / beauty of fruit on bouquet,  and complexity of texture in mouth,  have been the prime criteria for quality. The conclusions from this tasting demonstrate that in classical terms:
#  New Zealand producers aspiring to match grand cru-level pinot noir from Burgundy need to pay more attention to achieving qualifying dry extract levels in their wines,  both via cropping rate in the vineyard,  and in complexing the wine itself in elevation;
#  and those producers who for whatever reason (and they don't bear thinking about too much) wish to produce Trophy-level-priced wines from pinot noir need to make haste more slowly.  The most expensive wines in this batch were simply not the best pinot noirs.  
Further detail on my thoughts on beauty and quality in pinot noir emerge from the wine descriptions that follow.  I have been tasting Burgundy critically since the 1964 vintage:

Cooper,  M.,  2012 – 2015:  Michael Cooper's Buyer's Guide to New Zealand Wines.  Hodder Moa,  pages vary around 575.
www.jancisrobinson.com  =  Jancis Robinson MW and Julia Harding MW


2010  Carrick Pinot Noir Excelsior
2010  Drouhin Clos des Mouches Premier Cru
2009  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe
2009  Felton Road Pinot Noir
2010  Greywacke Pinot Noir
2010  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir Marie Zelie Reserve
  2010  Misha's Vineyard Pinot Noir Verismo
2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully Single Vineyard
2009  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Block Vineyard
2010  Ostler Pinot Noir Caroline's
2009  Peregrine Pinot Noir The Pinnacle
2009  Pisa Range Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block

2009  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Target Gully Single Vineyard   18 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $85   [ Screwcap;  clones 5, 6, 10/5 and 777,  the oldest (on own roots) 15 years at harvest,  hand-picked at 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  9 days cold-soak,  7 days fermentation,  9 days maceration,  giving a cuvaison of 25 days,  25% whole-bunches;  16 months in French oak,  30% new,  MLF in barrel the following spring;  light fining only;  dry extract 28.7 g/L;  production 280 x 9-L cases;  Cooper,  2013:  a distinctly masculine style, dark and rich, with layers of cherry, plum, spice and nut flavours, firm and very 'complete', *****;  weight bottle and closure:  728 g;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Perfect pinot noir ruby,  the third to lightest.  Bouquet achieves the most marvellous expression of,  and integration of,  sweet florality without any green undertones,  with equally sweet highly sophisticated oak handling.  The bouquet bypasses buddleia notes (characteristic of marginally under-ripe pinot noir),  going straight to pink and red rose florality,  with suggestions of boronia.  Beautiful cedary oak complexes the bouquet,  but does not dominate.  Red cherry fruit welds both into a superbly burgundian aroma,  totally Cote de Nuits in its excitement and subliminal aromatics.  Palate follows totally in synch,  red fruits dominant,  tannins shaping but not dominating the fruit,  the wine fragrant in mouth,  no hint of green.  This is premier or even grand cru quality from the Gevrey-Chambertin district,  as with most of these wines just needing a little more dry extract to fully foot it with grands crus,  and thus be breathtaking.  But even so,  there is a dusky magic in the bouquet of this wine which all the others lack.  Cellar 3 – 8 years more.  Seven people rated this their top or second wine,  three thought it French,  and five thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2009  Pisa Range Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block   18 ½  ()
Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $48   [ Screwcap;  oldest vines 15 years;  all hand-harvested @ 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  all de-stemmed;  24 days cuvaison;  c.12 months in French oak,  33% new;  egg-white fining,  minimal filtration;  production 400 x 9-L cases;  dry extract 27.4 g/L;  Cooper,  2013:  … dark, powerful and fruit-packed, with dense cherry and plum flavours. Weighty, savoury and supple, it shows lovely richness and harmony, *****;  weight bottle and closure:  560 g;  www.pisarangeestate.co.nz ]
Rich pinot noir ruby,  well above midway in depth.  Bouquet displays a deeper spectrum of floral notes,  dark red roses,  suggestions of port wine magnolia,  violets,  and boronia,  than the Mt Difficulty,  on darker fruits.  Black cherry dominates,  but the point of picking totally escapes incorporating any dark plum qualities.  Oak is nearly as exciting as the Mt Difficulty.  In mouth the continuity is again perfect,  black cherry more than red,  oak still to fully marry in,  a more youthful spectrum of flavours,  and tasting richer [ even though the dry extract is in fact less – it is very hard to assess total dry extract by taste ].  This is a younger wine than the Mt Difficulty,  and will cellar for longer,  5 – 10 years.  This is the finest Black Poplar wine so far,  up to that vintage.  Twelve people rated this their top or second wine,  one only thought it French,  and five thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2009  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Block Vineyard   18 +  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ Screwcap;  clones 10/5,  5 and 22,  up to 29 years,  harvested @ c.2.75 t/ha = 1.1 t/ac (poor flowering / set);  100% de-stemmed;  wild yeast fermentation,  c.26 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  12 months French oak c.30% new;  minimal fining and filtration;  dry extract 26.6 g/L;  production 112 x 9-L cases;  Cooper, 2012:  The superb 2009 vintage is finely scented and highly complex, with full youthful colour and deep strawberry and spice flavours. Very sweet-fruited, with gentle acidity and tannins, it is deliciously savoury, ripe and rounded, with great presence, *****;  weight bottle and closure:  719 g;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  a little deeper than the Mt Difficulty,  but still below midway in the 12.  Bouquet is exquisitely varietal,  in the set,  a more 'nervy' kind of pinot noir than the Mt Difficulty,  Vosne-Romanée maybe to the latter's Gevrey-Chambertin.  There is nearly a hint of buddleia,  in total roses florals,  and red cherry more than black cherry fruit.  Palate continues the nervy theme,  not quite the plumpness of the Black Poplar,  total acid fractionally higher than the Target Gully,  and if you are supremely finicky,  just a hint of leafyness.  Nonetheless a lovely pinot noir,  as the Home Block so often is for the Finns.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  Five people rated this their top or second wine,  none thought it French,  and none thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2009  Felton Road Pinot Noir   18  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $49   [ Screwcap;  hand-harvested at 5.3 t/ha = 2.1 t/ac,  20% whole-bunch,  wild-yeast fermentations;  11 months in French oak,  30% new;  not fined or filtered;  this is the main bottling,  a blend of approx. one third Elms,  Cornish Point and Calvert vineyards,  and the most widely available Felton Road pinot,  production 4,375 x 9-L cases;  not fined or filtered;  dry extract 27.1 g/L;  Julia Harding @ Jancis Robinson,  2011:  This was my favourite Pinot of this tasting but I did not pick it out as the Kiwi among the Ozzies (in fact only 2 out of around 50 tasters did so). Deeply coloured. Slightly savoury and oaky on the nose but with ripe red fruit too. Raspberry-ripple ice cream. Fragrant on the mid palate. Soft, elegant and very pure fruited. Good length. Fine grained and beautifully balanced, 17.5;  Cooper,  2012:  The 2009 is beautifully floral and supple, with vibrant, concentrated cherry, plum and spice flavours that build to a long finish, *****;  weight bottle and closure:  558 g;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  midway in the field.  This wine is overtly floral,  fragrant,  and highly varietal.  First impression is a knockout.  When you study the wine more closely,  you see that the floral notes are in fact quite diverse,  spanning the range from buddleia to roses,  hints of boronia,  but also traces of leafyness,  making you wonder if there will be any green notes in the taste.  Palate is red grading to black cherry,  very lively,  fruit more dominant to oak relative to the wines marked more highly,  but yes,  there is the faintest hint of stalkyness / green in the flavour too.  This presumably reflects winemaker Blair Walter's belief in using a percentage of whole-bunch in the fermentation.  Palate weight seems less than some of the wines,  but the quality of flavour makes one overlook that.  You end up feeling the fruit was picked fractionally early,  and the wine needs higher dry extract to match grand cru wines from Burgundy.  I was asked why not one of the the Block wines in the tasting,  but (generalising) I prefer the greater fruit expression of the slightly less-oaked main Bannockburn label.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  Six people rated this their top or second wine,  one thought it French,  and five thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2009  Peregrine Pinot Noir The Pinnacle   17 ½ +  ()
Bendigo 75% and Pisa 25%,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $175   [ Screwcap;  third release (following 2005 and 2007);  8 clones hand-harvested at c.5.75 t/ha = 2.3 t/ac;  5% whole-bunch,  up to 31 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  12 months in French oak 35% new,  then 6 months in French oak some new;  not fined or filtered;  dry extract not available;  production 83 x 9-L cases (equivalent) only;  Cooper,  2013 thought the standard 2009 label was 'highly scented and  showed lovely harmony',  and rated it 5 stars,  so we have to assume this at least matches;  given the extravagant stainless steel canister packaging and embossed aluminium bottle label,  one bizarre detail about this wine is the lack of a vintage on the actual bottle – it needs a back label;  weight bottle and closure:  984 g;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  a little older than most suggesting more oak exposure,  just below midway in weight.  This was one of the harder wines to rank,  and report on,  in the 12.  Initially opened,  it showed a vanillin oak sweetness rather than varietal charm.  By the time of the tasting it was communicating much better,  and by the next day,  the fruit had really come forward.  So,  decant this wine splashily,  early in the day you present it for dinner.  I hasten to add,  on this occasion that comment is not a euphemism for the wine being reductive.  There is no hint of reduction.  It is just fettered by oak,  at this point.  Well breathed the wine shows red roses florality,  at a lovely point of red fruits ripeness.  In mouth the oak returns to dominate the palate,  but there is attractive red cherry fruit fighting to be seen.  On the one hand the wine needs more time for the fruit to emerge,  but on the other the wine has already aged more than some in the 12,  due to the much greater time in oak than,  for example,  the Felton.  Oakniks will rate this wine more highly.  In my view it needs greater dry extract (note,  number not supplied) to carry this level of oak.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  wondering all the while how the fruit / oak ratio will turn out.  Nobody rated this their top or second wine,  one thought it French,  and one thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2010  Carrick Pinot Noir Excelsior   17 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $84   [ Screwcap;  hand-picked late April at 6 t/ha (2.4 t/ac) from c. 17 year-old vines,  two clones;  wild-yeast fermentation with c.10% whole-bunch,  up to 21 days cuvaison including cold-soak;  MLF and c.12 months in French oak c.30% new;  then 6 months in older oak;  neither fined nor filtered;  dry extract 29.4 g/L;  production 155 x 9-L cases;  Cooper,  2015:  Deep and youthful in colour, it is powerful and firm, with dense plum/spice flavours, complex and savoury. It needs cellaring; 2015+,  ****½;  weight bottle and closure:  549 g ]
Interesting wine this one.  Colour is big for pinot noir,  but acceptable.  It is the deepest-coloured wine.  Bouquet is immediately deeper,  riper and darker than any other of the wines,  black cherry not red,  and tiptoeing into bottled black doris plum territory,  where a pinot noir is at peril of being confused with merlot on the one hand (if it is high-quality),  or syrah on the other.  Either way,  this Excelsior is beautifully fragrant,  in that style.  Palate is rich,  ripe,  and powerful.  You immediately feel the picking was left a little late,  resulting in less florality,  and the darker spectrum of fruit flavours.  Oaking is firm,  to a max but not as apparent as in Pinnacle.  The whole wine is exciting,  as a sturdy dark pinot noir,  which will be rewarding to follow in cellar.   It may well score more highly in five years time,  if a more floral component develops.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  Nobody rated this their top or second wine,  one thought it French,  and five thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2010  Greywacke Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Southern Valleys,  Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $47   [ Screwcap;  hillside plantings hand-harvested at 6 t/ha = 2.4 t/ac;  20% whole-bunch component,  wild yeast ferments,  15 months in French oak 45% new;  egg-white fining and light filtering only;  dry extract 25.3 g/L;  Cooper,  2013:  full-coloured, weighty and savoury, with youthful, vibrant cherry, plum and spice flavours, good tannin support, and excellent richness and potential; ****½;  weight bottle and closure:  727 g;  www.greywacke.com ]
A good pinot noir ruby,  just above midway in depth,  almost glowing,  a very exciting colour.  Bouquet is wonderfully vibrant,  intense and floral,  immediately seductive (a key desirable feature in good pinot noir).   Closer examination suggests that the buddleia end of the floral spectrum is rather too apparent,  and there is a lack of dark notes.  Tasting to check this impression,  total acid is a little fresh,  fruit is ripened to red cherries only,  and you wish the picking date had been a little later.  A hint of stalkyness does creep in on the later palate,  tying in with the assumptions about fruit ripeness.  Even so,  these attributes take the wine clearly into analogy with the Cote de Nuits,  not the Cote de Beaune.  Palate richness is reasonable,  like the Felton,  ideally needing more weight.  Nonetheless it gives the impression of needing a little more time to show its best,  in its fresh style.  This is the new generation of Marlborough pinot noirs speaking.  Cellar 2 – 6  years.  Nobody rated this their top or second wine,  one thought it French,  and nobody thought it a  $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2010  Misha's Vineyard Pinot Noir Verismo   17 ½  ()
Bendigo district,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ Screwcap;  a mix of clones cropped @ c. 4.5 t/ha (1.8 t/ac);  no whole-bunch,  long cold soaking,  wild yeast ferments,  c. 24 days total cuvaison;  MLF and more than 12 months in all-French hogsheads 48% new;  light fining,  not filtered;  dry extract 31.8 g/L;  production 195 x 9-L cases;  Cooper,  2015:  The 2010 is an outstanding vintage ... it is deep and bright in colour, with highly concentrated plum, spice and nut flavours. A fragrant, powerful, dense and savoury red, still youthful, its sure to be long-lived; open 2015+, ****½;  weight bottle and closure:  709 g;  www.mishasvineyard.com ]
A bigger pinot noir ruby,  the third deepest.  Freshly opened this wine is intensely floral,  sharing with the Greywacke a remarkable volume of lighter floral notes,  buddleia particularly and pale roses,  some lilac too,  which is seductive.  But when you step back,  there is doubt too,  might it be leafy.  As soon as you taste it,  the palate weight is impressive.  This wine presents a grand cru quality of fruit / presence in mouth,  and when you check the dry extract,  the wine is indeed over the magic 30 g/L mark.  That is the absolute criterion for real quality in red wine,  no matter how much New Zealand winemakers seek to avoid (or ignore) this fact,  though it is easy to be satisfied with wines a bit below.  Fruit flavours here are mostly in a lighter red spectrum,  nearly a suggestion of red currants,  dominant red cherry,  some black.  There is fractionally less depth of ripeness than the Greywacke,  and thus a slightly greater suggestion of leafyness.  Here too you wish the picking date had been a little later,  to darken the fruit spectrum.  The oaking in this wine is exquisite,  comparable with the Mt Difficulty.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  Six people rated this their top or second wine,  nobody thought it French,  and eight thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2009  Escarpment Pinot Noir Kupe   17 +  ()
Te Muna Road,  Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ Supercritical Diam cork,  46mm;  hand-harvested mainly clone Abel at 4 t/ha = 1.6 t/ac,  40% whole-bunches in ferments,  fermented in French cuves;  12 months in French oak,  50% new;  egg-white fining,  not filtered;  dry extract 29 g/L,  RS <1 g/L;  production c.500 x 9-L cases;  Cooper,  2012:  a powerful masculine wine, with deep, notably concentrated flavours of plums and spices. Crying out for more time, it should flourish for many years; open 2013+, *****;  weight bottle and closure:  576 g;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Medium pinot noir ruby,  just above midway in depth. This wine stands slightly aside from the set,  on account of its tell-tale pennyroyal mintyness.  Other tasters commented likewise.  You have to wonder whether neighbouring properties have eucalypts on them.  The mint to a degree interferes with accurate interpretation of the wine's floral qualities,  but it is certainly floral.  In mouth there is the freshness of good pinot noir,  the oak now seeming beautifully subtle,  red fruits dominant over black,  attractive texture,  but also a hint of stalks.  The winemakers at Escarpment are keen on a whole-bunch component,  so it is a question of degree,  whether or not there is too much,  as well as the timing of picking date.  Interesting and clearly varietal wine,  depending on your sensitivity to mint.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe 10.  Nobody rated this their top or second wine,  or thought it French,  and one thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2010  Ostler Pinot Noir Caroline's   17  ()
Waitaki Valley,  North Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $52   [ Screwcap;  hand-picked at 2 t/ha = 0.8 t/ac,  due to spring frosts / poor set;  wild-yeast fermentation with 15% whole-bunch component,  some barrel-ferments,  21 days cuvaison;  12 months in French oak,  20% new;  dry extract 30.6 g/L;  RS <1 g/L;  production 700 x 9-L cases;  Julia Harding @ Jancis Robinson,  2012:  Mid to deep crimson. Fresh dark cherries, both fragrant and mineral. Lithe and nervy on the palate. The most alive Pinot Noir of the tasting so far - full of energy and tension but filled out with red-fruit fragrance. Excellent length,  16.5;  Cooper,  2013:  … the 2010 vintage is outstanding … deeply coloured, highly scented and mouthfilling, with a strong surge of plum, cherry, spice and nut flavours. Densely packed and supple, with excellent complexity and vibrancy, this concentrated, silky-textured wine is arguably the Valley's best wine to date, ****½;  I imagine this will be the first Waitaki Valley pinot seen in blind evaluation for many of us.  This particular wine has won high praise overseas,  including from Matt Kramer,  Wine Spectator,  2013:  Chambolle-Musigny-like qualities of mineral-scented perfuminess allied to a layered depth and dimensionality;  weight bottle and closure:  730 g;  www.ostlerwine.co.nz ]
Colour is the second deepest in the set,  but still looking like pinot noir.  Bouquet is intense,  distinctive,  very fragrant,  highly varietal,  but flawed.  It is all red fruits,  redcurrant and red cherry,  but whereas the Kupe is characterised by mint,  this wine is almost dominated by stalk,  with a clear green note to it.  Yet that said,  the stalkyness is now much more harmoniously integrated with the total wine,  and to the extent one can rely on memory,  I feel the wine is much more together than when I reported on it two years ago.  Palate has real presence,  and like the coming together of the wine,  that aspect of the wine is impressive.  The apparent richness is confirmed by the dry extract measurement of 30.6 g/L.  In terms of its fruit weight in mouth,  this wine provides an example of what we need to be aiming for in New Zealand pinot noir,  if we are to lift our wines to parity with grand cru burgundy.  Fruit characters in mouth are a little darker than the bouquet suggests,  again redcurrant and red cherries,  but some black too,  plus delightful oaking which really optimises the fruit.  In another five years time this is going to be highly interesting pinot noir.  I did wonder in tasting this wine,  how easily darker fruit qualities can be achieved in the Waitaki Valley ?  Perhaps this is a New Zealand pinot noir zone critically awaiting global warming.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  Four people rated this their top or second wine,  nobody thought it French,  and four thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2010  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir Marie Zelie Reserve   17  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $185   [ Screwcap;  hand-harvested at an average of 3.7 t/ha = 1.5 t/ac from clone 10/5 30 years old,  and other younger clones all tended for low-cropping;  a coolish late season saved by a brilliant March and April;  sorting table;  c.15% whole-bunch,  up to 24 days cuvaison including cold soak;  16 months in French oak 14% new,  balance first and second-year;  not fined,  minimal filtering;  dry extract not available;  production 164 x 9-L cases (equivalent);  Cooper,  2015:  Finely perfumed, it is mouthfilling and sweet-fruited, with very savoury, complex flavours of cherries, plums, spices and nuts, a hint of bacon, and fine-grained tannins, *****;  named after the first (French) winemaker in the Wairarapa,  at the Beetham Lansdowne Estate,  Masterton;  like The Pinnacle,  this wine too has an extravagant volume of heavy presentation-case packaging and a heavy bottle – cellaring them is tiresome;  weight bottle and closure:  813 g;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Light pinot noir ruby,  a Rousseau colour,  and showing a little more development than most of the other wines too,  the second lightest wine.  Bouquet is quiet,  a warm red roses and cedary oak quality,  no hint of buddleia,  but you have to dig deep to retrieve a clear impression of the bouquet today.  Palate doesn't quite match the qualities on bouquet,  immediately becoming more oak-dominated relative to the weight of fruit,  yet lingering well as the red cherry already browning a little now reasserts itself.  The ripeness on palate is not quite as good as the bouquet suggests,  but it is not stalky at all.  It is just not up there with the Mt Difficulty.  As for Pinnacle,  dry extract was not available for this wine,  either.  In one sense curious this reference datum was not available for the two conspicuously expensive wines,  only.  But neither may have been exported.  The wine is better presented on its own,  I think,  and will certainly give pleasure at table.  Whether it will now the price has (unwisely in my view) been raised to $225 at the vineyard is open for debate.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  Nobody rated this their top or second wine,  four thought it French,  and seven thought it a $100-plus bottle.  GK 07/16

2010  Drouhin Clos des Mouches Premier Cru   16 ½ +  ()
Beaune,  Cote de Beaune,  Burgundy,  New Zealand:  13%;  $121   [ Cork 54mm;  a Drouhin domaine wine,  though mouches typically denotes flies,  on this site it takes the earlier meaning of honey-bees;  Clos des Mouches is a large vineyard for Burgundy,  and a Drouhin favourite (as the cork length indicates),  14 ha all now biodynamic,  average vine age 39 years.  It is noteworthy for close-planting averaging 11,250 vines / ha,  and producing chardonnay as much as pinot noir;  all hand-picked at an unspecified cropping rate understood to be 5 – 6 t/ha = 2 – 2.4 t/ac;  usually up to 20% whole-bunches depending on the vintage,  cuvaison up to 21 days,  wild yeasts;  14 – 18 months in French oak,  20% new,  all oak weathered for three years before coopering;  Julia Harding @ Jancis Robinson,  2012:  Mid ruby. Delicate fruit, light oak spice. Enticingly spicy but not so much that the fruit is hidden. Juicy, moreish, embryonic,  17;  wonderfully revised now quite informative website;  weight bottle and closure:  535 g.;  www.drouhin.com ]
Light ruby,  some age showing,  the lightest wine.  Bouquet is totally Cote de Beaune,  softly ripe cream and pink roses on red fruits-only varietal pinot noir,  no aromatic lift,  understated yet correct.  Palate is a little unusual,  a suggestion almost of persimmons as well as red cherries,  the tannins surprisingly noticeable and seemingly more from new oak than grape tannins.  There is pleasant weight,  ripeness,  balance and some persistence in mouth.  The wine perfectly illustrates a 'burgundy' balance in glass,  relative to a representative claret of similar quality.  This was the French 'marker' wine in the tasting,  but I did not expect it to be the least wine.  Its ripeness profile is better than many of the wines,  but it lacks varietal excitement.  Nobody rated this their top or second wine,  five thought it French,  and (therefore) five thought it a $100-plus bottle.  It is a vital commentary on the standard New Zealand pinot noir has already achieved by the time of the 2009 / 2010 vintages,  that this quite famous and well-regarded,  though only middle-rank all the same,  wine from Burgundy is the least varietal wine in this set of 12 pinot noirs.  GK 07/16