11 AUGUST 2016
Conclusions from the tasting:
This tasting was presented as a Worth Cellaring tasting for Regional Wines & Spirits, Wellington, in August 2016. The goal is to check some available wines, with the hope of finding some that individual tasters think are worth buying. It turned out to be an interesting tasting, in that it included wines from all the classic New Zealand pinot noir districts: Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson, Waipara, and Central Otago. The tasting turned up one sub-theme of note. There is the popularly held view that Central Otago wines are easy to recognise, the obvious fruit contrasting with the supposedly more savoury aspect of at least Martinborough and Nelson wines. Accordingly in the ranking questionnaire conducted at the blind stage, I asked tasters how many thought each wine from Otago. All but one of the wines registered at least one vote as from Otago, one of the wines most tasters thought Otago was in fact Wairarapa, and the only wine recording no votes at all for Otago, was one of its most famous labels. So it is not as simple as popular mythology would have it. My principal conclusion from the whole exercise correlated with other New Zealand pinot noir tastings in recent months: both winemakers and tasters need to be thinking a good deal more about under-ripe, green and stalky notes in New Zealand pinot noir wines, relative to the wines of Burgundy, which remain the benchmarks. The very best wines in the present tasting showed much of the sweetness and harmony of Burgundy proper.
The five top wines from this Worth Cellaring pinot noir tasting are both highly varietal, and clearly burgundian. They should therefore give much pleasure. 2014 Escarpment Pinot Noir Kiwa, 17 ½ +; 2014 Schubert Pinot Noir Marion's Vineyard, 17 ½ +; 2013 Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere, 18; 2014 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir, 18 ½; 2014 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir Proprietor's Reserve The Fusilier, 18 ½ +.
Acknowledgement: I very much appreciate the effort nearly all winemakers went to, to provide good background information about their wines. This approach greatly benefits both participants in the tasting (via the handout), and then the depth of information in this subsequent write-up.
THE WINES REVIEWED:
A good quite deep pinot noir ruby colour, fractionally the deepest colour, but within bounds. Bouquet shows the most complex and deepest floral qualities of all the wines, darkest roses and boronia, lovely, totally Cote de Nuits. Palate richness is good without being exemplary, at least of Premier Cru quality, with a suppleness and purity of red cherry flavour which is highly varietal, and totally lacking stalkyness. It will be fun one day (if opportunity offers) to establish if the Mt Difficulty Individual Vineyard wines or some of the Valli labels (for example) match or better this wine, in 2014. This is one of the most exciting pinot noirs so far made in New Zealand, to cellar 5 15 years. Tasters did not share my enthusiasm for the wine, only one rating it first or second. Seven thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
Pinot noir ruby, below midway in depth. Bouquet is beautifully floral, total red roses, supremely varietal, arguably the finest bouquet in the set. Palate shows clear red cherry more than black cherry fruit illustrating a perfect point of picking, lovely balance in mouth, a very stylish wine epitomising good New Zealand pinot noir. There is no way this wine typifies Otago Pinot noir, however. Cellar 5 12 years. Again, tasters mostly did not endorse this classically proportioned wine, only one first or second place. Nobody thought it Otago. GK 08/16
Light pinot noir ruby, the lightest of all the wines, totally burgundian. Bouquet shows a lighter spectrum of floral components than the top two wines, more buddleia, certainly no boronia, on an all-red-fruits varietal matrix. Palate shows gorgeous fruit totally belying the colour, a good length of delicate / subtle floral and again red-fruits qualities, not the depth of The Fusilier but still really fragrant in mouth. Cellar 5 12 years. No first or second places, four thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
Light pinot noir ruby, the second to lightest colour, again classic burgundy. Bouquet is a notch simpler than the top wines, the difference between the Cote de Beaune and the Cote de Nuits, soft roses florality, all red fruits. Palate is red fruits like the Neudorf, but a little more tannic. This will work particularly well with food, reflecting the proprietor's European persuasions. Cellar 5 12 years. Five first or second places, 10 thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
Perfect pinot noir ruby, right in the middle for depth of colour. Bouquet is interesting here, darkly floral as in deep red roses, and markedly darker cherries too. Oak is a little more apparent than some of the wines, but marries up attractively with the deeper berry. Fruit is rich, and flavours are mouth-filling and savoury / slightly spicy on the oak. It is as big as The Fusilier, but much more boldly constructed, so will need longer in cellar to harmonise. Intriguing wine to cellar 5 18 years. Five first or second places, and two thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
A medium-weight pinot noir ruby, fractionally older than some, slightly above midway in depth. Bouquet is sweet, ripe, seemingly riper than some, not quite the emphasis on florality. Fruit qualities likewise are a little bigger and riper, plums as well as dark cherries, good concentration, a rich but at this stage tending sturdy interpretation of pinot noir. By the same token, it may overtake some of the lighter more floral wines in five years. Length of aftertaste is particularly good. Cellar 5 15 years. Seven first or second places, and five thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
Pinot noir ruby, right in the middle. Bouquet is a little different here, a lifted quality suggesting not quite the ripeness of the top wines, but also adding a zingy note reminiscent of the Cote de Nuits. The lightness of style reminds of Vosne-Romanée or Chambolle-Musigny, but there is the faintest hint of leafyness. Cellar 3 8 years. No first or second places, and one thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
Good pinot noir ruby, the second deepest wine. This is a more mainstream Otago pinot noir as the concept is popularly understood, when the wines are being contrasted with those of Martinborough. There is a dusky florality, on red grading to black cherry fruits. Palate is quite different, a big bold wine but giving the impression of uneven ripeness, the fruit flavours ranging from trace stalkyness right through to too black for eloquence / elegance in pinot noir. This wine should marry up in cellar, but end up more straightforward than the top examples. Cellar 5 18 years. Two votes for second place, and 11 thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
Colour is lighter and older, below midway in depth. Bouquet is clearly varietal in a straightforward lightly floral way, all red fruits, fragrant, clean oak. Palate is more austere, a clear stalky component, leading to hardness and shortness on the finish, with acid noticeable. Price seems high for the quality in this bottle. Cellar 5 12 years. Two second places, and five thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
Medium pinot noir ruby, just above midway in depth. Unusually for pinot noir, this wine is lightly reductive, needing a good splashy decanting, several times. Even so any floral qualities it may have had are masked. Fruit is good, fair body, a suggestion of stalks, and some hardness from the reduction. More a sound plainish pinot noir, which should become softer and more fragrant in cellar 5 12 years. No first or second places, and seven thought it from Otago. GK 08/16
Good pinot noir ruby, the third deepest. Bouquet is complex and complicated. It is highly fragrant, with a suggestion of florality, but like the Ostler Caroline's, there is also a piercing green note, disrupting the sweetness of character sought in pinot noir. Palate shows rich fruit correlating with the cropping rate, but even so too much oak for the fruit weight, with the oak tannins emphasising the stalkyness in an unfortunate way. This wine is simply misjudged. It should not have been released as a Reserve quality bottling. It is therefore woefully overpriced. Cellar 5 18 years, probably to harmonise but not achieve magic. Eight first or second places, and seven thought it Otago. GK 08/16
Pinot noir ruby, in the middle for depth. Bouquet is all over the show on this wine. There is a non-grapey chemical taint reminiscent of some household cleansers, on fruit which seems both stewed and stalky. You can see there is some cherry-type fruit too. Flavour shows good concentration, but mixed ripeness, there being a prominent stalky hardness. This wine too needs to harmonise in cellar, and has the body to do so. Whether it will end up more than adequate is debatable, however. Cellar 5 15 years. No first or second places, three thought it from Otago. GK 08/16