Frogmore Creek Chardonnay 2006

87 points

Coal RIver Valley, Tasmania. 14%

Savoury, burgundian style chardonnay but I was hoping for more verve and greater concentration.

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Chateau Cantelys 2001

90 points

Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux. 13%

Quite a find. I know nothing about this chateau, it’s one to watch out for. I bought this from a tourist sort of shop/wine bar in Liverpool. Which leads me to think its price in a normal shop when it was released must have been very low.

Great olive and dry chocolate Graves character with a touch of coffee oak that reminds me of Ch Du Tertre. Very good wine flavoursome dry characterful. Drink now until 2015.

Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir 2006

88+ points

Waitaki Valley, Otago, NZ. 13%

Dark wine. Dense and rich. Not charming. A masculine style of Pinot.

A bit dumb for a kiwi Pinot that’s 4 years old. I suspect it will emerge and deserve even higher points but to be honest I don’t have enough experience with NZ Pinot Noir and how they age so I could very well be wrong and this is all you will ever get. Hedge your bets either drink now or in 2-3 years time.

Rosecreek Pinot Noir 2007

80 points

Martinborough, New Zealand. 13%

There is some nice fruit somewhere in the blend here but also some green skin character. On a positive note however there are none of those rose sweet flavours of cheap Pinot from good regions.

M. Chapoutier La Sizeranne Hermitage 2003

88 points

Northern Rhone, France. 14.5%

Different nose to the 2001 raisins and a smidge of marzipan. Shows the 2003 vintage but not over the top. I certainly would not have guessed it was 14.5%. This is good dry table wine, I have a slight fear that these flavours could be a bit fatiguing with age (the wine not the drinker’s) but I could be wrong. Anyway no reason not to drink now.

M. Chapoutier La Sizeranne Hermitage 2001

89 points

Distinctive minerally meaty aromas and flavours (emphasis on the former with this wine). Seems like a (nice) touch of Brett. Also slightly stalky florality compared to the 2003.

The lovely thing about this wine is the constrained weight. Effortless, no weight of alcohol or glycerol. Dry classic table wine.

Central Otago visit 2010

Shortly before leaving to visit New Zealand I tried Martinborough Vineyards Te Tera Pinot Noir 2006 which got me very interested to take a fresh look at NZ Pinot. Much lauded by critics in recent years I’ve been underwhelmed by dark sweet fruit-bombs that have lacked complexity and restraint. They have lacked restraint in pricing too. Fortunately I arrived in Otago with the Australian dollar strong against the kiwi and producers wary about raising prices when production is up and global demand is down (due to the financial crisis).

Central Otago is very beautiful, a desert with a snow fed river weaving its way across valley floor and between steep gorges and mountains.  It has the hottest driest Summers in NZ but the locals let us in on a secret, it snows every month of the year which it did while we were there in mid-Summer – just a few flakes, but there were cold days, and days you could water-ski too (the water is very cold always though, it’s melted snow).

They once mined for gold here.  Today orchards (cherries, apricots) benefit from cold nights, sunny days and irrigation from the river.  But people have been looking for something economic to do with the land (pine tree forestry turned out to be a dead-end).  Then someone planted some grapes, including Pinot Noir.  Today 85% of the vineyards are Pinot Noir with the other 15% divided amongst Riesling (another success), Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc.

Arround Bannockburn where we stayed it’s walking distance to about a dozen wineries.  Along Felton Road there are two of the very best producers: Mt Difficulty and, of course, Felton Road.

So what did I think?  Well, there are a lot of impressive wines being made off young vines, by inexperienced (with the vineyard or even Pinot Noir itself) winemakers.  You’d have to say the future looks very bright.  However, Otago wouldn’t be the first region in the world to show an impressive start followed by years, if not decades, of very slow, patchy, further improvement.  A bit like the gold rush of yesteryear this boom is bringing in investors and  a lot of plantings.  Many vineyards will be owned by people who aren’t really interested or knowledgeable about fine wine – and there will be financial pressures to cut corners.

Is there a style emerging ?  Probably the Felton Road dark, big fruited, dark cherry style is the most distinctly Otago wine.  It’s sort of like non-sparkling Australian ‘burgundy’, sweet exotic, with the best being quite complex for young wines.  I can see why millionaires come down here and start vineyards – it’s hedonistic wine that you don’t have to wait for.  Martinborough can produce big dark wines like this but they are more savoury, the best are still better than Otago  I think.

I wonder how these wines will age.  I don’t expect them to fall over quickly, but I wonder if they develop complexity.  I’m impressed and intrigued enough to want to add some to my cellar for the first time.

Click here to read my reviews of Otago wines.

Judge Rock Pinot Noir 2006

points

Central Otago, NZ. 13%

From just outside Alexandra thisis a small winery I had not heard of prior to visiting Otago yet they appear to have garnered awards and even a Parker rating.

It’s a rather classic quality New World Pinot without deep colour and great extraction. Savoury and floral with bright acid. With many other open bottles of Otago Pinot this disappeared quickly. Well worth trying again. Drink now and over next 4 years.