I didn’t get to hear any of the speeches about atheists, bastards or authenticity. I didn’t get to spend four days basking in the Wellington sun tasting hundreds of wines. I almost didn’t get to go to the public tasting as I was meant to be teaching a yoga class at exactly the same time.
However, when free tickets were thrust upon me, I took it as a sign from the universe that my plans needed to change and in the end I did get to see a small part of Pinot Noir 2013.
Two hours, five regions, divided into seven groups, 110 winemakers and at least 200 wines. That would be roughly one wine every 36 seconds.
I managed, on average, two producers from each of the seven regional groups and 30-ish wines. I tried to pick a known and an unknown quantity from each region. With the crowds and the crowding around some producers, all-in-all, I didn’t do too badly.
Living in Wellington and being close to Martinborough, I had tasted many of the region’s wines several times. Having holidayed in Central Otago over Christmas some of the top names from there were skipped as they were already fresh in my mind.
The decisions came down to who could I not taste.
My friend who came along expecting a leisurely, enjoyable tasting was marched at pace from one wine to the next. I kept insisting that if we didn’t move quickly we would end up missing out, he didn’t believe me. Until at 7.28PM we rocked up to Kusuda wines to be told the 2010 had be drank and we had missed out. Gutted.
Luckily, I was able to encourage a 2011 sample out of him, although it was greatly emphasized that this was a shy wine, not yet ready for the public and thus far had only been shared with industry folks. I was grateful for being the exception to the rule.
I was positively distressed to get home and realise I had lost an entire sheet of notes. All the same the stand out wines had sufficiently etched their way into my brain. At least for the night.
If you’d like to spare yourself my rather individual experience of each wine tasted, my top picks from the evening were the Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir 2010, Rippon “Tinker’s Field”, Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2009, Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir 2010 and the black label Seifried Estate Winemaker’s Collection Pinot Noir 2010.
Otherwise, here are my fuller impressions.
They were flying the Auckland winery flag solo. Known more for their chardonnay, this family-owned winery brought with them their Estate Pinot Noir 2010 and 2009. The 2010 was light, delicate and quite soft on the nose, while the 2009 was a richer, darker, fuller wine and made the more lasting impression of the two.
By 7.28PM Kusuda wines had finished their Pinot Noir 2010 and were no longer pouring for the public. With some insistent cajoling I was able to get a taste of the Pinot Noir 2011. As it was being poured it was stressed that this was a shy wine and had so far only been tasted by wine professionals. It was a young wine for sure, but it had all the markings of a cellar able wine: gorgeous fruit, wonderful savoury notes, sharp acidity and healthy tannins. The wine suggests great potential and I’m excited to try it again.
I’ve tasted these wines several times and I’m never disappointed. The entry level Block B Pinot Noir 2010 and the higher tier Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 were the the same expected richness with florals and red fruits creating a beautiful bouquet. The Marion’s Vineyard had quite pronounced tannins, while the Block B was a softer, lighter version of the Schubert brand.
Clos Henri vineyard
The trio of wines tasted at Clos Henri moved from the youngest vines to the oldest: Petit Clos 2011, Bel Echo 2011 and Clos Henri 2010. This was a lovely example of progression through a family of wines. Made in a more European style, the mouth-feel was the true draw card. As the vines get older the wines showed more and more texture.
As a general rule, the team at Greywacke harvest earlier than anyone else in Marlborough. In 2009 they were hit with rain during harvest, resulting in the disposal of 20-30% of the fruit picked and leaving a smaller yield for the Greywacke Pinot Noir 2009. The 2010 and 2011 were categorized as ‘normal’ vintages, expressing the properties of a north-facing vineyard, clay soils and a hand picked harvest. The 2010 was a very cherry Pinot with a touch too much acid for my tastes. Although 2010 and 2011 were similar years in the vineyard, the 2009 and 2011 were similar in expression with plenty of vanilla. A really very smooth wine.
Hans Herzog Estate
The 2008 Pinot Noir from Hanz Herzog was a very delicate wine in terms of fruit and florals. A contrast to the big, in-your-face style of Central Otago. The tannins were rather pronounced and provided a firm structure for the wine. It was a rather light-bodied Pinot.
The Tom’s Block Pinot Noir 2010 was made from the youngest fruit and a solid introduction to the Neudorf Pinot family. Next up, the Moutere Pinot Noir 2010 was a slightly drying wine with a nice hit of acid. The real winners for me were the Home Block Pinot Noirs. The 2010 was a fruit forward wine with notes of toffee, caramel and plenty of red fruit. It was smooth and richly textured. My real stand-out was the 2003, which was simply beautiful. I won’t take it beyond that, you’ll just need to try it for yourself.
The Seifried Estate vineyard was planted in 1973, making for a range in vine age from 5-25 years for their white labelled wines. These wines were fully integrated and well balanced. The 2010 Pinot Noir was light, fruity and smooth while the 2011 was more oak and tannin with quite a bit of woodsy character. The 2011 vintage was ripened and picked about three weeks earlier than the 2010. The reserve Winemaker’s Collection Pinot Noir 2010 was exclusively from 25 year old vines and designed for aging. A rich nose and rich texture. It was caramel, toffee and a huge smack of fruit with an incredibly long finish.
With their first vintage in 1999 and making Pinot Noir exclusively, Bell Hill is another of the smaller producers that were at Pinot 2013. The 2010 vintage was a year of small yields with a summer season that had a lot of variation in weather and only finally gained the heat in February. Due to the late heat, both the Old Weka Pass Road Pinot Noir 2010 and the Bell Hill Pinot Noir 2010 had a great deal of tannins. It’s expected that these would mellow with age. A rich and powerful wine, these would be worth trying again in time.
Pyramid Valley Vineyards
The philosophy at Pyramid Valley seems to be to let the wines just do their thing. Minimal interference for better or worse. The result is usually unorthodox and a tiny bit funky. Characterful. Starting with the limestone infused Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2010 there was quite a bit of minerality not often seen in a Pinot. The Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2010 was sharp and smoky with lots of savoury notes, but less fruit. My favourite of the trio was the Grower’s Collection Pinot Noir 2009. Sadly it will be the last of this type as the grapes, owned by others, are no longer available. My notes reveal big, rich, thick, red. All about the texture, this wine.
Pegasus Bay Winery
Unfortunately this was a winery whose notes I misplaced on the night, leaving me entirely unable to make any real notes. We tried the Pinot Noir 2010, 2011 and the Prima Donna Pinot Noir 2010. As my single point of observation, I came away with the mental note that this was a wine to remember. To quote my tasting assistant (friend) James, it was silky as fuck.
I finally got to taste the Air New Zealand wine award winning 2010 Pinot Noir. And I could definitely see what all the fuss was about. A huge punch of fruit to introduce the wine, it was super silky and wonderfully textured. While the Pinot Noir 2011 was still rather closed. A touch of fruit, similar aromas to the 2010 but just not nearly as much, there was also a bit more of a savoury streak.
Rippon Jeunesse Pinot Noir 2009 made from the younger Rippon nine-year-old vines was a nice classic example. Toffee and texture, this wine was richer on the palate than the nose. Another stand-out for me was the Rippon, “Tinker’s Field”, Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2009. More mature vines contributed to the wine at 20-27 years old, the vines are under considerable strain and made to work for their water. A beautiful nose with lots of texture and acid. Fully balanced and drinkable for years to come. This was a very remarkable example of the difference vine age can make. I’m keen to try these again.
Surveyor Thomson Wines
Smaller producers of Central Pinot, Surveyor Thomson was bought in 2000, with a first vintage in 2003. You’ll find them in some restaurants, but not really in the shops. The entry level Explorer Pinot Noir 2010 for me was more interesting than the reserve Surveyor Thompson Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010. The former had the structure and complexity to stand out in a room full of Pinots. These was quite a lot of acidity in both wines and they would be well complemented by a meal