NZ pinot noir - Wine tasting 2011

Making pinot noir is often likened to the pursuit of the Holy Grail. How close to the sacred object are our producers getting, asks John Saker.

by John Saker | Cuisine issue #149 | Wednesday, 7 December, 2011

Van Asch Pinot Noir 2008 (Central Otago) $38-$40 -3
Henry Van Asch was a bungy pioneer; the wine that bears his name is also
very easy to fall for. A gorgeous, creamy
texture offers the impression of a berry fool dessert, with spicy, leafy notes
adding interest and complexity.

Vidal Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 (HAWKE’S BAY) $25-$32 -4
Ben Glover invoked the famous “iron fist in a velvet glove” comparison in praise of this wine’s mix of power, poise and freshness. Plenty of upfront primary fruit is leashed into bracing acids. Enjoy it with cold corned beef and tomato relish.

Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 $45-$50 -4
From a splendid vintage and the seasoned Villa team, this pinot noir is drinking beautifully. A core of dark sweet fruit sits at the centre of the wine, wrapped in layers of spice and chewy tannins.

Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 $45-$50 -4
The wine is deep in colour and in-depth fruit opulence – hallmarks of the Villa Reserve style. From moody floral
aromatics, it moves on to lovely cassis and dark cherry flavours, all suspended in a plush, yet defined, structure.
A stunning match with Peking duck.

Akarua Rua Pinot Noir 2010 (Central Otago) $24-$26 -3
Dense dark fruit detonates in the mouth. The “fruit bomb” label could describe this wine, but its concentration and well-ordered finish give it an overall completeness.

Burnt Spur Pinot Noir 2010 (Martinborough) $35-$39 -4
Burnt Spur is made by the practised hand of Paul Mason. This release has classic Martinborough Black Forest cherry-cake qualities, along with a shake of oak spice and good tannin support.

Ceres Composition Pinot Noir 2009 (Central Otago) $36-$39 -3
This wine is named after the Greek goddess of the harvest and grown on a small vineyard along Bannockburn’s Cairnmuir Rd. It is balanced, elegant and fragrant with some attractive green olive notes on the side. [A]

Fairmont Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (Wairarapa) $19.95-$24.95 -3
One of the early settlers in the Dakins Rd area north of Martinborough, this winery’s vines are now reaching an enviably advanced age. This rich wine offers attractive cherry mocha notes, with good structure. At this price (it’s one of an unprecedented 17 wines awarded Best Buy status), it deserves
to be snapped up.

Framingham Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 (Marlborough) $34.95 -3
The oak influence in this wine was a talking point. “It’s obvious, but still
all in balance,” thought Gary Baldwin. Attractive funky flavours and crunchy acidity contribute to an elegant
package. Open a bottle at an evening summer barbecue, complete with pork and fennel sausages.

Goldwater Wairau Valley Pinot Noir 2010 (Marlborough) $25-$27 -4
The Goldwater brand is now part of American billionaire William Foley’s New Zealand wine empire.
Gary Baldwin was taken with this wine’s deft combination of subtlety and power, a feathery core of fruit framed by tannins. Try it with barbecued garlic prawns. [C]

Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 $30 -3
A viticulturally favoured corner of the Alexandra Basin has delivered this pure, racy pinot. It offers appealing bayleaf and red fruit scents followed by real flow and presence in the mouth.
Panel members used words such as “integrity” and “correct” to describe
its sound, pristine fruit.

Greystone Pinot Noir 2009 (Waipara) $38 -4
A wine that’s in touch with both its masculine and feminine sides. A brawny, meaty, savoury element is hooked up
to some sweet fruit and a velvety mouthfeel. They’re good together and would be even better matched
with something gamy.

Invivo Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 $29.90-$32.90 -3
An interesting character described as “black jube” by Andrew Parkinson, “tar and roses” by Gary Baldwin and “incense-like” by John Saker, stood out. Rich sweet red and dark fruit has been given some intense oak treatment. An “out there”, bold style.

Jackson Estate Vintage Widow Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough) $32.95-$34.95 -4
This wine shows off its ripe, pure, dark fruit and plush, textural cushion with elegance and aplomb. It is not one of the more complex wines in the line-up; its charm and success lie in its beautiful
balance and integrity.

Judge Rock Pinot Noir 2008 (Central Otago) $32-$42 -3
From the Alexandra sub-region, this 2008 shows plenty of acid-derived freshness and poise. Attractively
perfumed, with red-fruit charm, it is in no hurry to disappear from the palate. The length is exemplary. Barbecued lamb backstraps with a Mediterranean marinade would suit.

Judge Rock Pinot Noir 2010 (Central Otago) $32-$50 -3
Another four-star verdict was handed down for Judge Rock’s latest release, which is drenched in dark fruit. The
floral scents are alluring and the ripe tannins keep things orderly and focused. Pair it with a classic French onion soup.

Kalex Wines Pinot Noir 2009 (Central Otago) $35 -4
Lovely floral aromatics with an overlay of coffee introduce this new label with a giving texture, a fresh brambly fruit presence and a generous oak influence. An excellent choice to serve with an antipasto plate that includes spicy charcuterie.

Locharburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 $32-$36 -4
The perfume of this wine, made by the accomplished Carol Bunn, really socks it to you – an aromatic wave
of gorgeous dark, faded rose scents. Panel members differed over the oak-fruit relationship. An intense and vibrant wine, it would be perfect poured with rich pork dishes.

Lowburn Ferry Home Block Pinot Noir 2010 (Central Otago) $45-$50 -4
“Don’t Fence Me In” could be this wine’s theme song. It has generous dimensions, great energy and terrific complexity; stylish but with a wild edge. It’s still quite tight, so cellar it and bring it out to coincide with the beef Wellington.

Lowburn Ferry Skeleton Creek Pinot Noir 2009 (Central Otago) $35-$39 -4
Skeleton Creek, yet another colourful Otago place name left behind after the goldrush, is boutique label Lowburn Ferry’s second-tier wine, though it is certainly not of second-rate quality. Beautiful fruit supported by youthful acid are the mainstays of this rich pinot.

Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2010 (Martinborough) $29-$32 -3
Te Tera means the other, but as a bonus it also echoes the Latin for earth – terra. An excellent everyday pinot since it first came out in 2002, this latest version is a fragrant, clean, juicy delight to serve with rosemary-seasoned roast lamb.

Matua Valley Estate Series Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 $25-$30 -3
“That’s not jam; that’s coulis,” noted Ben Glover to emphasise the freshness of the red fruit notes in this wine, which is held together by succulent acidity. Its length, lightness and feminine style were much admired. [I]



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