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Felton Road 2016 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Barrel Samples


21-Mar-2017
It was timely to visit Felon Road before the 2017 harvest in Central Otago began. Felton Road are well-known for being the first to pick, this being a result of their precocious sites, as well as winemaker Blair Walter’s search for greater elegance by picking early, but with the fruit and phenolics ripe, and also without high sugars that result in high alcohols. Blair has found that the style of such wines is particularly appealing to Felton Road’s market of fine wine aficionados both here in New Zealand, and arguably of more importance, overseas. Felton Road buyers are also purchasers of top burgundy and international Pinot Noir, so the elegance is certainly recognised and appreciated.

Felton Road’s viticulture, under the care of Gareth King has been essential to achieve the styles being made, and as the original and later-planted vines grow in maturity, the consistency of site, style and quality is being attained with greater ease. Blair is unashamedly a backer of organic and biodynamic growing, and believes that these practices are crucial to the character of the 12,000 case production. On our tour of the vineyard, we spent considerable time in the biodynamic shed where the preparations are made. It is affectionately known as the ‘Voodoo Lounge’, a reference to how the more sceptical see the methods employed by Felton Road and other biodynamic properties. www.feltonroad.com


Blair Walter in the Cow Pat Pit or 'Voodoo Lounge'

Tasting the 2016 Wines from Barrel
Blair took us through a tasting of 2016 vintage wines from barrel, the wines having been blended and finish, waiting to be bottled at their appropriate times. The wines are from a warmer vintage, and are elegant and softer than a cooler year. My notes follow. They are in the order as tasted, as we sampled from one barrel cellar all that was present, before moving to the next cellar.

Bannockburn Chardonnay 2016
Pale straw colour. The nose is very fine, tightly bound but intense with aromas of citrus fruits, white stonefruits and minerals. On palate quite crisp, with tightly bound citrus fruit flavours, and delicate citrus blossom notes. Some fine phenolics and soft acidity, this quite a feature of the 2016 vintage. A lovely elegant wine of clarity.

Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2016
Light purple-red colour. The nose is soft with bright and vibrant primary raspberry and cherry fruit aromas. Very elegant on palate, tightly bound, ripe cherry and raspberries, and subtle floral and herbal detail. Refined tannins and brisk acidity. This is very vibrant, and still to show its potential.

‘Calvert’ Pinot Noir 2016
From 15 y.o. vines. Light purple-red colour. Elegant in proportion, very tightly bound with dark-red and black berried fruit, showing herbal interest. This has considerable aromatic intensity and concentration. On palate a wine of depth and intensity. Concentrated dark fruits in an amalgam with complexing herbal elements. Very fine-grained, powdery tannin extraction, the acidity quite soft and integrated.

‘Cornish Point’ Pinot Noir 2016
From 16 y.o. vines. Light ruby-red with some depth. This has soft aromatics with red berry fruits, redcurrants and herbs. Good floral lift. The nose shows lovely finesse. On palate quite gentle in expression, attractive aromatic red fruits, quite elegant and ethereal. Fine-grained tannins with fresh balancing acidity.

‘Block 3’ Pinot Noir 2016
Predominantly clone 10/5. Soft dark-red colour with garnet hues. The nose is full and broad with good depth of red fruits intermixed with savoury herbs, some whole cluster and 10/5 character, revealing earthy complexities. Rich and luscious, with juicy red fruits. Some savoury herb/earth complexities. This has a fine tannin line and integrated acidity. Immediately accessible, a ‘crowd pleasure’ for sure.

‘Block 5’ Pinot Noir 2016
Predominantly clones 5 and 6. Deepish light red colour. The nose is delicate and tightly concentrated, very refined and still quite primary. More black fruit aromas with whole bunch and herb layers, minerals unfold. On palate the black fruits show with good depth and intensity. Tightly bound, this has power, linearity and length. The tannins are fine and powdery, quite chalky. The firmest and most austere at present.

‘Block 2’ Chardonnay 2016
All Mendoza clone, 24 y.o. Light straw-yellow colour with some depth. This is tightly bound with real intensity. Subtle citrussy fruit, more minerally in expression. This builds in aromatic depth and weight. On palate, this ha richness and depth, with a citrus and mineral amalgam. Oaking very sensitive and imperceptible. Very fine phenolic grip and excellent acidity. The concentration is stylish, the depth a feature.

‘Block 6’ Chardonnay 2016
All Mendoza clone, 23 y.o. First release with the 2015 vintage. Even straw-yellow colour. This has a tight core that unfolds with depth, showing citrus and mealy fruit aromas, along with mineral notes. Rich and sweet-fruited, quite luscious, but balanced by very fine phenolic texture and fresh acidity. Some oak nuttiness. This has a roundness that unfolds.


Mendoza clone Chardonnay with 'hen and chicken'

Tasting the Bottled Pinot Noir Wines
The tasting room and administration centre has been refurbished, and Blair conducted a tasting of finished and bottled wines in the room which also doubles as a board room. The highlight was a vertical tasting of the ‘Block 5’ Pinot Noir from 2015 to 2013. I must admit it was difficult to see the vintage characteristics in the wines without an explanation of the growing seasons, but they are expressive of their years in hindsight.

Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2015
Even, pale purple colour. This has a tight, intensely aromatic nose of dark-red and black fruits with herb and whole cluster interest. On palate very rich, luscious and bright fruited. Lovely acidity lending energy, and the tannins quite accessible, soft even. This has put on weight and is more complete than the 2016.

‘Calvert’ Pinot Noir 2015
Lighter ruby-red, paler edged. Soft and full on nose, with red berry fruits, lovely density, and very smooth in presentation. Very together. Soft and quite ethereal on palate with floral notes to the dark-red berry fruits. Smooth-textured, very supple, and true elegance.

‘Block 5’ Pinot Noir 2015
Still youthfully purple to the colour. Very firm and intense, with savoury dark-red fruit aromas, some stalk notes of whole bunch, quite bold really, becoming up-front, unveiling violet fragrance. Rich, deep and firmly packed on palate, sweet black fruits, a touch of herbal complexity, with grainy tannin structure.

‘Block 5’ Pinot Noir 2014
Light ruby-red colour. Classically elegant on nose, quite light and refined, dark-red fruits with savoury herbal and stalk detail. On palate also very elegant, with a tight, firm core. Lovely refined tannins, the flavours quite integrated with layers of interest. Fine-grained tannin driving the linearity. More minerally as the fruit recedes, but the acidity still bright and lively. This appears to be ‘brooding’.

‘Block 5’ Pinot Noir 2013
Deepish red colour, some garnet hues. This has a full, ripe, sweet and rich dark raspberryish fruit aromas melded with a firm core of minerals. Rich, firm, concentrated, and still tightly bound on palate, dark-red fruits with a mineral overlay. Quite lush, but balanced by fine-grained extraction. This is beginning to round out, but the acidity is still fresh.


Blair Walter - Felton Road

Tasting Two 2016 Rieslings
The finale of the visit demonstrating the effect of different soils on Riesling wines, the Bannockburn on gravels, and the ‘Block 1’ on the heavier soils. Both wines were identical in their making and pretty much similar in specification. There was more similarity than difference, nevertheless the differences are consistent every year.

Bannockburn Riesling 2016
9.5% alc., 64 g/L RS, pH 2.87. Bright pale straw colour. Very elegant and tightly bound, refined and subtle, with delicate citrus and mineral aromas, showing great clarity. Great purity. Sweet to taste, yet not opulent. Very elegant, refined and tightly constructed. Lovely clarity of citrus, floral and honey notes. Quite poised, with very refined textures and balanced acidity, not cutting, but with tension. The fragrance grows in the glass.

‘Block 1’ Riesling 2016
9.0% alc., 67 g/L RS, pH 2.87. Very pale colour. Very fine and very tightly held. Lovely minerality and purity, less citrussy in expression on the nose. This is very subtle in character, quite delicate. Medium-sweet to taste, still firm and tight initially, but grows in depth and breadth. The fruit grows. This has extract and weight, but retains finesse. This has some softness and less tension, the acidity still showing a softness. A richer palate to a fine degree.

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