Featured Reviews

Rockburn 2016 ‘Estate’, ‘Seven Barrels’ and ‘The Art’ Pinot Noirs

15 February,2018

Rockburn is one of Central Otago’s most consistent top-quality wine producers. Established by Richard Bunton and partners in 1991 and producing wine under the ‘Hays Lake’ label until 2002 when the ‘Rockburn’ brand was introduced. With the arrival of Malcolm Rees-Francis in 2005, the wines made a step up in presence and quality from his thoughtful and precise winemaking. In 2015, a new winery at Ripponvale Road in Cromwell was commissioned to process the fruit from the company’s 9 ha Gibbston and 33 ha Parkburn vineyards. Pinot Noir has always been the focussed variety, and the ‘Estate’ bottling, made from a blend of districts, has proven to be a top award winner over many vintages. It is a classical Central Otago style. There are rarer and more limited production Pinot Noirs made when the vintage conditions allow. Rees-Francis selects barrels which are expressive of site and season to make the flagship ‘Barrel’ wines, the name ‘barrel’ preceded by the number selected. In 2016, the special bottling of Gibbston-only fruit was labelled ‘Seven Barrels’. The other limited bottling Pinot Noir is ‘The Art’, so named after the artistry that the winemaker employs in making a wine that is distinctively separate from science. In this wine Rees-Francis can explore variations on a sub-regional theme. Here, I review the 2016 Rockburn ‘Estate’, ‘Seven Barrel’ and ‘The Art’ Pinot Noirs. www.rockburn.co.nz


Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Otago


Dark, deep, ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is elegant in proportion with intense and penetrating aromas of dark-red cherry and raspberry fruit, along with plum notes, dark-red florals and hints of liquorice. Dark herbal elements are harmoniously interwoven adding interest. This has focus and clarity. Medium-full bodied, the palate has richly sweet and vibrant fruit flavours of cherry and raspberry fruit, entwined with plum, liquorice and dark herb notes, along with fragrant red florals. The fruit forms a deep core with soft, supple tannin structure and integrated acidity in support. The juicy and up-front flavours carry with good drive to a long and sustained finish. This is a well-proportioned and concentrated, sweetly rich Pinot Noir with cherry, raspberry, plum and liquorice notes on a finely structured palate. Match with lamb, beef and venison dishes over the next 6-7+ years. Clones 10/5, 5, 6, Abel, 667 and 777, 86% of the fruit from Parkburn, 14% from Gibbston, fermented with on average 12% whole bunches to 14.0% alc., the wine on skins 7-14 days post ferment and aged 10 months in 35% new French oak. 7,000 dozen and 300 magnums made. 18.5+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $45.00

Rockburn ‘Seven Barrels’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Otago


Moderately deep, dark ruby-red colour, lighter on the rim with slight purple hues. The nose is softly full and ethereal, unfolding to show voluminous aromas of savoury red cherry and berry fruits with red florals intermingling with a layering of dried herbs. This has subtle nuances of nutty oak, spices and earth. The aromatics are beautifully detailed. Medium-full bodied, the palate has mouthfilling flavours of sweetly rich, savoury dark-red cherry fruit harmoniously entwined with dried herbs, spices, earth and undergrowth elements. The fruit is vibrant and lively, forming a concentrated heart, and is underlined by plenty of fine-grained, flowery tannin extraction lending structure and grip. The acidity is soft and integrated, and the wine flows positively to a long, lingering, savoury finish. This is a rich, mouthfilling Pinot Noir with ethereal savoury red fruits complexed by a layering of dried herbs, earth and undergrowth, on a substantially extracted, fine-grained palate. Match with slow-cooked game meats and casseroles over the next 7-8+ years. Clones 5 and 6 fruit from the ‘Gibbston Back Road’ vineyard, fully destemmed and fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine on skins for 22 days and aged 13 months in 28.6% new French oak. 155 dozen and 150 magnums made. 19.0+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $97.00

Rockburn ‘The Art’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Otago


Ruby-red colour with some depth, paler edged. This has a softly concentrated nose with fine proportions and gently deep, rounded aromas of ripe dark-red berry fruit and notes of dark plums harmoniously melded with dried herb notes and subtle whole bunch stalk perfumes. This is detailed and complex in expression. Medium-full bodied, the palate has up-front and fulsome flavours of ripe dark-red berry and plum fruit that form a solid and well-packed core. The fruit is complexed by dark and dried herb nuances and whole bunch stalk elements. The fruit is framed by plenty of tannin extraction and structure, lending a full mouthfeel with presence and density. The wine carries with good power to a long, rounded finish. This is a fulsome and rounded, ripe Pinot Noir with dark-red berry and plum flavours with dark herb and whole bunch complexities on a well-structured palate. Match with wild duck and pork, lamb and venison, and semi-hard cheeses over the next 8+ years. Clones Abel and 777 from a single site in Bannockburn, fermented with 30% whole bunches to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 12 days on skins post ferment and aged 14 months in 40% new French oak, 428 dozen and 200 magnums made. 19.0+/20 Feb 2018 RRP $97.00


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