General Blog

Burn Cottage Complexity

By March 22, 2017No Comments
One of the ‘hottest’ Central Otago Pinot Noir labels is Burn Cottage. It is the vineyard and farm complex of Marquis Sauvage who purchased the Lowburn site in 2002. The winemakers are Ted Lemon, based in Sonoma in California, and Claire Mulholland who is the on-site general manager. Between them, they have achieved critical acclaim from the first vintage in 2009. It is now one of the most sought-after brands from the region. www.burncottage.com

Shane Livingston – Burn Cottage viticulturist
(This is a classic pose by all photo subjects in the biodynamic shed!)

The Burn Cottage Vineyard
It is the vineyard and its make-up that is fascinating, and no doubt the source of the complex style of wine. Planting from 2003 to 2009, there are 10.24 ha of Pinot Noir which makes up 93.2% of the vineyard, the remainder planted to Riesling and Gruner Veltliner. Biodynamic guru Peter Proctor was involved from the start, and the vineyard is part of a biodynamic ecosystem. The vineyard is divided into a number of blocks, planted to the contours of the land. The vines are at a density of 5,000 plants per hectare, and each of the blocks is multi-clonal. Some blocks have only 2 clones, but others have up to 6 clones in the make-up. There are 10 Pinot Noir clones in total, these being in descending order: Abel, 777, 667, 115, 114, 10/5, 5, 828, 943 and MV6 The Abel makes up 23% of the Pinot Noir plantings.

On my recent visit to Burn Cottage, I toured the vineyard with viticulturist Shane Livingston, who has a long experience with biodynamics, learning his craft originally with James Millton. For Shane, it’s a way of life and normality, and what is named ‘conventional’ winegrowing he says seems quite alien to him. Shane came from Northburn Station in 2014, and learning about the Burn Cottage vineyard and its nature is regarded as an on-going process. For him, the challenge is to manage the viticulture so that the different clones within each block come to maturity for picking at the same time. There will always be differences in ripeness between the clones, but this may be why the Burn Cottage wines have had a degree of complexity from the start. The multi-clonal approach to Pinot Noir winegrowing in one site can be seen as the way for terroir to be expressed. Shane certainly believes that biodynamics has an essential role in the process.

Oak cuves – Burn Cottage

Tasting the Wines
Claire Mulholland then took over from Shane, driving us to the winery in Rogers Street in Cromwell to taste a selection of wines. The winery itself is compact, but from what I could see is somewhat over-spec’d with special equipment and many large wooden cuves! We tasted the ‘Moonlight Race’ wines, this being a label that incorporates fruit from nearby vineyards managed to sustainable and organic standards. It also increases the Burn Cottage portfolio with obvious benefits. This was followed by three bottlings of the premium ‘Burn Cottage’ label and two 2016 individual block wines in barrel sample form, finishing with the 2014 Riesling/Gruner Veltliner blend. My notes follow. I did not score or rate the wines, preferring to focus on the style.

Burn Cottage ‘Moonlight Race’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014
Fruit from Burn Cottage (38%), Northburn and Cox Farm. Deepish ruby-red colour with purple hues. This has a soft nose with aromas of dark-red plums and berry fruits, with notes of spice, liquorice and minerals. On palate rich and sweet-fruited, cherries and raspberries, underlined by plenty of structure. This flows easily and with slipperiness from the crisp acidity. This has a seriousness to it.

Burn Cottage ‘Moonlight Race’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015
Fruit from Burn Cottage (35%), Northburn and Quest Farm. Deep purple-red colour. The nose is fresh and vibrant with fragrant aromas of dark red fruits, still very primary in expression and lifted with violet perfumes. Sweet and luscious flavours of dark-red berry fruits with plum notes show on palate. This is very aromatic and pretty. The tannins are very fine, and the mouthfeel soft-textured. This is fresh and balanced, the florals carrying to the finish.

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014
Deepish ruby-red colour. The bouquet is firm and intense with concentrated ripe red berry fruits with soft, complexing whole bunch stalk detail, the aromatics very harmonious and quite complete in presentation. Quite fulsome on palate with richness and density of fruit. Plenty of fruit size, with a fine tannin structure underlay. Lovely acidity working with the alcohol for drive. Unveils complexing herb and whole cluster nuance. This is drinking well already, but no hurry.

Burn Cottage Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015
Lighter ruby-red with purple hues. The nose is elegant and refined, still a little shy and tightly bound. Fruit more in the black spectrum, with red fruit softening the aromatics, and a fine, fragrant floral lift. Quite elegant in proportion on palate, showing finesse with aromatic red and black fruit entwined with florals. Lovely lift, with balancing tannin extraction and moderate grip, matching the fruit. More piquant with fresh acidity, and mineral notes on the finish.

Burn Cottage ‘Valli Vineyard’ Gibbston Central Otago 2015
Fruit from Grant Taylor’s Gibbston vineyard. First swap made in 2014. Dark, deep ruby-red colour. The nose is fine in presentation with firm and intense aromas of dark red fruits intermixed with dark herbs and earthy complexities. Some whole cluster interest emerges. Youthfully fresh and tightly bound on the palate, the structure prominent at this stage. Dark-red fruits with savoury dark herbs and stalk detail, along with earthy suggestions. The acidity is integrated. Very Gibbston in character, with cooler-spectrum character, but very good intensity.

Burn Cottage ‘Block 6’ Pinot Noir 2016 Barrel Sample
The highest altitude site with more exposure to the southerly wind, with clones 667 and 115 on silt loam soil. Moderately dark ruby-red colour with depth, and purple hues. This has a very fine and aromatic nose, slighter cooler red fruits with a touch of herbs and lovely lifted violet florals as the feature. Very pretty on palate with violets and a floral array to the red fruits. Quite juicy and luscious still and underlined by fine tannins, the acidity soft and balanced. Very attractive in the lighter style.

Burn Cottage ‘Block 8’ Pinot Noir 2016 Barrel Sample
Even, dark purple-red colour. This has a full and broad nose, with real depth and density, showing rich, ripe, dark-red fruits. On palate quite mouthfilling and evenly spread across the palate. This has fruit sweetness and richness, with tight grip and structure, and the weight shows. This promises to how more with time. A more complete expression. Mid-slope block on clay soils with clones 10/5 and 667.

Burn Cottage Central Otago Riesling/Gruner Veltliner 2014
A blend of 53% Riesling and 47% Gruner Veltliner, with 5.5 g/L RS. Bright straw yellow with lemon hues, pale coloured. Still tightly bound on nose with subtle lime fruit aromas and slight herbal nuances that grow, showing the Gruner with aeration. This has a mineral feel throughout. Dry to taste, the Riesling showing soft lime fruit clarity, and the herb-like Gruner Veltliner behind the aromatics. The phenolics are very fine, but the acidity soft. An intriguing blend with both varieties apparent.

Claire Mulholland – Burn Cottage
Winemaker and general manager

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