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Carrick – Bannockburn Textures and Stylish Fruit

By October 29, 2014No Comments
When talking to Francis Hutt, winemaker at Carrick, it is clear he is totally immersed in his soils, vines, vineyard and wines. I would say he is at one with the terroir of the Carrick vineyard in the Cairnmuir area of Bannockburn, but he would insist he is at the start of his journey in understanding the complexity of the site and the wines it produces. Compared with my last visit to Carrick in July last year (click here to see my report), he has made great strides, and appears far more comfortable, and indeed confident in his work. Although Francis spent time working with viticulturist Blair Deaker in the vineyard before taking on the role of winemaker, he still asks Carrick’s founders and owners Steve Green and Barbara Robertson-Green about the historical decisions and actions that have resulted in the current status of the vineyard, and he often discusses with former Carrick winemaker Steve Davies about the performance of the vines and how previous wines were made.

The Carrick wines have always been a little different from the mainstream of Central Otago, and it’s a difference that Francis is keen to perpetuate. The Carrick Pinot Noirs show less overt fruitiness and greater textural and structural qualities than other Central Otago examples, and this is a characteristic that is attributed to the sandier Cairnmuir soils as well as the site. Francis has been working on refining and balancing the wines further. I sense the wines have a softer nature, not only in tannin and phenolic extraction, but also in fruit and acid expression, the latter component more obvious in the white wines. I can see that it would be easy to dumb down the fruit excessively, so a fine line on style must be achieved. Such is the skill of a good winemaker, and I believe Francis is one. www.carrick.co.nz

Francis Hutt, Barbara Robertson-Green and Steve Green

Tasting the Carrick New Whites and Pinot Noirs
During my visit this time, Francis, Steve and Barbara took me through a quick tasting of some white wines, the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and ‘EBM’ Chardonnay still in tank, and the trio of Rieslings, all 2014, freshly bottled; and the 2013 Pinot Noirs, the Bannockburn already bottled, but the flagship ‘Excelsior’ from tank, having finished its oak elevage. Here are my impressions of the wines:

The Pinot Gris 2014 Tank Sample showed the result of the desire to pick earlier and to take the wine to a drier 3 g/L RS. This has a soft density of yellow stonefruit flavours, with plenty of weight and textural presence, but no harsh grip at all. There is an underlying alcoholic power, and the wine reveals spicy interest.

A Sauvignon Blanc Tank Ferment 2014 Tank Sample showed savoury stonefruit, lantana, mineral and grassy aromas and flavours, crisp, zippy and cutting. The Sauvignon Blanc Barrel Ferment 2014 Tank Sample showed more colour and distinctive nutty, lees and oxidative notes to the stonefuit flavours. Surprisingly the acidity was more pronounced, as were the phenolics. Clealy the blend of the two components would be far more interesting and complete.

Then onto the ‘EBM’ Chardonnay 2013 Tank Sample. This has gone through 100% MLF, but the wine showing rich citrussy fruit first with the creamy oak and MLF amalgam in support. Softly textured, the acidity was beautifully poised, accentuating the fruit.

We tasted through the 2014 Rieslings, all in bottle. The Dry Riesling 2014 is quite delicate on nose with lime and mineral aromas, but much more pronounced on palate, showing deep citrus fruit pith flavours, and very soft textures, the dryness thirst-quenching and moreish. This is 12.0% alc. The Bannockburn Riesling 2014 again is delicate on nose, distinctly floral, and the lusciousness of 26 g/L RS kicks in. Lovely mandarin flavours and the soft acidity balancing the sweetness. Again the soft mouthfeel is a highlight. This is 11.0% alc. And thirdly, the ‘Josephine’ Riesling 2014, at 9.0% alc. and 56 g/L RS, slightly shy on bouquet, but richer again on palate. A lovely honied richness, but the sweetness balanced by fine acid cut and soft, dry phenolic textures that are perfectly in place.

Moving onto the reds, the Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2013 was from bottle. Moderately dark, the restraint on bouquet is clear, the aromatics soft with ethereal floral, thyme herb and earthy-mineral notes, unfolding spicy elements, quite brooding at present. A sinewy, firm wine on palate, tightly bound, all textures and concentration, and a thread of earthy, dark red fruits and spice running the length of the wine. The tannins are dry and fine-grained. This is clearly food wine, but there’s plenty of fruit behind the structure.

Finally the ‘Excelsior’ Pinot Noir 2013 Tank Sample. Dark purple-red in colour looking very youthful, this has a range of red and black berry fruit aromas, with a distinctive earthy and Asian spice component that speaks of place as well as oak. Rich, detailed fruit depth, yet stylish with a sense of elegance, this is quite complete on the palate. The extraction is very fine-grained, and the wine has a velvety flow. There’s a sense of opulence here. The new oak component is only around 18%. Carrick produce 150-200 cases of ‘Excelsior’, so it’s a rarity.

Francis Hutt – hamming it up with sample #2

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