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Carrick Wines Tries a Little Craziness

By March 23, 2017No Comments
It’s a little crazy at Carrick Wines. Founders Steve Green and Barbara Robertson-Green sold last year to Elizabeth Zhong, who also owns Kennedy Point Vineyard on Waiheke Island. Steve and Barbara remain running Carrick for some time yet, but now, Steve has inputs into the strategies that both wineries operate under, especially with his work with New Zealand Winegrowers being very valuable. Carrick winemaker Francis Hutt has become another person who can advise on the production side of both properties, but I’m sure that Carrick Wines has gained positives from the Kennedy Point Vineyard business association too. www.carrick.co.nz

From Carrick’s beginnings in 1993, Steve and Barbara have made classical Central Otago wines that express the special character of Bannockburn, and in particular the Cairnmuir area with its sandy wind-blown loess soil providing minerally whites and uniquely structured reds. Francis Hutt arrived at Carrick in 2010 to work in the vineyard, assisting viticulturist Blair Deaker achieving BioGro organic certification for Carrick, and then becoming winemaker in 2011 with the departure of Jane Docherty. Francis continued the work and styles as developed from the start, but as of late, he has begun to push the boundaries, as he has become more familiar with the plants, soils and sites.

Carrick ‘EBM’ Chardonnay & ‘Excelsior’ Pinot Noir
The flagship wines
Investigating and Tasting the New Styles
The core range of Carrick Wines remains the same with a rosé, three Rieslings (dry, medium and medium-sweet), Pinot Gris, Chardonnay (with a superb ‘Extended Barrel Maturation’ bottling), Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noirs, which include a cellar-door only ‘Crown and Cross’ and the super-premium ‘Excelsior’ which is one of Central Otago’s special wines. There’s also the second tier ‘Unravelled’ wines which offer real value.

I got an inkling that Francis was beginning to try new things at last year’s EuroVintage Roadshow by whom Carrick is distributed, where he showed me the 2015 Carrick ‘Billet-Doux’ Pinot Noir, a natural wine made with no sulphur additions at all (click here to see my report). On my recent visit to Central Otago, I made it a point to meet up with Francis, Steve and Barbara, to discuss and taste the developments with the new styles. To those used to the ‘traditional’ wines, the new wines are certainly ‘out there’ or ‘left field’, maybe even ‘crazy’, but they are a nod to the styles that are becoming recognised and trialled by influential gatekeepers such as sommeliers and wine buyers, in the global wine scene. They are in many ways, ‘R & D’ wines, but are commercialised.

Francis led my partner Sue Davies and I through a tasting of wines in the rather excellent Carrick Wines restaurant. Also tasting was Carrick’s administrator Gay Renwick, who is regarded by the staff as the real boss! Following are my notes of the wines tasted. They also include one tank sample and three barrel samples. The wines served without too much detail revealed until after our comments and responses were made. They were not scored or rated, as I was focussed on style interpretation.

Carrick ‘Electric No. 1’ Central Otago 2015
A field blend of approx. 40% Pinot Gris, with Chardonnay, Riesling Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blanc, foot-stomped, the wine on skins for 1 hour, then basket-pressed over 4-5 hours to go into barrel, fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine undergoing full MLF. There were no sulphur additions. Certified BioGro organic. Pale straw-yellow. This has a firm nose with good concentration with lime and floral aromatics, speaking of Riesling and Pinot Gris to me. Dry to taste, with floral aromatic character, a little spice too. Very good acidity, quite zesty and mouthwatering. Good firm linearity with very fine phenolics. The finish has soft acidity and is dry. Very harmonious in all ways.

Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016
60% barrel-fermented to 14.0% alc. and 2.6 g/L RS, with lees work. Showing the conventional Pinot Gris which still has considerable inputs. Bright straw-yellow colour. The nose is archetype varietal, quite elegant in proportion with stonefruit and pear aromas, some florals and honeysuckle, no obvious inputs. Dryish to taste, this has fruit richness and a degree of unctuousness to the mouthfeel, and a good core at heart. The richness is balanced and the mouthfeel is fresh. This is linear, rather than rounded. Very fine textures. The fruit prevails over the oak inputs for sure.

Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Chardonnay 2015
14.5% alc. Showing the intention to make a tighter, leaner, more aromatic, fresh and more ageworthy style. Fully indigenous yeast barrel-fermented with batonnage and 10% new oak. Bright straw-yellow colour. This is tightly bound on nose, a little shy and restrained, but unveiling stonefruit, oak and mineral notes, subtle creamy barrel-ferment and lemon-curd MLF also. Lovely fruit sweetness shows on palate, citrussy and nutty, some spicy oak adding lift. Very fine-textured, and quite elegant in style, and showing finesse. At the other end of the spectrum to ‘EBM’ Chardonnay!

Carrick Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014
Approx. two-thirds clone 10/5, fully destemmed and 15% new oak. Deep ruby-red colour, youthful in appearance. The nose is rich, intense and deeply packed with aromas of dark berries and plums, unfolding lifted red and violet florals, herb notes and liquorice. This is very attractive on nose. Shy in expression on palate, but the concentration, depth and presence is clear. The palate grows in richness, density and concentration, showing ripe, dark-red berry fruits. The palate retains excellent freshness and acidity. Lovely fruit emerges in the glass.

Carrick ‘Unravelled’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016
Dijon clones, 16-18 days on skins, no whole bunch, and approx 10 months in barrel. A single vineyard wine with 4,000 cases made, certified BioGro organic. Much achieved at a value price here. Lighter red colour with youthful purple hues. This is elegant and tightly held, with dark-red fruits and complex herbal complexities. Still youthfully firm on nose. Lovely rich and succulent fruit immediately shows on palate. Black cherries, subtle herbs and lifted florals. The palate is still to unfold. Very fine tannins and softer acidity enabling accessibility. Good length too. Remarkably good wine for the price.

Carrick ‘The Magnetic’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015
100% Abel clone, vines planted 2008, no sulphur additions. 14.2% alc. 60 cases made. Deepish ruby-red, lighter on the edge. This is firm, but well-concentrated on the nose with savoury black fruit aromas, and an array of herbal elements. Very Abel in character. Bright and lively, rich fruit flavours on palate, with dark-red and black fruits, and a range of herbal and savoury flavours. Up-front, the sweetness carrying the wine, with underlying fine-grained tannins. Red floral notes emerge on the finish.

Carrick ‘Crown and Cross’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015
Fruit from the ‘Davishon’ vineyard, Alexandra. 30% whole clusters. Cellar door only. Deepish red with light purple hues. Very elegant and refined on the nose. Quite fragrant and ethereal in nature, with core of black cherry fruit but unfolding delicate florals that grow in intensity with aeration. Tight, fine and firm on palate, the lifted florals the feature. Elegant and silky in textures, with fine supple tannins. The acidity is a touch elevated. This is about florality.

Francis Hutt – Carrick Wines
Full speed ahead and digging out some beauties
Tasting the Unbottled Wine and Barrel Samples
Francis took us into the winery and barrel hall to taste these wines.

Carrick ‘The Death of von Tempsky’ Central Otago 2016 Tank Sample
100% whole bunch Riesling, 95 days on skins and stems, 13.0% alc., and 100% MLF. Pale straw-yellow colour. Distinctive orange and citrus fruit aromas, with pear notes. Very much a skin-contact type nose. Dry to taste, the textures and phenolics remarkably fine. Citrus fruits and stonefruits show in abundance, yet with balance. A tight core and line. This will be quite accessible and pretty attractive to ‘conventional’ wine supporters.

Carrick Pinot Noir Abel Clone 2016 No Sulphur Barrel Sample
Picked at the start of the week. Francis says it needs topping. Dark ruby-red with purple. Quite savoury on the nose, very Abel with the bramble notes, quite firm and minerally. Fine, but firmly concentrated on palate, with bright red berry fruits, quite primary, and less savoury or brambly. Fine tannin extraction, this has a lovely vibrancy with a brashness. This is pure, unadulterated fruit. The “street kid” to me.

Carrick Pinot Noir Abel Clone 2016 Sulphur 30 ppm Added Barrel Sample
Light purple-red colour. Lovely purity to the nose, Lifted red florals with red berry fruit core, unfolding savoury, herbal Abel clone character in the glass. Tightly bound, quite elegant in proportion, refined and smooth with a sense of style. Could be seen as more narrow. More floral than fruit. Has this lost the ruggedness of fruit brashness. The “well-schooled boy” to me.

Carrick ‘EBM’ Chardonnay 2016 Barrel Sample
Light straw-yellow with golden hues. Lovely bold, sweet oak aromas predominate, but there is sweet fruit aromas of citrus fruits. Creamy barrel-ferment very clear. Rich fulsome and bold flavoured, the fruit flavoured already layered with nutty and creamy oak. Still an underlying firmness and there is acid grip. Francis sees the palate as being “unresolved”. There is already plenty of ‘EBM’ character, not too dissimilar to the 2010 ‘EBM’ sampled one night ago!


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