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Pinot Noir 2013 – Day Two – The Pioneers

By January 29, 2013No Comments
The second day of Pinot Noir 2013 kicked off with the first of two autobiographical speeches by professionals from an Australian background. The keynote address in the morning was by the very highly respected writer and journalist Mike Bennie from Sydney, who is one of the most lauded of the new wave of commentators on wine. His style is very contemporary and clever, and shows his immersion in the serious scene of wine in Australia, and Australasia. He told his story of how he became a writer eventually talking the talk and walking the walk and being himself. The admonition of his address was for New Zealand Pinot Noir producers was to be real and authentic, and to tell their own stories. The authentic call turned out to be the catch-phrase of the day, very much as Matt Kramer’s address the day before was the focus of much discussion.
In the lunchtime address, Ned Goodwin MW, raised in Australia, and educated in Japan and in the U.K. told his fascinating life story in finding himself, and in doing so, made an ingenious and sophisticated analogy to the properties and world of Pinot Noir grapes and wine. This too, as with Bennie’s, was a particularly articulate presentation that evoked imagery and inspiration. The delivery was energetic and especially soothing on the ear. However, I did wonder if the autobiographical content employed by both speakers was a reflection of the method of the new generation of professional raconteurs!
The Pioneers
I was in the stream of delegates that were rotated to the ‘Pioneers’ group and venue. Here there were 38 exhibitors from the regions where Pinot Noir growing and making were pioneered in New Zealand. These were Martinborough and the Wairarapa, Nelson, and the Canterbury regions, along with one winery in Auckland. It was stated by master of ceremonies Tim Finn, that in the modern scene, these regions counted for around 20% of the plantings of the variety, but made up a disproportionately higher percentage of the more interesting and complex Pinot Noir wines in the country. I would tend to agree with that assertion!

Speakers from each region discussed the history geography, geology, climate and other factors responsible for the wines, and I was moved by the roll-call of names: David Jackson and Danny Schuster, Richard Smart, Herman and Agnes Seifried, Ivan and Christine Donaldson, and the originals of Martinborough, Stan Chifney, Neil McCallum, Clive Paton and the Milnes, who began their work in the 1970s and early 1980s. These are people that are seminal in my learning and enjoyment of, and career in wine.

The tasting of the wines followed the format of 2010 vintage wines in the morning from all of the wineries, with generally older vintages in the afternoon session. As with yesterday, there were too many wines to get around in each session, if one wanted to discuss any of them with the proprietor or winemaker manning the stations. This is certainly no bad thing, but wines from a number of highly-regarded and interesting producers were missed out.

The over-riding impression I gained was the incredible diversity of style between the wines from this very different collection of wineries. This is to be expected, as the wines are from very separate regions, sites and terroirs, and made by very individual people with their own philosophies. Being a person who is organised and enjoys categorising and ‘putting things into boxes’, I tried to find commonality with the wines tasted according to their region. I felt the North Canterbury wines were marked by their serious extract and structure; the Nelson wines notable for their rich fruit expression, and the Wairarapa wines by their soft, substantial natures. Of course, within each regional group, there was a range of styles. From the morning session, my picks for interesting and quality wines, and those noteworthy were the following, many tasted in pairs:
  • Greenhough ‘Hope’ 2010 – very elegant, with fresh, compact and concentrated fruit, and real length
  • Neudorf Moutere 2010 – much finer and subtly nuances than my last time tasting it, but still with undeniable class
  • Neudorf ‘Home Vineyard’ Moutere 2010 – this has become even more expansive, opening up to reveal its richness to match its substantial structure
  • Rimu Grove 2010 – rich, savoury and spicy with impressive length, carrying plenty of fulsome fruit
  • Bell Hill ‘Old Weka Pass’ 2010 – a more up-front style with wonderful fruit vitality and acid zestiness matched to fruit depth
  • Bell Hill 2010 – very finely layered, with underlying concentration. Great elegance and ‘puissance’ from tannin and acidity
  • Black Estate ‘Omihi Series’ 2010 – expressive of perfumes, violets, a touch of primary fruit and very fine silkiness
  • Black Estate 2010 – classically concentrated and taut, the fine structure the basis of the wine
  • Crater Rim ‘Omihi Rise’ 2010 – savoury with iron and earth flavours, and featuring significant grip
  • Crater Rim ‘Lot 7′ 2010 – very rich, but greater refinement with distinctive aromatic interest, this being from a particular section of the ‘Omihi Rise’ vineyard
  • Greystone 2010 – bright, lively, very elegant with succulent dark fruit, lifted aromatically, very supple and fine
  • Mountford Estate 2010 – complex, savoury, rich and fleshy with excellent structure in support
  • Muddy Water ‘Hare’s Breath’ 2010 – very vine-grained, but firm tannins, allied to finesse of aromatics, the fruit rising to match the grip
  • Pyramid Valley ‘Earth Smoke’ 2010 – dark red and black fruits, lifted with aromatics and oak? Very fine acidity and tannins
    Pyramid Valley ‘Angel Flower’ 2010 – softer, broader in textures, but a little more savoury and savage in flavour expression


  • Cambridge Road 2010 – concentrated and savoury, ripe black fruits, the wine still tightly packed, and sweetness ready to unfold
  • Cobblestone 2010 – rich, juicy and lush, bright and fruit focussed, but with the size and extract to make it more serious
Kai Schubert and Marion Deimling – Schubert Wines
The afternoon session began with an interactive discussion on ‘Character’ in wine, which involved the concept of ‘unlearning’ to build in more character. This in addition to the effects of vine age and winemaker maturity. The question posed was: Is it too early to expect things to change, as everything is still ‘new’? The question of what makes a wine ‘authentic’ rose again, and my thoughts included: Are there shades of authenticity? Is it ‘black or white’? And discussion led to the human role or ‘Pinot People Culture’ in the character and authenticity of a wine. Tasting a selection of older wines with the exhibitors, the following made impressions on me:
  • Ata Rangi 2011, 2007 and 2004 – the 2011 still very tight, but refined and showing purity, the 2007 concentrated and with secondary interest, and great length. The 2004 was a disappointment after release, but this has put on weight and richness, the herbal notes now well-integrated
  • Dry River 2010 and 2009 – I’ve thought these very similar in the past, but here the 2010 with delicacy and fine-features, the 2009 darker in fruit and with the greater depth
  • Escarpment ‘Pahi’, ‘Kiwa’ and ‘Te Rehua’ – showing their consistent vineyard signatures of aromatics and fine grip; the complex savoury layers of richness; and the dense, dark richness allied to structure respectively 
  • Gladstone Vineyard 2011 – lovely elegance, finesse, vibrancy and spicy interest
  • Johner ‘Reserve’ 2011 – fresh, sweet-fruited, beautifully oaked with spice and toastiness
  • Julicher 2010 and 2009 – the former supple and integrated, with classical savoury flavours, the latter a step up in richness, making it quite complete in expression
  • Kusuda 2008 – refinement personified with incredible length allied to sinewy richness
  • Martinborough Vineyard 2006 and ‘Marie Zelie’ 2008 – the regular MV looking great for its increased facets, detail and layers that will see it age well still, and the most refined, subtly layered and elegant super-premium ‘Marie Zelie’ to date
  • Palliser Estate ‘The Great Paloma’ 2011 – great power, loads of oak, but perfumed in its primary precision, luscious and with restrained decadence
  • Schubert ‘Marion’s’ and ‘Block B’ 2010s – the former with the feminine expression and beauty easily overlooked in the search for glory, the latter being blacker, firmer and more structured
  • Urlar 2011, 2010 and 2009 – the youngest being finely structured, pure and pretty, the middle wine quite funky and grainy with plenty of extract, the oldest combining fleshy ripeness with sweet mouthfeel and size, now beginning to round out
  • Greystone ‘Reserve’ 2011 – greater intensity with wonderful linearity and drive, a noticeable oak input and great length

Despite a concerted effort and being among the last to leave the venue, I ran out of time.  I must taste and make my notes more quickly!  www.pinotnz.co.nz

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