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The Doctors Flat Pinot Noir

By July 2, 2013No Comments
With four vintages of Doctors Flat Pinot Noir wine released to the market, Steve Davies has built up a strong following, enviably disproportionate to the size of his operation (please excuse the pun). However, insiders to the wine scene will not be surprised, as Steve is a very experienced hand, probably best known for his time as winemaker at Carrick. In fact, it was during his tenure there that he came to purchase the 19 ha site off Hall Road above Bannockburn, the land owned by the Carrick partners. Of course, not all the property is planted to vines, and at present there are around 3 ha planted, but there is the potential to extend it to 6 or 7 ha.

The vineyard, at around 300 metres a.s.l., is regarded as a high quality one in the district, and the fruit is deemed to be in the premium category. It is well-known that Steve is fastidious in his viticultural work here. Initially supplying a number of people, the grapes are now kept for Steve’s own label, but he contracts a portion to his good friend Grant Taylor, approx. 13 tonnes for himself and around 4 tonnes to Grant. Steve has carefully grown his production, the 2011 vintage, his fourth released, to 460 cases, with around 900 cases as an eventual limit. The market will probably remain a hungry one for the Doctors Flat Pinot Noir, as demand seems to be growing quicker than his output!

Steve Davies with clone 115 Pinot Noir

Tasting Barrel Samples of Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2013
Steve is very pleased with the wine he has made in 2013. He was a little reluctant, and properly so, to commit to a definite judgement, but was keen to show some barrel samples of his handiwork. He’s a fan of the use of whole cluster fermentation, as the lignification seems to be good from the vines on his site, and the character it imparts to the resultant wine is a pleasing one, adding a subtle layer of complexity without dominating. Three samples were shown with different proportions of whole bunches. His preferred clonal mix is approx. one-third 777 with varied proportions of 114 and 115 as the balance.

A sample with 40% whole bunch showed vibrant dark red fruits firm and tightly concentrated, but underlined by fresh, lacy acidity brightening the flavours. The mouthfeel was supple and the textures very fine. Next was a sample with 25% whole bunch. This has very good density of dark berry fruits, along with some fresh herb nuance, and the stem characters a little more obvious. This had a firm linearity. Then another blend with 17% whole bunch. This was strikingly aromatic, the fruit profile in the blue spectrum. The sweetness on palate matched the nose, and was carried by very fine tannins and acidity. Steve has been working towards a style of greater elegance and florality, and the 2013 may be a step closer to his ideal style.

Happy barrel sample of Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2013

A Vertical Tasting of Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2008 – 2011
The barrel samples of 2013 tasted were put into perspective by a vertical tasting of the Doctors Flat Pinot Noir wines released to date. The 2008 is showing some garnet and bricking to the colour, and the savoury, secondary undergrowth aromas and flavours indicative of the wine coming into maturity. There is no hurry, as the fruit is sweet and succulent and the acidity bright and enlivening. The increasing integration and suppleness from tannin resolution is very positive and attractive. There is a distinctive brown spice lift behind it all, and this is the vineyard character.

A small crop in 2009 enabled full ripening and darker fruit aromas and flavours. Still dark ruby-red in colour, the up-front, bold, ripe and rich flavours are essentially primary, but there is a softening to the mouthfeel. This is fulsome, fleshy and quite sumptuous drinking, but there is an excellent acid line guiding the wine. As the wine flows along the palate line, the extract and backbone becomes more apparent. Again a lifted liquorice and brown spice nuance is present throughout. This is a crowd pleaser for sure, and will continue to be for the next 4-5 years.

The style of the 2010 is in line with many other Central Otago Pinot Noirs, being based on ripeness allied to excellent tannin structure. Youthfully coloured, this has an even, fruity lift with a degree of perfume and delicacy on bouquet. Tightly bound and clearly concentrated, the freshness and vitality of the mouthfeel was its feature. This has excellent power, firmness and drive. The familial character of lifted dark and brown spices evident again, but in this wine complexed with whole bunch and oak notes. I can see this evolving well over the next 6+ years.

When I initially reviewed the 2011, I felt the wine was a little restrained. On this showing, there was a great deal more depth and substance at the core. The fruit isn’t as far into the ripeness spectrum as the 2009 and 2010, showing red floral lift and nuances of fresh herbs. The palate is decidedly sweet and ripe, with red liquorice flavours, revealing whole bunch savoury lift, and you guessed it – some plum and spice notes. A little softer with its acidity, this possessed a good tannin framework. It may mature a little more quickly than the 2010, say around 5 years to be at a plateau.

Steve didn’t have the 2012 available for tasting, but he reckons it sits in with all the others to date. My tastings of the 2012 Central Otago Pinot Noirs indicate it is generally a better vintage than 2011, so the Doctors Flat wine should be a rather smart one too. Look out for my review of it in due course. www.doctorsflat.co.nz

Steve Davies and Doctors Flat Pinot Noir 2008 – 2011

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