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Vine Love at Carrick Wines

By July 1, 2013No Comments

Steve Green and Barbara Robertson-Green – Carrick

A distinctive style of wine emanates from the Carrick vineyards at the Cairnmuir area of Bannockburn. Proprietors Steve Green and Barbara Robertson-Green have appreciated how the bold style of Pinot Noir in particular has struck a chord with many enthusiasts of Central Otago wine, and have long-recognised the importance of the vineyard, the health of the vines, and sensitive winemaking. Francis Hutt is the incumbent winemaker, and came to Central Otago from Martinborough, following a stint overseas, on a bit of a whim, partly to enjoy the snow, but also attracted to the culture of organic and biodynamic viticulture in the region. He joined Carrick in a viticultural role, supporting Blair Deaker in the process of BioGro organic certification of the vineyards, then picking up the mantle of winemaker when Jane Docherty left, finishing off the 2011 wines.

On a walk around the Carrick vineyards, it was obvious that Francis had absorbed much about the history, geography, climate and geology of the site, and taken to heart an appreciation for the vines soil and vineyard as being part of a living process that must be empathised with, if not understood, to make good and great wine. There’s more than an element of living the organic life here, as the Carrick team seems actively heading down the path towards this goal. In his position to make wine, Francis sees “the health of the wine as paramount” and that he’s there to oversee and guide the process. There’s a real ‘vine love’ with Francis, who summarised his perspectives in that the growing season provides the material and dictates the options and actions that Blair, he and ultimately Barbara and Steve take in making all the Carrick wines. www.carrick.co,nz

Francis Hutt – Sharing the vine love

Tasting Wine from Barrel
Francis showed a number of barrel samples of wines from the 2012 and 2013 vintage that he has been responsible for from the ground up. Firstly the two 2012 Pinot Noirs. The ‘Unravelled’ Pinot Noir showed a little reduction on nose, but was pretty and floral, initially cool and brisk, but growing to show a spicy core of liquorice and good tannin line as it warmed up in glass. The Bannockburn Pinot Noir was a considerable step up, with deep, dark plum and liquorice characters, riper in nature with richness, fine structure and excellent structure and line. I feel this is more refined in structural proportion than the 2011 I recently reviewed (click here to see), and it will an even better wine.

There is a very positive feel about the 2013 wines. Francis showed a sample of early-pick clone 777 destined for ‘Unravelled’ Pinot Noir. Bright fruited, fresh, lush and juicy with plush dark berry fruits, this had good acid line. A startling contrast was the late-pick clone 115, also destined for ‘Unravelled’ Pinot Noir, much riper with jammy, dark juicy aromas and flavours, softer tannins and a mellow completeness. The blend of the two components, no doubt among others, will make a more balanced wine.

Francis then showed three components representative of the major building blocks of the premium Bannockburn Pinot Noir. A clone 13 sample was tight and firm, proportioned classically with slender size, but great linearity. Minerals, black fruits and refined tannins were features. Next a clone10/5 barrel sample, more up-front and aromatic, bold, with a touch of typical 10/5 herb, but sweeter, broader, fleshier and with mouthfilling breadth. Some oak opulence was present. The third part, also clone10/5, was black-fruited, dense and packed with its extract, clearly the structural framework and possessing serious textures here. As with the ‘Unravelled’ wine, the combination of the three wines would result in a harmonious and complete style. Another barrel sample was offered to show some perspective on the criteria for the premium Bannockburn status, this being a clone 5 wine. Noticeably lighter in weight and richness, this did have the positive attributes of finesse, vitality and the signature Central Otago flavours thyme herb. Francis saw this as a younger sibling, that may eventually grow into becoming Bannockburn Pinot Noir material.

Onto the whites, starting with the Sauvignon Blanc 2013, where the approach is the building in of interest and textures by way of as much wild yeast, barrel-fermentation and batonnage as is possible, this being around 50%, this was mellow with gentle layers of stonefruits, herbs and smoke, but a line of acid underneath. I thought the ‘EBM’ Chardonnay 2012 quite sensational with an ideal amalgam of citrus, cream and flinty complexities, and a rich, creamy mouthfeel, stylishly reined in fruit exuberance and clear definition.

Tasting Some Bottled Wines
As I had recently reviewed some of the current Carrick range (click here to see), Francis finished off the tasting and visit with a couple of other bottled wines in the portfolio. Firstly an ‘EBM’ Chardonnay 2011, this being tighter and more intensely driven than the 2012 tasted in barrel. Seemingly backward, this unfolded an awe-inspiring amount of barrel work nuance that remarkably felt harmonious. The ‘Extended Barrel Maturation’ is indeed a point of difference.

Then a classic, ‘right down the line’ Pinot Gris 2012 with fine pear aromas and flavours and a richness that came from the fruit, rather than the 7 g/L rs. I liked the balance of the mouthfeel, the wine not showing any excessive alcohol, and good acid freshness underneath. The 20% barrel-ferment and batonnage designed to add textures was very sensitive.

The final wine presented was the limited release ‘Excelsior’ Pinot Noir 2010, to be put on the market later in the year. A barrel selection to create a wine that is “significantly different” to the premium ‘Bannockburn’ label, this has power, boldness, richness and an exotic, plush, spiciness. Seamless in mouthfeel, but with power and texture supporting the opulence, this is a statement wine that manages to not go ‘over the top’. Only 155 cases are made, and it will be a wine to seek out.

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