The Wainuiomata Wine Club is one of the longest operating suburban wine clubs in the Wellington area. The club meets regularly with a guest speaker, usually a winemaker or a wine distributor promoting their goods. It’s a well organised machine with a president and officers, but it’s also relaxed, fun and educational. Over my years in retail, I’ve visited on many occasions, and still do, presenting a selection of wines to fit in with a specified theme. My partner Sue Davies also enjoys doing so, showing wines from her Wine2Trade portfolio (click here to see). I usually come along with her, a joint presentation more interactive, fun and entertaining for all concerned.
For August, Sue’s presentation was based on new and current releases from one region – Central Otago. This is something of a departure for her, as usually, she’d include wines from different regions and different producers, the variety offering great diversity as well as giving each of her suppliers some representation. However with four brands from Central Otago it was easy to put together a selection that still could provide a wide range of styles as well as having a different focus.
Tasting the Central Otago Wines
The presentation began with a general overview of the region, discussing a little about the history, climate, geography and sub-regions. This was followed by a brief profile of each of the four producers: Desert Heart, Lamont, 36 Bottles and The Writer’s Block. Then into the wines. I find it fascinating to look at the wines, and compare my impressions with those that were made for the notes for the wines as on my website. There’s usually some months difference, and bottle age can make the appear slightly changed, usually for the better, as the initial reviews are made when the wines are very youthful. Here are my thoughts on the wines tasted. Clicking on the names will take you to the review as posted on this website.
First wine up as a pre-taster was the Desert Heart Central Otago Riesling 2010. It has become a little more intense and forceful in its penetration and depth. On this showing the more primary floral aromatics have become more secondary, the toastiness coming to the fore. And the wine comes across with a drier mouthfeel and excellent length. I’d raise my score from 17.5+/20 to 18.0/20 now, tasting it 11 months later.
The Lamont Bendigo Central Otago Pinot Gris 2013 was tasted in January this year. In half a year, there’s been very little development. It is still very pale in colour and the nose is pure with white and yellow stonefruits, along with a hint of flintiness. The palate is pure and pristine with just a hint of honeysuckle, and if there’s anything, it is somewhat more harmonious. It promises richness will unfold, and I see it as a beautiful example of the variety. I would add a (+) to the original score of 18.5/20 to 18.5+/20 now.
I also looked at the 36 Bottles Central Otago Chardonnay 2013 early in the year, in February, and rated it 17.5/20. It was taut and concentrated with up-front flavours of fruit, oak and MLF. I saw the wine again about two months ago and was impressed how the depth and oaking became more prominent, as well as a richer texture. I understand the wine has just won a gold medal (results and details embargoed at present), and at the Wainuiomata Wine Club tasting, its richness, harmony and creamy toastiness just stood out. It still is somewhat up-front in style, and its componentry fairly obvious, so an 18.5-/20 for me.
The tasting gave us the opportunity of tasting three Pinot Noirs, all from the Bendigo sub-region for fruit origin, but across the 2011-2013 vintages, and from producers with different aspirations. We started with the youngest, The Writer’s Block Bendigo Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013, just tasted in June with an 18.5/20 score. I didn’t change my score, but the wine appeared considerably more structured than my original tasting note which indicated more fruit sweetness. The complexing whole cluster savoury aromatics and greater textures were showing more clearly, and I can see this keeping for closer to a decade than the 6+ years I first suggested. It’s a sophisticated number clearly designed to grow into something serious.
There may be a slightly different aspiration with the making of the 36 Bottles Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012. Its style was always one of accessibility and elegance with a prettiness from the aromatics pointing it to an 18.0/20 just over a year ago in June. On this night, it had all those characteristics, with the primary fruitiness now growing into a distinct spiciness. This spice was always there, but it has become a feature. It isn’t as pretty, but it is more interesting for those who hanker for savoury over sweet. My score tonight was 18.0/20.
Third of the red wines was the Lamont Bendigo Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011, which I first saw in January this year. Then, I was impressed by its accessibility and fine structure, more so than the previous vintage. The fruit sweetness was also a feature. This night, the Bendigo terroir was manifest, the wine with an iron core and proper tannin extract and liquorice flavours. I’d have liked a degree more sweetness, but its extraction and potential were key factors in its personality. I still see it as 18.0+/20, what I originally rated it as.
Last wine served was The Writer’s Block Central Otago Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2013. Tasted originally before bottling in July last year, then reviewed in November last year, this deliciously juicy, soft and near unctuous exotically-floral wine was not expected to last with a TA of 3.8 g/L and a pH 3.87, meaning it should broaden out and become soapy very quickly. Well another 9 months down the track, it is looking better than ever. Utterly hedonistic, but with freshness and liveliness. I first gave it 18.5-/20, and I see it as an 18.5+/20 now.
There’s a potential conflict of interest when I review wines from Sue’s ‘Wine2Trade’ portfolio, which I allay by publishing a disclaimer explaining the connection between us with my review of the wine. I believe I am as objective and as fair as I can be when reviewing these wines. But am I being harder than I would normally be to compensate for any favouritism? As noted earlier, I tend to see wines in their youth, and we all know that there is often an improvement with how they show after they’ve had some time to settle down. I see this in wines not in the ‘Wine2Trade’ portfolio, so why should Sue’s wine be any different?
For more information about the Wainuiomata Wine Club, contact Stuart Young, email: [email protected]