jamie goode's wine blog: Grand cru Burgundy from Central Otago

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Grand cru Burgundy from Central Otago

Slightly provocative title to the post, I know. But there's a hint of seriousness to this trolling title: it used to be the case that Pinot Noir, the world's sexiest red grape variety, only ever really performed in Burgundy.

Increasingly, though, I'm finding myself seduced by non-Burgundian Pinot Noir. As a recent tasting with Josh Jensen confirmed, California can make really great Pinot Noir (as well as some really bad ones), and I've even had very palatable efforts from Australia (from the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, for example). But New Zealand is my current favourite destination for world-class Pinot Noir that I can afford to buy.

Tomorrow, I'm going to a Central Otago tasting, and in November I'm going to Central Otago itself (a long way...), as well as Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. I've enjoyed some brilliant Central Otago Pinot Noir in recent months, and tomorrow I expect the average quality level will be quite high. In anticipation, tonight I'm trying a pretty good Central Pinot from Lowburn Ferry.

Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir 2006 Central Otago
Medium colour, which is a good thing with Pinot. You don't want your Pinot to look like Shiraz. Warm cherry and spice nose which is quite aromatic and fresh. The palate has a nice concentration of spicy berry and cherry fruit with good acidity keeping things very fresh, and giving a hint of plummy sourness to the finish. A bright, supple style with a fair bit of complexity and some structure, which makes me think it might age well over the next few years. 90/100 (Hellion Wines)

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At 10:00 AM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...

You are kidding, right? Or just trying to wind us up?

It is lovely that you think these nice things about New Zealand Pinot. I wished I shared your enthusiasm for Central. There are a couple of extremely fine producers from that region and one or two very good wines have come from there. But the lack of consistency scares me. Also the sameness of the wines.

Thankfully you have found one that is not as deeply coloured as all the rest. "Bigger is best" seems to be the mantra for the region.

But for my money, most of the excitement in Kiwi Pinot comes from elsewhere - North Canterbury, Waitaki and there are some outstanding sites in the Wairarapa which do the job. Our finest Pinot Noir hails from Martinborough for goodness' sake.

I do not share your confidence in Otago - and (if I could afford it) give me Grand Cru Burg any day!

Once again, if you are passing through Auckland, all previous offers stand.


At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

I also enjoy pinot from central Otago,and had a lovely bottle of 2005 Peregrine the other day.
Not sure whether these wines improve with age,and would be interested to learn whether you or anyone else has tasted NZ pinot older than 10 years.

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Edward Yardley said...

Nice post and a great blog!


At 8:13 PM, Blogger Michael Pollard said...


I'm somewhat in agreement with Paul Tudor in that I've not been overly excited by Central Otago Pinot. Wines from Mt Difficulty never do much for me, but Felton Road is worth a look. When I did visit NZ last December we did not get as far south as Otago but we did sample at Nelson, Marlborough, Martinborough and Hawkes Bay. I was very impressed with Ata Rangi (Martinborough) and spent several enjoyable hours with Chris Buring (Martinborough). Greenhough Vineyard (Nelson) also appealed. But if I had to make just one choice for a visit it would be TerraVin Wines (Marlborough) simply because the wines have the wonderful mouthfeel that I think sets Pinot apart from other grapes. Are they Grand Cru Burgundy? No, they are NZ Pinot and that I think is an important distinction.


At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Luscious and enjoyable though many of them are - and one or two may even approach "serious", not one of them is at Grand Cru level yet - IMHO...

At 9:21 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks for the balancing comments. The 'Grand Cru' mention was deliberately provocative. After attending the Central tasting today, I came away impressed with the average quality, and suspecting that the only thing that is stopping some of the producers reaching top quality is vine age, experience, and the freedom to experiment. Give them 50 years....

More seriously, I take on board some of the excellent comments. Central are making a splash because of their collaborative marketing drive, and the story they tell. Yes, other regions are doing at least as well with Pinot, but perhaps are a little less effective in communicating this.

Agree, Keith, the current crop are for current drinking, although they won't age disastrously.

At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

For finesse and suavity, Canterbury; for mouthfeel and minerality, Wairarapa. Central has a long way to go; for starters, the climate only seems to yield in every other vintage. Many of the wines which are initially quite flattering tend to be clunking with high alcohol and display jammy fruit flavours. Not what you want from Pinot. Central is such a beautiful area that everyone wants the wines to be wonderful, but it doesn't work that way.

Relative to Martinborough and Canterbury (where the oldest vines are located) this is still a young area with room for improvement. But even the veterans of the region such as Felton Road believe that Central is currently overhyped and overexposed. The 2007 vintage, by all accounts, will sort the real winemakers from the pretenders.

There are some fine Pinots from New Zealand but I wouldn't compare them to Burgundy just yet.

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

'Julicher' from Martinborough has impressed me the most when it comes to NZ Pinots. I dearly wanted to attend today's Otago tasting but was tied into other commitments. Looking forward to more of your thoughts on what you encountered. BTW, my feeling on NZ Pinots... Like an albeit exquisitely crafted Japanese facsimile of a classic sports car, which initially impresses (and rarely breaks down), but lacks soul...


At 4:22 AM, Blogger Salil said...

I've been relatively underwhelmed by a lot of the Otago pinots I've tasted. I had a disappointing experience with the 05 Peregrine, which I found too jammy, warm and overextracted, and had most of the same complaints with the 05 Mt. Difficulty (with that having a ton of oak on it as well - too much for my liking).

I've loved some of the Pinot from elsewhere though. Neudorf in Nelson's producing some lovely stuff, and at slightly more pleasant prices than their Otago counterparts.


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