tasting note 7
Vineyard Estates Drystone Pinot Noir 2003 Central Otago, New Zealand
Pinot Noir is a dangerous grape. It gets you hooked,
and once youíve succumbed to its charms itís like living with an
unfaithful partner. You get the highs, but you also get the lows. It
makes you wish youíd shacked up with more reliable grapes, such as
Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz, but while these varieties are unlikely
to treat you so badly, they just donít provide the same thrills.
Pinot makes you feel alive; it takes you to places youíve never been
before. You never know quite whatís coming, and this makes the bad
times youíll inevitably get with this grape bearable.
Central Otago, one of the most southerly vineyard areas
in the world, does Pinot Noir very well. We have Burgundy, we have a
few cooler spots in California (Carneros, Russian River Valley, Santa
Ynez Valley), and then thereís Central Otago and Martinborough in
New Zealand. These are most of the places that can make magical Pinot
Noir. I guess there are a few more, but not many, and not as
consistently. Pinot Noir is extremely fussy about where it grows.
What do we look for in top Pinot Noir? First of all, it
should not be too dark in colour. If itís a deep purple/black,
something has gone wrong. This wine is a mid red/purple colour with a
tiny bit of fading at the rim. Second, it should be perfumed. Top
Pinot Noir is exquisitely perfumed, with bright fruity aromas in its
youth gradually succeeding to a more earthy, undergrowthy bouquet.
Often thereís some spicy structure on the nose, particularly where
stems have been included in the vat. This can sometimes be mistaken
for woodiness. This wine shows a brightly perfumed nose of bright,
herby cherry and berry fruit, with some spicy, tarry complexity. The
vivid herby fruit dominates.
Third, Pinot Noir should be elegant. Elegance in wine
is hard to define. Show me an elegant wine, though, and Iíll tell
you what it is. On the palate this wine shows vibrant berry fruit with
smooth structure and lively, almost zingy acidity. Thereís some
spicy, herby complexity and just a touch of structure. Itís a
textbook Pinot Noir and, yes, itís quite elegant. I think it will
age very gracefully: the bright acidity should confer a long-ish life
on this wine. Above all, itís very tasty. Itís ripe, but itís
not jammy. Pinot Noir should never be over-sweet and jammy.
Tasted blind I reckon Iíd certainly pick this as a
Pinot Noir, and likely spot it as New World.
I doubt Iíd do any better than this. Itís a
satisfying, more-ish sort of wine that would match a wide variety of
foods. A terroir wine? Well, Iíve never visited Central Otago, but
in this wine I see a wide, open vista, with a bright, pure blue sky
and a fresh breeze in the air. Cold fresh running streams. Itís a
frontier wine, grown at the limits, with the character and sinew of
vines that have had to fight to ripen their precious load. Itís
unfettered by the demands of tradition; proud in its own right, making
its own statement about who it is.
Thereís some sweetness to the fruit, but not too
much, with a pleasing bitter, almost sour character providing tangy
balance. How does it rate? I like it a lot. If youíre going to force
me to try to quantify this, Iíd have to say about 92/100. Imported
into the UK by Hellion Wines (www.hellionwines.com).
Roc des Anges; Gaillard;
Foundry and Columella; Meruge;
Foillard Morgon; Clonakilla
Back to top