Niepoort's Clos de Crappe: an unusual, remarkable wine


You can’t put Dirk Niepoort in a box. He’s not your standard winemaker. Who releases a wine called ‘Clos de Crappe’ with the description ‘technically a disaster’? (See above from the Niepoort website.) As Dirk explains in the film below, Clos de Crappe was originally a wine made with a view to producing a slightly funky barrel to add seasoning to his high-end Burgundian-style red Charme. But now it has become a wine in its own right, stinky and reductive – flawed yet serious, and thoroughly likeable, if you can see past the edges. Here Dirk explains the wine to Canadian wine journalist Treve Ring and me while we are lunching with him at Quinta do Napoles in the Douro.

The film:

Tasting notes:

clos de crappe

Niepoort Clos du Crappe 2013 Douro, Portugal
Remarkable stuff. There’s some spicy reduction here but it’s nicely integrated into the smooth, quite elegant juicy red cherry fruit. Very interesting and detailed with some grip on the finish. 93/100 (JG)

Niepoort Clos de Crappe 2013 Douro, Portugal
When you lift this straight to your nose without air, you can see why this wine has come by its memorable name. However, after a swirl or decant, the reductive and barnyard blows off to reveal fine cherry, raspberry, black plum and earthy notes. Tannins are fine and slightly grippy on the finish, easily supporting the seamless lightness of the palate. 60-80 year old vines of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sousão, Alicante de Bouschet, Rufete and others make up this charming Crappe. 92/100 (TR)

There’s a rather crazy video for Clos de Crappe here. Quite addictive.

Canadian wine at the Vancouver wine fest: sparkling wine


There’s a buzz around sparkling wine at the moment. Sparkling wine sales account for 11% of global wine sales and this market is growing by 4.5% annually. And it’s something that Canada has a talent for, with its cool climate wine regions. Of late there has been the beginnings of something special here in Canada. VQA sparkling wine is 3.2% of market share in Canada, which means there is room for growth. By value, domestic sparkling wine is 12% of sparkling wine sales.

1974 saw the first sparkling wine from Ontario which was made from Chardonnay and labelled ‘Champagne’. It was the late 1980s when there was greater commitment to sparkling wine, with Hillebrand and Chateau des Charmes producing their own fizz.

Now there are at least 40 sparkling wine producers in British Columbia (but there may be as many as 75 if you count all those who have wine on lees but which is not yet released), and some 40+ in Ontario. There are 20 in Quebec making grape-based plus also fruit and cider fizz, and in Nova Scotia 10 producers make fizz (from 20 wineries). There are relatively few specialists though: in BC there’s Bella, and Ontario has Hinterland in Prince Edward County.

A lot of progress has been made in Ontario with the ‘fizz club’ which Belinda Kemp set up at Brock University. This brings together sparkling winemakers for a forum to discuss technical issues.

The latest buzz surrounds sparkling wine from Nova Scotia, which has a particularly cool climate that allows producers to make base wine with amazing acidity and yet also lovely flavour development.

This selection of wines showed the breadth of the offering of Canadian fizz, with some real highlights. This is an interesting future direction for Canadian wine.

L’Acadie Prestige Brut Estate 2010 Nova Scotia, Canada
pH 2.9, rs 2 g/l, 11.5% alcohol. Fresh, pure and lively with lovely balanced citrus and grape characters. Fruity and quite sophisticated, this is made solely from L’Acadie Blanc. This is traditional method with five years on the lees, and it has nice complexity. 90/100

Domaine de Grand Pré Vintage Brut 2009 Nova Scotia, Canada
L’Acadie Blanc and Seyval Blanc. Almost five years on the less. Slightly creamy edge to the lovely balanced pear and ripe apple fruit. There’s a bit of toasty richness here with some sweetness, too. Nice weight on the palate with some grapey richnesss. Sweet finish. 89/100

Blomidon Estate Winery Late Pick Chardonnay 2011 Nova Scotia, Canada
From Chardonnay left on the vine and picked on 8th November. No malolactic fermentation and 2.7 g/l dosage. Pithy, bright and herby with a slightly waxy edge to the lively lemony fruit. There’s some focus here with a bit of savoury grip under the taut fruit. Dry, lemony finish with keen acidity and purity. 90/100

Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008 Nova Scotia, Canada
L’Acadie Blanc and Seyval with a bit of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Lovely delicacy here: there’s fine toastiness, ripe apple, lemons and some bright herbal characters. Sweetly fruited and well balanced with keen acidity. Precise, with some nice complexity. 92/100

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Brut NV Niagara, Canada
Rounded and fruity with some white peach and pear notes. Generous with subtle toast and bread characters, with some citrus freshness here. Good balance. Has some deliciousness. 89/100

Trius Winery Brut NV Niagara, Canada
Craig MacDonald collects disgorgement lees and uses them as the basis for the liqueur d’expedition. Fresh, a bit toasty and a bit herby, with nice bright lemon and pear fruit. Fresh and detailed with nice precision and a lovely lemony finish. Fruity and bright. 89/100

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Entourage Sparkling NV Niagara, Canada
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, three years on lees. There’s a sweet fruit character here with grapes, citrus fruit and green apple notes. Fresh and fruity with some cherry hints and a smooth, rounded texture. Attractive fruity style. 88/100

Huff Estates Cuvée Peter F. Huff 2011 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Very rich and toasty with lifted apple and pear fruit. Very toasty and broad with nice acidity and a slightly chalky edge. There’s a lot of flavour to this rather distinct wine. Baked apple character with some herbs. 90/100


Averill Creek Vineyard Charme de l’Ile NV Vancouver Island, Canada
Fruity, lively, bright and intense with lovely citrus and grape notes. Good acidity and clean, lively fruit flavours dominate. 88/100

Meyer Family Vineyards Brut NV Okanagan Valley, CanadaCrisp and pithy with nice citrus drive. Has some fine toasty, bready notes. There’s nice precision to this wine with some finesse. Youthful and pure. 90/100

Haywire Narrative Ancient Method 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
There’s a distinctive grapey, floral edge to the nose. Creamy with a hint of talcum powder. Lively, pure and very fruity on the palate with some sweetness and a nice full, rounded mouthfeel. 89/100

Stellar’s Jay Brut 2009 Okanagan Valley, Canada
First made in 1989. Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Distinctive fruity style with tangerine, grapes and pears. Has some sweetness, too. Appealing and fruity with nice brightness. 87/100

Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Brut NV Okanagan Valley, Canada
Fresh, bright and detailed with crisp fruit. Really lively with grapefruit pith, lemon and table grape characters. Keen acidity and a bit of sweetness on the finish. Very appealing. 89/100

Some lovely high-end wines from Catena, Argentina

catena white chardonnay

By a stroke of coincidence, while I was in Victoria (Vancouver Island, not Australia)  today I got to try through this set of wines from Argentina star winery Catena, presented by Catena’s Andrea Nuñez and Daniel Stiefvater of Trialto (the company that brings them into this part of Canada). I was impressed, especially by the two high-end Chardonnays, and also the Malbecs. The wines here seem to have moved in a positive direction: they were always good, but they’ve got better. For more information on the rather special White Bones and White Stones Chardonnays, and why they are different, see here.

Catena Alta Historic Rows Chardonnay 2014 Mendoza, Argentina
Adrianna and Domingo vineyard, 70% malolactic, 10-12 months in oak. Textured and nutty with some fine spiciness. It’s broad and mealy but there’s nice acidity with a bit of tension on the finish. Fine spicy finish, with some nuttiness. 92/100

Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Chardonnay 2013 Mendoza, Argentina
Fermented and aged in in 500 litre puncheons for 20-24 months. From stony soils with some limestone on them. There’s intensity to this wine, which shows pear and peach fruit with some lemony detail. Complex fennel and nut characters, as well as a bit of waxiness, and also a distinct slightly resinous mint character that reminds me of Fernet and Mediterranean herbs. Lovely mineral characters on the finish. Intriguing combining richness and freshness. 94/100

Catena White Bones Chardonnay 2013 Mendoza, Argentina
This is from just 100 m away from the white stones, and it’s completely different. So fresh, floral and mineral with lovely precision and fine lemony fruit. There’s a really lovely mineral quality here with a stony edge and taut citrus fruits, as well as some subtle mint characters lurking. There’s a really fine lemony finish that just keeps on going. A beautiful wine with concentration, purity and finesse. 96/100

catena malbec

Catena Alta Malbec Historic Rows 2013 Mendoza, Argentina
Four vineyards: La Pyramide, Angelica, Adrianna and Nicasia. Sleek, floral nose with lovely fresh cherries. The palate is supple and fruit driven with great balance and a lovely stony detail to the cherry and plum fruit. I love the floral aromatics and the freshness on the palate. 94/100

Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon Historic Rows 2011 Mendoza, Argentina
Two vineyards: La Pyramide and Domingo. Some warm cedary notes alongside the chalky black fruits on the nose. The palate is fresh and detailed with some spicy warmth, some grainy, chalky gravelly structure and a nice savoury edge to the blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. Very stylish. 93/100

Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino 2011 Mendoza, Argentina
Nicosia and Adrianna vineyards, 24 months in oak. Textural and concentrated with a fine-grained tannic structure and a hint of oak (but it’s well integrated). The palate combines fresh, floral, pretty red cherry and berry fruits with some structure and an appealing, sweet, rounded textural quality. There are layers of flavour here. It’s modern and ripe but beautifully balanced and beguiling. Power and elegance combine. 94/100

Nicholas Catena Zapata 2011 Mendoza, Argentina
A blend that depends on the year. This is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Malbec. Sweetly aromatic, liqueur-like blackcurrant fruit nose is pure and modern. Concentrated palate with structured blackcurrant and berry fruit with fine spices. Quite structured with some freshness on the finish. A modern wine with real class, and which needs a bit of time to show its best. 93/100

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Pinot Noir 2017, Wellington, New Zealand - a film


While I was attending Pinot Noir 2017, I put together a short-ish film of the proceedings, capturing some of the best moments of the three days. It was a trill remarkable event: it wasn’t just the 117 wineries and the lovely New Zealand Pinot Noirs they poured, but instead there was a narrative theme running through it. This theme was Turangawaewae – the place or places we feel especially empowered and connected to. We are shaped by place, just as wine is. There was also a wonderful sense of connection as we all got together.

For more coverage of the event:


A lovely meal at Burdock & Co, Vancouver


I’ve eaten in a few places over the last few days in Vancouver, but the highlight was a meal at the fabulous Burdock & Co. It’s a small, intimate place with a menu based on sharing-style plates made from good local ingredients, with a brilliant wine list that’s compact, but offers real diversity, stocked with authentic wines.

It’s just the sort of place that I love to eat at, and the staff were fantastic.

Drinking: we stuck to the by-the-glass wine list. First up, a glass of the ‘bubbles of the moment’, which was a Loire fizz from Vincent Caille. Then, the Coenobium Vendemmia 2014 from Lazio, which is a detailed, slightly grippy white from Trebbiano, Malvasia and Verdicchio with a lovely perfume. We then went orange, with the Denavolo Caravel Colli Piacentini 2014, which is a skin contact white with lots of detail from Emilia Romagna. Finally, some red: the Pi from Jean Foillard, which is a profound expression of Gamay. This was the 2013 vintage, and it’s drinking perfectly now, with some silky texture but also a nice graininess.

Eating: shared plates that were pretty much perfect. Satisfying, creative, and not at all gimmicky.

After starting with fanny bay oysters (we’re working from the bottom right clockwise in the composition picture above), we had the fabulous Shaved Desolation Sound Scallop – Scallop Roe Chawanmushi, White Kombu (tastes much better than it looks), then Kohlrabi and Cabbage Gomae – Pumpkin Seeds, Maple, followed by a special with Arctic char on a risotto base with grilled radiccio and beetroot, and then Smoked Desolation Sound Mussels – Forest Mushrooms, Yuzu Miso Caramel.

Burdock & Co
2702 Main Street
BC V5T 3E8
604 879 0077

Canadian Wine at Vancouver winefest: Ontario Pinot Noir

ontario pinot noir

This session at the Vancouver wine festival focused on Pinot Noir from Ontario. ‘It’s a difficult place to grow Pinot,’ says John Szabo, who led the session. ‘There are realities to growing Pinot Noir. It is expensive to grow and it doesn’t always work out well.’

Altogether there are 17 000 acres of vines in Ontario, and Pinot Noir takes up just 800 of these, with 650 acres in Niagara and 150 acres in Prince Edward County. So, overall, it’s responsible for 6% of Ontario’s production, with 100-150 000 cases annually and 130 different labels.

Karl Kaiser first planted Pinot Noir here, but the big break came in 1993 with a joint venture between Inniskillin and Burgundian producer Jaffelin that ended up becoming Clos Jordanne, which was for a while the leading Pinot producer in the region. Now there are lots of very good Ontario Pinot Noirs.

The Niagara region has some interesting terroirs for Pinot Noir, with some limestone in the soil. In Prince Edward County, limestone soils are joined by a properly marginal cool climate: the vines have to be earthed over during the winter to protect from cold damage.

Farming Pinot is expensive. Harald Thiel of Hidden Bench reveald that last year his vineyards cost $7000 a hectare to farm for yields of 30 hl/ha. The current Pinot Noir grape price is $2000 per ton, so Harald couldn’t sell his grapes and break even.

These wines were a bit of a mixed bag with some real highlights, and also some wines that didn’t quite get it right. But overall, there’s a lot of very good Ontario Pinot being made.


Norman Hardie Winery County Pinot Noir Unfiltered 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
10.9% alcohol. Very fine, bright and direct. Such lively fresh red cherry fruit with some fine spiciness and keen acidity. Finishes bright and with lovely purity. 94/100

Closson Chase Churchside Pinot Noir 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Distinctive cola, tar and rhubarb edge to the cherry fruit nose. Lively, tangy palate with fresh red cherry fruit, some damson and some stewed plum. Juicy finish to this sweet and sour wine, but there’s appeal here. 89/100

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Supple with sweet plum and cherry fruit. Quite elegant with plums, cherries and a touch of raspberry. Nice freshness and acidity here. 91/100

Pelee Island Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2014 Ontario, Canada
There’s some richness to this wine which has some spice and herbs as well as sweet plum and cherry fruit. Finishes a bit sweet. There’s a sweetly fruited richness to this wine, but it’s quite simple. 88/100

Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 St David’s Bench, Niagara, Canada
Supple and elegant with real finesse. There’s fresh red cherry fruit, a bit of plum, and a lovely stony, savoury core, coupled with good acidity. It’s light and expressive with some fine herbal, autumnal, dried leaves complexity under the fruit. Delicate. 93/100

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2013 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagar, Canada
There’s some sweet and sour character here, with tangy red cherry and raspberry fruit together with some savoury herbal characters. Some chalky unertones. Juicy with a spicy, savoury twist. 91/100

Tawse Winery Cherry Avenue Pinot Noir 2013 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
There’s a distinctive, bright, open red cherry fruit character here: it’s almost liqueur-like and seamless, but very fresh and fruity. Supple, berryish and quite elegant with nice fruit purity and good acidity. 92/100

Malivoire Mottiar Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Beamsville Bench, Niagar, Canada
Some warm herby notes here. Quite autumnal and savoury with a warm spicy quality and supple cherry and plum fruit. Nice combination of sweet and savoury characters. 90/100

Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery Locust Lane Pinot Noir 2013 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
Generously fruited, with good concentration, and also some elegance and freshness. Sweet black cherry fruit with some plums and firm, slightly grippy structure, as well as some bright acidity. There’s some savouriness here as well as the fruit. 92/100

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Le Grande Reserve 2013 Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada
This has a really appealing spicy, savoury, slightly cedary character that integrates nicely into the cherry and berry fruit. The fruit is supple and fine with supple red cherry and plum notes. Real elegance and finesse here. 94/100

Trius Clark Farm Pinot Noir 2014 Four Mile Creek, Niagara, Canada
Cedary, spicy and savoury with a strange, slightly musty edge. Fresh with juicy acidity that sticks out a little. Savoury and mineral. Grippy. 87/100

Inniskillin Niagara Estate Montague Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada
Supple and fruity with a slightly minty edge to the fruit. Lively cherries and raspberries with some grippy structure. Lots of fruit here. Lacking elegance. 88/100

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Canadian wine at the Vancouver winefest: wines from British Columbia


More Canadian wine at the Vancouver International Wine Festival. This tasting was a tour of British Columbia’s wine regions with a star panel ably led by Rhys Pender. Taking part were Michael Bartier of Bartier Bros, Nikki Callaway of Quail’s Gate, JAK Meyer of Meyer Family Vineyards, David Paterson of Tantalus and Chris Turyk of Unsworth Vineyards.

BC wine

The BC wine region is dominated by the Okanagan Valley, and its adjoining valley the Similkameen. The key to these vineyard areas is the rain shadow effect: moist air hits the coast (Vancouver gets lots of rain) and the coastal mountain range strips the air of its moisture. Thus the Okanagan and Similkameen enjoy a very dry, sunny climate.

The industry really got going in the early 1990s when the free trade agreement with the USA removed economic protection from Canada’s wines. This pushed quality winemaking, because the wines needed to improve in order to be competitive in the absence of economic props. There has been a steady pattern of growth since then.

There were 17 wineries in 1990; now there are almost 300, and there are 10260 acres of vines (Ontario has 17 000). ‘It’s a small industry, and that’s one of our big strengths,’ says Rhys Pender. ‘When we got started we did a lot of copying other regions of the world. Now everyone is really focusing on making wine that is 100% BC,’ he says. ‘You start to figure out what the grapes want to do naturally, without forcing a square peg into a round hole. We are a unique wine region, so let’s not fight against that. There’s nowhere else like this in the world of wine. This is pretty special: no one can make the same styles of wines that we do.’

Rhys presented a list of the factors that make BC wine unique. None of these things are unique on their own, he suggests, but the combination of them is. They are:

  • Huge diurnal temperature ranges lead to naturally high levels of acidity
  • Naturally intense fruit flavour
  • Naturally high levels of tannin in red wines.
  • Long sunlight hours.
  • Cold winters.
  • Dry conditions requiring low fungicide or pesticide use.

The challenges are the cold arctic air flows that can sometimes result in winter kill of vines, and the reliance on irrigation.

There’s a wide diversity of grape varieties in BC, which makes it hard to identify the key talents of the region. The Okanagan valley has 84% of all vineyards, with one subregion Golden Mile Bench. Rhys is part of a task force working on creating more subregions in the Okanagan: these are potentially Kelowna/Lake County, Naramata/Penticton/Summerland, Okanagan Falls, Osoyoos/Black Sage Bench. This would make sense because the region ranges from 1200-1500 growing degree days from the north to the south.

We tried a range of wines, taking in some newer regions as well as the more established ones.

Unsworth Vineyards Charme d’Isle Sparkling NV Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, Canada
Very fruity and lively with apples, pears and some spiciness. Juicy and lively with a distinctive sweet apple character. Fruity and distinctive. 88/100

harpers trail

Harper’s Trail Estate Winery Pioneer Block Dry Riesling 2014 BC, Canada
This is from a vineyard in Kamloops, in the Thompson Valley, which is a new, developing region. Soils are limestone bedrock, located above the banks of the south Thompson River at 51 degrees latitude, with very cold winters. Vines were planted in 2008. 10 g acid and 10 g residual sugar. Beautifully delicate lemony, limey fruit with great precision and lovely integrated acidity. Very fine and expressive with a stony minerality. Lovely stuff. 93/100

Ex Nihilo Vineyards Pinot Gris 2015 Okanagan Valley, Canada
From Lake Country. 14.5% alcohol, 5.4 g/litre acidity, 4 g/litre sugar. Has a slightly hollow edge with some strange mushroom and green herb notes as well as tangerine and lemon fruit. It has a slightly sake like character with the high alcohol and thin fruit. 83/100

Tantalus Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Subtle mealy, spicy notes complement the linear, stony citrus fruits. There’s some freshness here, but also subtle spicy, nutty, peachy richer notes. Finishes lemony with just a hint of oak blending in well. Nice acidity here. 92/100

meyer family

Meyer Family Vineyards McLean Creek Chardonnay 2014 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Very fine spicy, toasty, nutty nose. The palate has nice concentration with intense citrus, meal, bread and spice notes. There’s a power to the peach and citrus fruit. There’s a delicacy to the finish on this wine. Lovely stuff. 94/100

bailie graham

Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2013 BC, Canada
13% alcohol and 7 g/litre acidity. In an emerging wine region called Creston, on the same latitude of Osoyoos but higher, at 600 m. Glacial till, with a lot of granite. Supple and pretty with lovely fresh red cherry fruit. Light, expressive, fine and fruity with purity and finesse. There’s a lovely texture to this fruit. It’s so drinkable and pure. 93/100

Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 Okanagan Valley, CanadaSmooth, refined black cherry fruit here with a savoury, stony undercurrent. There’s fruit here, but also some savouriness. Some grippy tannins, too, as well as some sappy green notes. Very appealing, with layers. 92/100

Bartier Bros. Cabernet Franc 2013 Okanagan Valley, Canada
From the Cequiera Vineyard, on the Black Sage gravel bar in Oliver/Osoyoos. Supple and fresh with a distinctive stony character and nice acidity. Fresh red cherries and plums, with some floral detail. There’s a bit of sappiness here, too. A lovely balanced expression of Cabernet Franc in a lighter style. 92/100

Poplar Grove Merlot 2013 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Naramata Bench. 13.5% alcohol. Supple and fresh with a leafy edge to the cherry and berry fruits. Attractive and understated, but has some vanilla oak poking through on the finish. The oak ruins it a bit. 86/100

Osoyoos Larose Estate Winery Le Grand Vin 2013 Okanagan Valley, Canada
Based in Osoyoos on the west side. 80 acre plot at 400 m, with a gentle slope. 13.5% alcohol. 57% Merlot with the balance a mix of the other Bordeaux varieties. Sweet, supple blackcurrant fruit here with a nice gravelly, spicy edge. Quite dry and structured, but has some texture and generous fruit. Hints of olive and pepper add interest. Good concentration of flavour: ripe but balanced. Lovely fruit quality here. 91/100

Sandhill Vanessa Vineyard Syrah 2013 Similkameen Valley, BC, Canada
Sweet and textured with ripe black cherry and berry fruits with some lovely olive and pepper notes. Some dried herbs and spice, with a savoury, mineral intensity to this wine. Warm but with some peppery notes of cool climate. Lovely stuff. 93/100

C.C. Jentsch Cellars Syrah 2013 Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley, Canada
No Viognier in the blend in this vintage. Some spice and olive character with berries and cherries, and some savoury plummy notes. There’s some pepper and olive, too. Nice fruit here with some savoury spiciness and a bit of green herb character. Grippy finish. 90/100

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Canadian wine at the Vancouver winefest: star whites from Ontario


I’m currently in Vancouver at the Vancouver International Wine Festival. Apparently, this is North America’s longest running and largest wine festival. So far it has been really interesting. Each year there is a theme country, and because it is Canada’s 150th anniversary, Canada is the theme. So I’ll be writing up my Canadian wine experiences, beginning with this session on Ontario’s white wines, which was led by Christopher Waters, and I was sitting on the panel.

The modern era of Ontario wine began in 1974 when Inniskillin got the first winery licence to be awarded since 1916 (for more on the history of Ontario wine, there’s a nice timeline (here). Now there are 165 wineries in the province, with 17000 acres of vines (9000 hectares), of which the majority are in the Niagara region.

The two varieties featured here are Riesling (18% of production), and Chardonnay (14% of production). Both do very well here, and these wines impressed.

Château des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2014 Niagara on The Lake, Canada
There’s some richness here with honey, ripe apple and pears, alongside some stony mineral citrus fruit. There’s a long, lemony finish to the pretty fruit. Fruity and generous, showing a touch of sweetness but also finishing quite dry. 91/100

Thirty Bench Small Lot Steel Post Riesling 2014 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
Very intense and limey with real density and high acidity. Quite powerful with a grapefruit pith bitterness and just a hint of petrol character. Dry with high acidity, this is a really distinctive Riesling. 90/100

Charles Baker Riesling 2013 Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada
From the Picone vineyard. Very fruity and supple with open lemony fruit and a hint of marmalade tang. Citrussy and fine with nice depth to the fruit. Some honeyed richness and just a hint of nuttiness. Lovely balance here. 91/100

Tawse Winery Quarry Road Riesling 2015 Vinemount Ridge, Niagara, Canada
Intense and powerful with lovely texture to the lively citrus fruits and a subtle stony, nutty edge. Lovely acidity here keeps things together with a lovely lemon and grapefruit character. Nice intensity. 92/100

Flat Rock Cellars Nadjas Vineyard Riesling 2015 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
Lovely generous fruit here. There’s a bit of sweetness here with nice balance and lovely limey purity. There’s a delicious lemony zing hemming in the generous, sweet fruit. A lovely wine. 93/100

Norman Hardie Winery County Chardonnay 2013 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
There’s a bit of bread and toast on the nose, but the core to this wine is lovely citrus fruit with really fine acidity. The acidity is just so beautifully integrated into the lemon and grapefruit characters. So fine. 94/100

Rosehall Run JCR Chardonnay 2014 Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada
Herbs, ripe apples and lemons here with a lovely acid core. Tangy with some subtle herby characters as well as a bit of pithy character. Lovely weight and focus to this wine, which finishes with nuts and lemons. 92/100

Trius Winery Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2014 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara, Canada
Stony and lemony with nice precision. There’s a lovely citrus and white peach character here. Delicate and fine with nice weight and balance. 92/100

Flat Rock Cellars Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara, Canada
A rich style with lovely toast and spice notes as well as rich pear and peach fruit. There’s an appealing spicy citrus character that adds a foil to the rich, sweet, broad fruit. Very stylish. 93/100

Domaine Queylus Tradition Chardonnay 2013 Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Canada
Very fine and linear with lemon and pear fruit. Taut and compact with lovely lemony focus and great concentration. Real finesse here with lovely fruit character. 92/100

Hidden Bench Estate Winery Estate Chardonnay 2014 Beamsville Bench, Niagara, Canada
Fresh and precise with nice lemony fruit. Some pears, nuts and anise, with very well integrated oak. Stylish and lemony with lovely purity. There’s a lovely focus to this wine. 93/100

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New Zealand Pinot Noir: some favourites from Central Otago and Waitaki

Continuing my round up of top Pinot Noirs from the recent New Zealand trip, here are some favourites from Central Otago, with a couple from North Otago’s Waitaki thrown in too. I’ve been coming to Central Otago regularly since 2010, and there’s been a steady evolution. This is unsurprising: after all, the first commercial wine from the region was as recent as 1987. On this trip, in particular, I found more diversity in the wines. As the vines age, I expect that the privileged sites will emerge more clearly. With young vines, you taste the clones and climate more. There’s more uniformity: the wines can be delicious, but sometimes there’s that extra dimension missing. Now, we are beginning to see more layers and mid-palate depth in some of the wines. The primary fruit, one of the key draws of this region, is still there, but there’s some non-fruit complexity. I think Central is one of those regions that you really begin to appreciate more when you have actually been there: it’s possible in some mystical way to connect the rugged landscapes, the primal scenery, the big skies with the personality of the wines. As usual, this is not a full selection of the wines that I liked. Full notes will be published of all the wines shortly.


Akarua Kolo Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
From a single vineyard, this shows very sweet cherry fruit with lovely finesse. It’s floral and vibrant with nice focus and freshness. Very pretty with detailed cherry and plum fruit. There’s a lovely fruit sweetness here with great finesse and purity. So supple. 94/100

Akitu Pinot Noir A1 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is the one of the two Akitu wines, and it has a black label. It’s from a vineyard in Wanaka on old schist, and the wines are made at Maude by PJ Charteris. 70% Abel clone, the rest UCD5 and sometimes some 777. Powerful but very fresh with lovely vivid, bright black cherry fruit and good structure. There’s great precision and purity here: a really serious effort. The white label is also delicious and a bit more fruit dominated. 95/100

Aurum Madeleine Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lucie Lawrence uses 100% whole bunch for this wine, which started as an experiment with a ton of 667 clone Pinot that didn’t fit anywhere. This clone always has nice stem ripeness, so Lucie took the tank to the vineyard, picked into the tank, and left the intact bunches, with no juice at all, for 12 day, protected with some gas. After this she threw the children to tread the grapes, and then it started fermenting straight away. The temperature and kinetics of the fermentation was so different. At dryness she basket pressed into old barrels. Fine, fresh, slightly green pot pourri notes alongside the pretty, floral cherry fruit. Nice finesse here. Lovely fresh red fruit quality on the palate and a bit of peppery. Bright with nice grip and elegance. 94/100


Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Sweet with lush, floral cherry fruit. Sweet, warmly spicy and grippy with freshy red cherries and spice. Textural and very fine. 95/100


Carrick The Magnetic Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Very supple, pure, fresh cherry fruit with elegance and purity. Delicate, showingfinesse. Lovely pure fruit. 94/100

Chard Farm Mason Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
This comes from high terraces in Lowburn/Pisa. Supple and quite elegant with pure cherry and plum fruit. Lovely restrained elegance with some stony freshness and purity. 94/100

Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Harvested a little earlier in this, the second vintage, with 30% whole bunch. Fine, detailed, supple, herbal black fruits with some spice and cedary new oak. Grippy, structured and youthful this needs time to show its best. 95/100


Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely tight intense raspberry and cherry aromatics with a distinct peppery spiciness. There’s substance and density to the palate which has rich texture and fine, refined tannins. There’s lovely acidity, too. This has beautiful focus and precision: rich and quite ripe but also has presence and structure. Quite profound. 96/100

Folding Hill Orchard Block Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
Very lively, silky and pure with nice grip. This has good savoury structure under the cherry and plum fruit with a hint of cedar, too. 94/100

gibbston valley

Gibbston Valley Le Maitre Pinot Noir 2015 Gibbston, Central Otago, New Zealand
From a dry farmed single vineyard. Very fine with red cherries and plums, as well as some supple elegance. Nice tannins here. Has some grip. Real presence and elegance with pretty, detailed fruit and a long finish. 96/100

Grasshopper Rock Block 6 Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
Just three barrels. Supple with lots of structure and fine cherry fruit. Well structured with nice purity. Lively and fragrant with nice grippy notes. 94/100


Kalex Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
This comes from Bannockburn and Bendigo. Grippy and fresh and fine, a bit like Nebbiolo, with fresh, spicy tannins, and notes of tea leaf, spice, flower petals and cherries. Grippy and pretty at the same time with lovely detail. 95/100


Maude Mount Maude Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
100% whole bunch. Fine and floral with nice sappy, slightly earthy notes as well as fruit. Lovely palate is elegant, supple and fine with some earthy notes and a bit of grip. Edgy and meaty with lovely depth. 94/100

Misha’s Vineyard Verismo 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is made by Olly Masters at Maude’s winery. There are 26 hectares of vines planted in Bendigo. Very structured and dense with nice, pure, silky red fruits and hints of leather and spice. Nice density here with floral hints and fine-grained tannins. 95/100

Mount Difficulty Packspur Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is from a vineyard in Lowburn. Lovely black cherries here with a liqueur-like sweetness to the nose. Very fine and textured on the palate with some meatinesss. Textured, rich and generous with good structure. Quite mineral. 94/100

Mount Edward Muirkirk Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
Powerful and quite spicy with nice freshness and precision. Black cherries, spice, and lovely structure, with a hint of olive richness. In a good place. 94/100

Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir 2015 Waitaki, North Otago, New Zealand
Beautifully perfumed and floral with a fine green herbal edge and some lifted red cherry and plum fruit. Very supple and elegant with some fine sappy green notes and good acidity. A lovely elegant wine. 94/100

Peregrine Pinnacle Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is a selection from Peregrine’s Bendigo vineyard, which is farmed organically, and it’s not yet released, hence the picture shows winemaker Nadine Cross’ hand written ‘label’. Very firm and detailed with a fine spiciness and good grip. Lovely structure here with a savoury edge to the red cherry and plum notes. Has grip and good acidity. 95/100


Prophet’s Rock Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Paul Pujol made five small tanks of this wine. One got no pumpovers or plunging, and had no stems. The rest got one hand plunge, and were in tank for 28-32 days, and again, no stems were used. Lovely aromatics: fresh red cherries, fine herbs, a touch of cedar. The palate is structured and quite firm with good tannins and lovely purity. Very fresh with a bit of tannic bite under the sweet fruit. Lovely focus to this wine. 95/100

Quartz Reef Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Taut, appealing aromatics of red cherries and spice, with some sandalwood hints. The palate has freshness and focus with a savoury, spicy structure underpinning fresh red fruits. Still quite tannic and structured with a dry finish. Has potential for development. 94/100

Rippon Pinot Noir 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is a really serious wine. Tight and structured, with real grip, but also tending towards elegance and understatement. There’s a really nice savoury character to this wine. Just on the start of its journey, this has a long life ahead of it. 95/100

Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Fine, expressive nose with spicy highlights alongside fresh raspberries and cherries. Very pure with lovely plum fruit. Bright, expressive and pure with nice weight. 95/100

Valli Waitaki Pinot Noir 2015 Waitaki, North Otago, New Zealand
Supple and bright with some juicy fruit, nice sweet herby notes and a bit of greenness. Silky and drinkable with real finesse and purity. 94/100

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New Zealand Pinot Noir: top examples from North Canterbury and Martinborough

pyramid valley earth smoke pinot noir

Continuing with my trawl through the exciting New Zealand Pinot scene, here are some of my favourite wines from North Canterbury (which includes Waipara, Waikiri and the Cheviot Hills) and Wellington Wine Country (the new name for the Wairarapa regions, which include Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton). Not all wines are rated here, and there are others that scored pretty highly: this is just a personal selection.

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2015 North Canterbury, New Zealand
Sappy edged floral red cherry fruit. Highly perfumed and pretty detailed. Pure on the palate with lovely supple elegant fruit. Nice finesse with some green hints and lovely detail. 95/100

Pyramid Valley Vineyards Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2015 North Canterbury, New Zealand
Very fine and detailed with lovely focus and freshness. Lively cherry and plum fruit with some spiciness. Nice freshness and detail with some grip. Good structyre and acidity. 96/100

bell hill pinot noir

Bell Hill Pinot Noir 2013 North Canterbury, New Zealand
Very fine cherries, plums and spice. Detailed and fresh with good acidity and nice linear fruit, as well as some warm spiciness. More black fruits than red, and really refined. 95/100

kupe escarpment pinot

Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2011 Martinborough, New Zealand
Supple and detailed with nice spice and some grippy structure, as well as fine red cherries and a silky texture. Elegant and compact, this is quite dry and has real appeal. 95/100

dry river pinot noir

Dry River Pinot Noir 2015 Martinborough, New Zealand
Beautifully aromatic with floral cherry fruit and real finesse, as well as sweet raspberry jam notes. Supple and pretty with sweet fruit to the fore. Fresh cherries and raspberries. Very pure. 94/100

Johner Pinot Noir Reserve 2014 Martinborough, New Zealand
Very fresh with vivid fruit. Warm, ripe, tannic and structured too. Lovely concentrated black cherry and plum fruit with a sweet core. 94/100

kusuda pinot noir

Kusuda Pinot Noir 2015 Martinborough, New Zealand
Everything Kusuda does is fabulous. Lovely freshness here. Very fine and expressive with cherries, plum and a fine mineral character. Pure with nice tannins and real detail. There’s a haunting elegance with subtle bloody tones under the linear fruit. Spectacular. 97/100

marie zelie pinot noir

Martinborough Vineyards Marie Zelie Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 Martinborough, New Zealand
Not made every year. Very sweet aromatics with seductive pure fruit and a malty edge. Concentrated and lively on the palate with an intense core of sweet berry fruits and a grippy finish. 93/100

mount beautiful pinot noir

Mount Beautiful Pinot Noir 2015 North Canterbury, New Zealand
From the Cheviot Hills, north of Waipara. Concentrated with fine spices and nice depth of fruit. Generously textured and dense with sweet red cherries and subtle herbs. Very fine with some grip. 94/100

Schubert Block B Pinot Noir 2008 Martinborough, New Zealand
This has a lovely fresh herb-tinged edge to the generously ripe concentrated fruit on the palate. There’s nice freshness and some evolution with fine-grained tannins. Lovely wine. 94/100

poppies pinot noir

Poppies Single-Vineyard Old Vines Pinot Noir 2015 Martinborough, New Zealand
Only made in magnum. Very fine and direct with pure raspberry fruit, Fine and intense with primary fruit and good tannins and acidity. This is really expressive and pure, and needs time. The regular Poppies Pinot is also exceptional. 95/100

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2013 Martinborough, New Zealand
Supple, fine and tight-wound with a bit of grip but also nice cherries and plums, showing some fruit sweetness. This has structure as well as fruit. 94/100

Black Estate Damsteep Pinot Noir 2015 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
Beautifully focused with pure, silky, fresh cherry fruit and fine spiciness. Real elegance here with nice grainy structure. 94/100

The Crater Rim Omihi Rise Pinot Noir 2012 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
Fresh, supple and elegant with a bit of savouriness. Fine structure supports the fresh red cherry fruits with nice acidity. Restrained and mineral. 94/100

Greystone Thomas Brothers’ Pinot Noir 2013 Waipara, North Canterbury, New Zealand
Lovely aromatics here: sweet, pure, with lovely red cherries and raspberries. It has a bit of liqueur-like richness and fine spicy notes. Very pretty but also structured. Seductive but not overdone. 94/100

See also: Top Marlborough Pinot Noirs; Pinot Noirs from North Canterbury

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