Some highlights from a Central Otago Pinot Noir tasting

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I arrived in Queenstown to a good English winter: rain showers, low cloud, and a temperature of 8 C. There was snow on top of the hills. This is summer in a cool climate wine region. Time to taste some wine with the mixed international group who’d, like me, just arrived in town.

Eighteen producers gathered in the cellar and tasting room of Mount Edward’s winery at Gibbston. Each had brought a couple of wines, and I tasted all of them. Overally, what struck me is that there’s quite a bit of stylistic diversity, as well as subregional and even vineyard influence. And these wines weren’t just about fruit. Things haven’t been standing still in Central Otago: winegrowers talk with each other, they’re eager to learn. I also got the impression that the influence of the two large contract winemaking facilities, which has been such a feature of the region, is being felt a little less. These are some of my favourites from the tasting.

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Mount Edward Miurkirk 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

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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

Aurum ‘Madeleiene’ Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is 667 clone, and it’s 100% whole bunch. Lovely sweet black cherry nose with some spiciness. Has a liqueur-like richness to the fruit, but also some savoury spicy structure. Generous, floral, but with some density. 94/100

rudi bauer

Quartz Reef ‘Black Label’ Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is the one ferment that Rudi Bauer (above) thinks reflects his Bendigo vineyard best, so it’s usually 4 tons of fruit. This is 12 barrels, but only 6 will go to this label. Fresh, sweet, focused black cherry and plum fruit with good structure and fine spiciness. Very pure with nice detail and structure. 94/100

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Akitu Pinot Noir A1 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is the one of the two Akitu wines with 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

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Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir 2009 Central Otago, New Zealand
Paul Pujol (above) says this was a very cool year with a cold February, resulting in lighter coloured wines. The challenge was not to respond to the little extraction of colour in the ferment by working it harder. The result of his restraint is a beautiful pale Pinot that is ageing fabulously. Fine red cherries with some dried herbs and good structure and acid here. 94/100

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Mount Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
Very fresh and fine with raspberry and cherry fruit. Quite detailed with nice grip and finesse. Lovely fruit quality. 94/100

Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
One of the prettiest wines I’ve had in a long time, and just about irresistible. Beautiful floral aromatics with supple, silky fruit on the palate. Elegant and accessible with fine sweet red cherries. 95/100

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Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Grant Taylor says that he’s no longer scared of cooler vintages, like 2015, even in Gibbston, because they allow the place to show itself. This 2015 is fresh, grippy and firm, as you’d expect of a young wine, but it also has direct cherry and raspberry fruit with a primary, delicious personality. 94/100

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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

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

1 comment to Some highlights from a Central Otago Pinot Noir tasting

  • Tim Teo

    Was there one or two factors that held the the other wines back ? Or was it simply these wines were more savoury and hence more complex ?

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