Raymond Chan – Regional Wines & Spirits – 23rd September

23 Sept 2010

It was a wonderful opportunity to explore the concept of regionality with the Pinot Noir variety in this country at a Pinot Noir Masterclass conducted by several principals and winemakers for the Negociants NZ Ltd wine distribution company as part of their ‘Friends at Home’ roadshow yesterday.

The Masterclass was moderated by Clive Jones of Nautilus Estate, with Luc Cowley, Frank Manifold , Olly Masters and Nick Mills as panel members. Most wine growers and producers, including the panel members, are aware of how the same grape variety performs differently, often subtly so, when grown in different locations. However to express the regional character in a finished wine is not easy, as the influences of winemaker and vintage can blur this. It was noted that by careful observation over a number of vintages, say a decade or more, can enable the recognition of such characteristics. Most winegrowers and makers are very cautious in saying they can identify and express regionality in their wines. However, the wine lover and consumer is far more willing to make a leap of faith and believe they can detect regionality. Maybe this approach is positive and best? Concepts of understanding regionality were discussed, and while the analytical approach is the generally accepted one, Nick Mills proffered a ‘holistic’ view as the way. The wines offered for tasting certainly expressed regionality – if one wanted to find them!

Three Central Otago wines demonstrated the temperature and rainfall variations of their sub-regions. From the hot Bendigo area, was the Misha’s Vineyard ‘High Note’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 (18.5/20), showing tight, dark cherry fruit on nose and palate, excellent fine acidity, depth of fine fruit, refined tannins and excellent length. With grapes from the cooler Gibbston region came the Two Paddocks Pinot Noir Central Otago 2008 (17.5-/20), lighter in colour and fruit depth, the aromas and flavours of red fruits with a dried herb complexity allied to minerals and steel. Here the palate was still raw and a little rustic. Then the coolish Wanaka sourced Rippon Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 (18.0+/20), with garnet hues to the colour, soft strawberryish fruit on bouquet and palate, but soft, harmonious and really quite complete as a wine.

These were followed by two Marlborough wines, the more elegant nature of the gravelly Wairau Plains wines, the richer, more textured clay-soiled Southern Valley hills and the minerally, cooler, Awatere sub-regions discussed. Sourcing fruit from mainly the Wairau, the Nautilus Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008 (17.5+/20) was ever so gentle and balanced on palate, a touch on the lighter and more elegant side, with some complex nuances. Bigger was the Southern Valley sourced Auntsfield Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008 (18.5+/20), dark coloured, dense with excellent weight and concentration, possessing well-ripened dark fruit flavours. A wine to age 5-7 years.

Two wines from different regions followed, one from the northerly Martinborough area, the other from the warm Waipara Valley region. These had extract and grip. Looking exceptional well was the Palliser Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2008 (19.0-/20), dark ruby red, full, rich, lush and fleshy, the dark savoury berry characters showing interest and complexity.. The acid freshness was a feature. Excellent, soft extract. 4-6+ years easily. The final wine was the Waipara Springs ‘Premo’ Waipara Pinot Noir 2009 (18.5-/20), lighter purple hued, youthful, quite tightly bound, but with intense, ripe, dark cherry and berry fruits, elegant, refined, perfumed, but with excellent length.


Raymond Chan

Regional Wines & Spirits