As John Saker writes, the pinot noirs of the 2013 vintage had a lot to live up to.
Not since 1998 has a New Zealand vintage arrived so brightly lit by pre-release hype as 2013. For most white varieties, already released, the quality has largely matched the talk. Likewise, most of the reds from Hawke’s Bay and points north have been impressive. So for the Cuisine panel, this tasting of pinot noir, drawn almost entirely from the 2013 vintage, was eagerly anticipated. And yet, the great expectations proved largely unfounded. “I came away with a sense of disappointment,” said panel chair John Belsham. “Clearly there are some excellent wines (13 of 180 entries were awarded five stars), but I think a number of winemakers didn’t understand the fruit they had to work with.” Added Sam Harrop: “New Zealand needs to embrace the perfume and harmonious expression of pinot noir and leave the super-charged versions to the pretenders.”
Panel chair John Belsham, an international wine judge and owner of Foxes Island Wines, Marlborough, was joined in this Cuisine tasting by Sam Harrop – Master of Wine, winemaker and international wine consultant – and Michael Ivicevich, Delegat’s Wine Estate Chief Winemaker. Cuisine’s New Zealand wine writer John Saker was associate judge (non-scoring).
This stunner from Central leaves nary a box unticked. “It’s a powerful, hedonistic style, but still has delightful freshness and definition,” noted Sam Harrop. Lilac, ripe strawberry, dried thyme and mocha scents provide lift-off. Pure dark fruit flows seamlessly and silkily across the palate, enlivened by fresh acidity, and the finish is long and fine. As a food match, try slow-cooked lamb shoulder, spiced with preserved lemon, cumin and coriander seeds.
A Fine Judge Of Soil
“When Roger and Jean took the farm…” The story of Lowburn Ferry is a modern, far happier version of Denis Glover’s ode to the New Zealand experience, The Magpies. In this instance, Roger and Jean Gibson bought their 40-hectare spread in the Lowburn Valley in 1991. But it wasn’t until 2000, after they’d converted the original old stone stable to be their home and were running a flock of merinos, that they decided to plant pinot vines. As a soil scientist, Roger was well placed to assess the suitability of the land for vines and his judgement has clearly paid off: from its first vintage in 2003, the Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir has won numerous plaudits and gold medals. It’s a boutique operation with an average of only 1700 cases produced annually, but Gibson says the plan is to put in more vines over the next few years. He’s also full of praise for his winemaker, Pete Bartle. “Pete doesn’t have a big ego and he’s not a control freak…I can’t speak more highly of him and his team.”
This classy Villa Maria rendition is a typically dark, sensuously textured beauty. …2
Rockburn continues a great run (the 2012 was last year’s top pinot) …3
This pinot is made from the oldest vines of a favoured site …4
This knockout Bannockburn pinot is grown on a small close-planted vineyard with …5
The ongoing rise of the stature of this winery’s pinot noir continues …6
Jules Taylor has crafted an exuberant, approachable wine. Perfumed, pure, generously endowed …7
Made by Matua Valley winemaker Nikolai St George, this is a pinot …8
Perennially impressive, this powerful, concentrated Pete Bartle-made wine doesn’t hold back. Intense …9
“A generously proportioned pinot and not shy in showing it off,” opined …10