Persevering with New Zealand pinots pays off, says MARYTHERESE BLAIR.
PINOT NOIR is notoriously hard to grow, as its tightly packed bunches of thin-skinned berries break easily leaving it susceptible to disease. It is sensitive to its environment and is, overall, a fragile and fickle grape to work with. So why then is it consistently in the top ten most-grown wine grapes in the world? It seems that with great responsibility comes great reward. To ask a winemaker “Why pinot noir?” is to ask them to reveal all the things that making pinot has taught them. Patience, perseverance, dealing with heartbreak and disappointment, rising to the challenge – but most of all, love for the wine itself.
IF PINOT were a person it wouldn’t have many friends. Who wants to pal around with someone who is contrary, difficult, frustrating and has the potential to break your heart? Yet, more than friends, pinot has adorers, disciples and devotees who see its potential and despite its difficulties, want to make it great in the glass.
TASTING PANEL Ben Glover, owner and head winemaker for Zephyr Wines in Marlborough and international wine judge, led this panel and was joined by two experienced and talented wine professionals: Master of Wine and renowned wine judge Emma Jenkins and Murray Cook, wine judge and winemaker at Dog Point in Marlborough.
Despite first planting grapes as recently as 2000, Roger and Jean Gibson of Lowburn Ferry have rapidly built a reputation for producing high-quality pinot noir. Their renowned homeblock is 2.7 hectares of sheltered terraces beneath the Pisa Range in Cromwell, Central Otago, planted with a variety of Burgundian clones. Roger – a soil scientist – believes that the soil is the unique and special element that sets this vineyard apart. Previously the land had been farmed for 150 years and the build up of organic material in the soil, combined with some pedogenic lime scattered throughout the vineyard, ensures this is a special place to grow grapes.
A wet, warm spring in 2017 secured a fast start to the growing season and despite a cooler and wetter December and January at the critical time of fruit set, a dry, even February helped somewhat to redress the balance. Dry conditions over harvest ensured that the picking of the grapes was done without weather pressure, therefore the grapes had time to achieve the optimum ripeness required and could be hand harvested with ease.
The resulting wine is the top pinot noir as selected by our panel of experts. It has a deep colour with both red and dark fruit aromas presenting themselves alongside thyme and spice proudly on the nose. Then, upon the palate you encounter long, sensuous, juicy yet relaxed fruit flavours with good chalky tannins and spice, completing with a long, almost sweet, finish. A polished and well-crafted style of pinot noir, agreed by all to be a very smart example indeed.
Immediately jumping out of the glass with a seductive nose of crushed …2
Smoky, supple, savoury and seductive. A wonderful pinot noir to take time …3
Elegant red fruits and just a touch of licorice provide a solid …4
A lovely example of lively, succulent fruit with some bottle development delivering …5
Brilliantly bright red fruit, alluring with a sweet yet brooding perfume. Nose …6
Blueberries and red fruits combined with floral potpourri spice are all woven …7
A precisely crafted pinot noir with a bright red vibrancy and complex, …8
Bright red fruits, menthol spice and dark cherry notes, thyme and a …9
A curious combination of wild bramble and red raspberry notes with a …10