Saturday, February 18, 2017

Marsannay "Clos du Roy" 2015, Ch de Marsannay

Tasted at the Justerini & Brooks annual Burgundy tasting as one would expect the "Clos du Roy" (the King's Close) is considered to be one of the best sites in Marsannay. This pinot has a good vibrant ruby colour. An appealing, soft nose of red cherry and red plum. Elements of violets and iodine pointing to good phenolic ripeness. Attractive cherry and raspberry fruit on the palate with impressive intensity for a Marsannay. Very good. Scores 23-25/30 for a Marsannay.

Marsannay "Les Favières" 2015, Ch de Marsannay

The most northerly of the Côte d'Or's vineyards is often over-looked by wine buyers since the village has no premiers crus and tends towards less impressive pinots. Hence the popularity of its rosé wine. But in a ripe year like 2015 Marsannay has the potential to be more complete and flavourful. This entry-level Marsannay has a decent berry nose, on the palate it is linear, tight, dominated by red currant and raspberry. Lacks a bit of charm and the mouthfeel is a little rustic. Scores 18-22/30 for a Marsannay.

Pommard 1er Cru "Clos des Epenots" 2015, Château de Meursault

A second red wine from the Ch de Meursault at the Justerini & Brooks tasting. This Pommard from one of the most sought after premier cru vineyards has a strong nutty bouquet ranging from hazelnuts to Brazil nuts. There is also raspberry and blood orange on the nose. Tight, structured, good length, ripe tannins. A good savoury Pommard. Possibly missing some riper red stone fruit given the rich vintage. Scores 19-21/30 for a Pommard premier cru.

Beaune 1er Cru "Les Trois Journaux" 2015, Château de Meursault

Having tasted the white wines from the Château de Meursault at the annual Justerini & Brooks tasting I found myself enjoying the wines but wasn't bowled over by the quality or style. I am more enthusiastic about this red Beaune 1er Cru which has an attractive floral nose, delicious ripe berry fruit, a good structure, medium plus tannins and a pleasing length. The price makes this a good value wine from the ripe and pricey 2015 vintage.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Champs Canet" 2015, Château de Meursault

Tasted at the annual Justerini & Brooks Burgundy tasting this Puligny 1er Cru from the Château de Meursault has a closed nose giving a few hints of vanilla and toast. Green apple flavour and a fresh mineral structure. There is no real length to this wine, its decent but not really exciting. Not sure where it's going. Scores 18-21/30 for a Puligny 1er Cru. 

Meursault "Clos Des Grands Charrons" Monopole 2015, Château de Meursault,

Tasted at the annual Justerini & Brooks Burgundy tasting where I discovered that Château de Meursault and Château de Marsannay have the same owner. Thirty per cent of this monopole vineyard's grapes are aged in new oak barrels giving a wine with vanilla, almond pip and lemon drizzle cake aromas. Relatively soft on the palate with a pleasant ripe lemon flavour. A nice wine reflective of the plump 2015 vintage. Scores 21-23/30 for a Meursault.

Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru "Les Referts" 2015, Etienne Sauzet

This Puligny premier cru typically has good concentration which means good ageing potential as evidenced by this 2008 tasted in 2014. The 2015 Puligny-Referts dpfrom Sauzet shows amazing quality. Pure, ripe citrus fruits ranging from lemon to pomelo to satsuma. Superb concentration, medium-plus acidity (possibly didn't have full malolactic fermentation). This wine has been designed like a piece of Cartier jewellery. Scores 25-27/30 for a Puligny 1er Cru. Cellar until 2020.

Puligny-Montrachet 2015, Etienne Sauzet

In a lot of people's minds the Sauzet Domaine is one of the big three Puligny producers along with Leflaive and Chartron by dint of their expansive vineyard holdings in premiers and grands crus. Tasted at the annual Justerini & Brooks Burgundy tasting this Puligny is fresh, crunchy and tightly wound. Minerality squared on the palate. Shows mastery of the ripe vintage to produce a classic Puligny style. Will require more ageing than most of the approachable 2015s. Very good but at this stage not exciting. Scores 23-25/30 for a Puligny.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Central Otago "Gibbston Valley Reserve" Pinot Noir 2014, Gibbston Valley

If the NZ wine authorities create official classifications for the seven districts in Central Otago I imagine they will have a headache dealing with a winery which is named after (and in a sense created) one of the districts. This reserve wine is produced primarily from the Schoolhouse vineyard. Reflecting the 14.5% alcohol this wine has a rich, unctuous plum colour. The aroma is heavy on the plums (ripe), with hints of tobacco leaf, sweet French thyme and black cherry lurking in the background. Lovely texture on the palate from superb black cherry fruit interwoven with ripe red apple freshness. This is a suave wine, think Frank Sinatra's voice in a glass, with integrated acidity, good fruit tannins, more substance from the oak without it protruding. This very successful pinot is ripe, long and incredibly tasty. At the price of NZ$120 (€81) from the cellar door.

Central Otago "Le Maitre" Pinot Noir 2015, Gibbston Valley

Planted in the mid-1980s this wine features a portrait of the founder of the Gibbston Valley winery. For people interested in understanding the future potential of the region this is one of the essential wines to collect due to the age of the vines compared to most other plantings. This pinot has a charming nose of mixed red berries accompanied by floral aromas of hawthorn, clover, orange blossom and honeysuckle.  Right cherry and raspberry flavours presented in an elegant structure with fine tannins reminiscent of a very good Chambolle premier cru. A really impressive wine among the top three tasted in the region. Cellar door price of NZ$100 (€68) which means it competes at high end premier cru and low end grand cru for the favour of your wallet.

Central Otago "Glenlee" Pinot Noir 2012, Gibbston Valley

Following on from the 2014 Glenlee this 2012 vintage shows significantly more evolution. The French oak barrels (220 litre version) have turned into notes of fudge, warm cat fur, vanilla and salted caramel. Wild strawberry and strawberry tart put in an olfactory appearance on this elegant and evolved nose. Medium acidity, fresh, saline. In a cooler year like 2012 the young vines have not produced sufficiently concentrated berries to merit the high volume of new oak resulting in an unbalanced wine dominated by oak aromas. All part of a learning process in this fascinating new region. 

Central Otago "Glenlee" Pinot Noir 2014, Gibbston Valley

Produced from vines in the Gibbston Valley near the old gold mining centre of Arrowtown this 2014 pinot has initial aromas of pine nut, cedar and red plums. There is a touch of strawberry and a hint of cooked orange. Lots of pretty berry fruit on the palate this is a more tangy wi evthan for example the less expensive Bannockburn benchmark from this winery. Bright raspberry and blood orange flavours  leave a long impression with a fresh finish and an elegant style. Medium to low tannins this is very different from the Schoolhouse 2014 produced from Bendigo grapes. The vines were only planted in 2003. Cellar door NZ$68.

Central Otago "Schoolhouse" Pinot Noir 2015, Gibbston Valley

The "Schoolhouse" vineyard is located in the Bendigo district and is produced from vines planted in 2001 some of which are clones from UC Davis designed to cope with higher altitudes. Red with purple tints, this pinot from the emergent Bendigo district in Central Otago has a warm berry nose, hazelnut sauce, manuka tree honey and purple heather. Reflecting 30% whole bunch fermentation and 25% new oak barriques this is a structured wine with medium plus tannins (more tannic than most Central Otago pinots) and medium plus acidity due to the higher elevation. Cooked blueberry and red rhubarb fruit flavours this Bendigo Pinot needs two to three years to integrate and open up. Interesting and reflective of the terroir. 

Central Otago "Gibbston Valley" Pinot Noir 2014, Gibbston Valley

This is the benchmark pinot noir from the Gibbston Valley winery and like others we tasted is an absolute cracker. MostLy planted on 20cm of schist this pinot has an immediately appealing nose of sweet raspberry and red cherry. Fully ripe fruit with u derlying minerality the combined sunshine and high UV of the 2014 vintage come through brilliantly. These vintage conditions produce a wine with a velvet texture reminiscent of a Volnay. A balanced structure with good tannins round off this superb Central Otago pinot. 

Central Otago "China Terrace" Pinot Noir 2015, Gibbston Valley

Following the 2013 China Terrace we tried the more recent 2015. Picked on April 12th this pinot noir had a long ripening period due to the relatively cool summer. Reflecting the reduced sunshine compared to normal the wine has a medium cherry colour and a floral nose. The new oak aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and clove have not yet been integrated. Much less fruit on the initial nose than on the 2013. Tangy cherry fruit with a lacing of cranberry. Medium to light body. Much less weight and richness than the 2013. Shows significant vintage variation and people who enjoyed the 2013 could be miffed by the minor adjustment to the price (NZ$65) for a wine that offers far less. This is still an enjoyable well made wine.

Central Otago "China Terrace" Pinot Noir 2013, Gibbston Valley

This is the original winery in the Gibbston Valley district which is set well apart from the Cromwell basin districts at a higher altitude. The name recalls the history of gold mining in the area - literally where vineyards are today located. This is one of few vineyards planted on a clay soil and the vines date from 2001. Reflecting the high ultra violet exposure on the 45th parallel of the Southern Hemisphere, the wine has a deep colour and full cherry nose. There are notes of sweet herbs, balsamic vinegar and raspberry liqueur without too much evidence of the 10 months barrel ageing in 20% new oak. Savoury style balanced by plenty of rich cherry fruit which comes through on the mid-palate. This pinot is priced at NZ $70 from the cellar door which equates to €47 from a Burgundy cellar door so this wine needs to be compared with a 1er Cru from a top quartile producer in a "big" village like Pommard, Gevrey, Morey or Vosne.

Central Otago "The Siren" Pinot Noir 2013, Akarua

"The Siren" is another of the reserve style wines that all the larger Central Otago wineries have developed in response to consumer demand for a more concentrated top end wine to rival the premiers crus and grands crus of Burgundy. Produced from thirteen barrels selected by the wine-maker for their superiority compared to the other barrels this pinot has a nose of plums, black cherry fruit, chocolate truffle, hazelnut yoghurt and dried fruit cake. Gorgeous flavour of ripe black cherry, lovely crystalline berry fruit. This reserve pinot from the Akarua winery has an uplifting finish, excellent length, real finesse. The best of the reserve wines tasted on the tour. 

Central Otago "Bannockburn" Pinot Noir 2013, Akarua

Tasted after the 2015 Bannockburn from Akarua this 2013 edition shows excellent evolution supported by ageing in new and one year old French barriques and 10% whole bunch fermentation. A very satisfying nose of black cherry, strawberry and vanilla. There's a buttery aspect reminiscent of a fruit crumble. Fresh and ripe cherry on the palate. Good length, quite rich. Medium minus tannins. This is a very pleasant wine to drink for a pinot noir hedonist! 

Central Otago "Bannockburn" Pinot Noir 2015, Akarua

Tasted at the Akarua winery in Bannockburn this single district pinot is aged in 30% new oak barrels. A deep blackberry nose. Not fully open yet. Cherry flavour. Lovely fruit quality. Medium ripe tannins with additional structure from the new French oak. Pleasing sweetness. A successful wine.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

On Central Otago Reserve Wines

Following tastings at ten of the best wineries, I'm not (yet) convinced that the relatively young vines in Central Otago (virtually all less than 25 years old), small selection of pinot clones, combined with a climate that has significant annual variations in warmth and sunshine (the high UV is essential to ripening) can reliably produce the fruit from specific vineyards year in year out that merit higher percentages of new oak, more extraction, more whole bunch fermentation and more alcohol i.e. reserve wine style. At present many of the reserve wines seem to be the product of an assemblage of the best fruit from different parcels. But this emasculates the impact of terroir and without heavy handed wine-making will result in big changes from year to year. I hope the wine regulators give their blessing to the seven sub-regions (Gibbston, Bannockburn, Bendigo, etc) so wine-makers can develop a premier cru and grand cru mentality based on geographic criteria not fruit quality from multiple districts. Given the amazing results so far, seven "appellations" would further elevate the quality and appeal of this stunning region. I believe this would benefit all producers in the region far more than a "super tuscan" approach where big brands would benefit without supporting the wine region as a whole. It's great to see single district reserve wines being produced and winning prizes in pinot competitions. This experimentation will help put the individual districts on the map