Pinot Noir and Truffles

Black Estate are located in North Canterbury – note the name reference, no longer Waipara; a relatively recent decision sees the producers here group together to present a unified and clarified story as North Canterbury. And what a story it is. I was fortunate enough to visit there with a few of the team last weekend and unearthed a raft of new stories, wines and wineries, so much so that I’m planning my next visit already.

Our visit there was to join the team at Black Estate for lunch to celebrate a local delicacy, NZ truffles. The day started with a visit to Limestone Hills Truffière, where we were greeted enthusiastically by Rosie the beagle and Gareth. Limestone Hills has the largest variety of truffles of any plantation in New Zealand. A super successful truffle hunt followed where Rosie found many Périgord black truffles and bianchetto white truffles.

Rosie the Beagle

Next stop was Black Estate, their restaurant sitting on the original estate that was planted by the Black family. Still family owned, Pen runs the restaurant and is married to Nicholas who is the winemaker. Nicholas worked for many years for Danny Schuster, just up the road from Black Estate, and describes driving past Black Estate every day and being able to see only a small edge of the vineyard from the road. One day his curiosity got the better of him, leading him up the driveway, the rest as they say is history. Black Estate have three vineyards in North Canterbury, the home vineyard where it all started, Netherwood and Damsteep, all producing wines with very distinct personalities.

The menu for lunch

Lunch was of course all about truffles and matched with Black Estate wines. There was no dish that stood out as being the highlight, they were all just so damned good. Black Estate and their neighbouring vineyards run truffle lunches as part of the North Canterbury Truffle Festival. My advice – book now for next year.

Pinot Noir 2017

Pinot Noir 2017, what’s it all about? ‘A lot’ is the simple answer and there is just so much to talk about. So here goes, a series then of blogs all about Pinot Noir 2017, naturally starting at the beginning. The event itself was first held in 2001, the brainchild of the late Richard Riddiford and, Mr Pinot Noir himself, Larry McKenna. It’s a three-day conference all about Pinot Noir, open for all to come along with a very high proportion of trade there from NZ and abroad.

Those from abroad were generally hosted by NZ Wine Growers in what is one of the best pieces of Marketing for NZ in any sector. Our International guests were treated to a world class conference that is rightly referred to as the best Pinot Noir event on the Planet. An Aromatic Symposium before and a Classic NZ Red weekend in the bay after, together with an Air NZ flight over the NZ wine regions with MW Bob Campbell as the head steward and guide. How could they not go away spreading NZ wine love to all corners of the world.

The three days started with a welcome at the Wellington Opera house and an enlightening discussion centred around ‘our place’. Our Tūrangawaewae the overarching theme to the morning and a welcome break from how a Pinot conference would usually start, with far too much discussion of terroir. In fact, the absence of reference to Burgundy was a welcome change and one that has been a long time coming. It is a little of a bug bear with me that we stand up and talk about our wines and reference them as ‘this is my Bordeaux blend’ or ‘my Burgundy’. We are not in France; we grow grapes and make wine in one of the most amazing countries in the world and need to be more proud of what we do. I then was delighted the conference started this way and more so continued throughout the week with this theme. Off my soap box now and back to Pinot 2017.

On the three consecutive mornings we were presented an array of fascinating discussions and concepts (more on these in the following blogs). Each afternoon was then given over to a Pinot Noir road trip, mine started with Marlborough and once again reconfirmed for me how underrated Marlborough Pinot Noir is. For me there were many great wines in that afternoon tasting, a few that did stand out. Fromm – I’ve always loved Fromm Pinot Noir and was excited to try their new wine H. Named


after winemaker Hatsch, it is a blend of five of their single vineyard wines and their new flagship wine. The quality is, as expected, exceptional and a wine worth seeking out. Jules Taylor had her 2015 Pinot Noir there; the perfume was enthralling, jumping out of the glass to greet you. Touching base with Jules, I enquired as to whether there was anything different in her winemaking this year? She shrugged ‘not really, it’s what the vintage gave’. A superb wine and a clear reflection of the 2015 vintage which became evident as I tasted around the room.


 

Glengarry’s Inaugural Pinot Noir event

My favourite tweet from over the weekend summed it up nicely – ‘Massive Pinot Noir lovefest today at Glengarry wine’ (thanks Anna Flowerday). Last Friday and Saturday saw the first rendition of what will definitely become an annual event at Glengarry Victoria Park – a massive Pinot Noir tasting. In two sessions, each of three hours in duration, over 100 Pinot Noir from around the world were on offer. All the Pinot Noir on offer were part of Glengarry’s range and an overriding comment from all that attended was the collective quality of all the wines. The quality did not stop there, we were also joined by many of NZ’s leading winemakers; to have that many in one space is unprecedented. A big thank you needs to go out to all those winemakers who ‘just’ (Duncan at Mt Edward brought the last fruit in Friday morning and jumped on a plane) finished vintage and joined us.

OK, so the wines themselves, what stood out? It’s a hard thing to taste that many top quality wines, who all deservedly have a spot on our shelves.  However, I did manage to group together some observations that might just assist.

The other winemakers choice

So I noticed clearly there was one part of the room where all the winemakers in the room gathered between pouring their own wines. Now either it was Larry’s ‘Australian wit’ or the quality of Mr Pinot’s wines. The Escarpment Wines, from the unwooded fruit forward style of The Edge to the high percentage whole bunch, no fining, filtered complex style of Kupe, were outstanding. It could be the vintage being offered that drew all the winemakers? 2012 was not a vintage that all producers in Martinborough made, something Larry maintains was a mistake. Tasting Larry’s 2012 Escarpment Wines over the weekend, I can concur with Larry’s thinking.

Marlborough Magic

Any of the team at Glengarry will tell you that I’m just a tad obsessed by the quality of some of the sub regions of Marlborough. I also think that Marlborough has some exceptional value Pinot Noir’s that get a tad over shadowed. The overriding comment from customers tasting Friday and Saturday ranged from “I’ve never heard of Tupari – do you realise how good it is?’ to “Did you taste the Ara wines – they are actually brilliant” – really –we’d never have guessed! Oh and Marisco – “we never knew these were so good and Brent Marris is lovely….” As for Jackson Estate – these were probably the Marlborough wines that surprised customers the most and certainly topped our sales for the weekend.

Best to look a little closer

There are many producers that are better known for things other than Pinot Noir. Coopers Creek is one such producer, if you think Coopers you’d probably be thinking Sauvignon, hopefully Swamp Road Chardonnay and maybe varietals like Arneis, Albarino and all the other gems Simon has mastered. Simon Nunns is one talented winemaker and it is not any surprise that his Pinot Noir are so good – value too.

 

Organic and Biodynamic

Lots of options on offer including TWR, poured by owner and winemaker Anna Flowerday. Anna is not only super passionate about Biodynamics, but Pinot Noir. A wine well worth seeking out.

 

Pinot 2014 the final fling

The final day of the event started a little too early for some, with the formal tasting, an opportunity to look at a serious collection of Burgundy and explore ‘Les Climats of Burgundy’. The wines themselves made for an interesting tasting, to have on the panel Aubert de Villane, made it a once in a lifetime moment. The line up;

Domaine Chevrot Maranges Villages Sur le Chene 2010
Domaine Chevrot Maranges Villages 1er Cru Le Clos Roussots 2010
Domaine Marquis d Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds 2008
Domaine Marquis d Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs 2008
Domaine Dujac Echezeaux Grand Cru 2008
DRC Echezeaux Grand Cru 2008

The two Maranges wines up first punched well above their class, showing not only the brilliance of the 2010 vintage but reminding of the quality of a somewhat lesser known village and the value you can still find in burgundy. Each pair had a similar voice and character, the Volnays pretty fragrant and although both 1er Cru are positioned relatively close to each other, clearly demonstrating the individuality of the climat. The last pair were both superb wines- as you’d expect, whilst showing a similarity in character from place, the role of the winemaker was significant in the character of these wines. Whilst the 2010 vintage wines were a lovely start to this tasting, the 2008’s reminded one not to right off a so called lesser vintage, or as Aubert de Villane put it a more difficult year, these wines were sensational.

There was much discussion on the wines, climat and a bunch of conversation that you’d wonder firstly how it translates from kiwi and secondly the relevance – Public toilets and thinking time – really? Anyway, as always thought provoking and stimulating. There was comparison to Burgundy and thankfully agreement that Central Otago as a wine growing region does not have similarities to Burgundy, it is it’s own special part if the world and a magical one at that. Maybe we are one step closer to being proud of nz made wines without feeling a great desire to compare ourselves to and strive to be French. An analogy that I did enjoy was the similarity of the people behind the great wines of Burgundy and Central Otago, all driven by that same passion for great wine.

Pinot celebration 2014

Following a mornings tasting of the 2012 wines of the region, we headed to Akarua in Bannockburn for lunch. A marque nestled in the vines greeted us, as did a glass of Akarua’s excellent rose bubbly, delicate, just the right color pink, gentle yet rich. The menu was superb, starting with whitebait fritters matched with the Akarua Vintage brut. The main course was really well done, a set of platters of venison, merino lamb racks, boiled potatoes, plenty of vegetables and an excellent Israeli couscous salad. The reds, a Pinot and Syrah – not a typo here, the Syrah was from Lowburn Ferry, a spicy little number it went very well with the curried eggplant that accompanied the venison. For dessert, Malcom Rees Francis’s Tigermoth Riesling – brilliant wine on its own, it sang magically with the lemon dessert. A brilliant lunch and what a view. We then stopped (all 45 of us) at Matt Connell and Matt Dicey’s local, the Cromwell pub. The poor girl behind the bar was slightly over whelmed, a glass of Emerson’s Pilsner and then it was back to Queenstown for a rest before an evening at Jacks Point. The wines for the evening were varied as the wineries showed some of their whites, older reds, larger formats, in fact you name it and it was definitely there. Highlights for me; Peregrine Chardonnay, Mount Edward Pinot Blanc, Terra Sancta Rose, Quartz Reef Pinot 2004 from magnum and Chard Farm Viper Pinot 2002.

Vintage Matters

Last night was the first tasting for the year of the New Zealand Chapter if the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, an excellent tasting presented as three flights of three wines.

20130220-212831.jpg The first three wines were all White Burgundy, 2004 vintage, from different producers and parts of the region. First up La Chablisiennne Chablis 1er cru Les Preuses, then Pierre Matrot Meursault 1er cru Les Perrieres and lastly Blain-Gagnard Batard Montrachet Grand Cru. 2004 was a much underrated vintage, it was excellent to see the wines with nine years of age. Generally they were drinking very well and I loved the Batard. The second flight were all Vosne Romanee Les Suchots, all from 2006 and from differing producers. Les Suchots is a 1er cru, positioned in centre of the Vosne Romanee slope neatly nestled between many of the great Grand Cru of Burgundy. This was an interesting comparison, taking away the influence of site and year and looking at the hand of the winemaker. My standout in this line up was Domaine de l’Arlot, I love the higher percentage use of whole bunch and the texture. The final line up was another take on the same theme, this time, the same producer – Domaine de la Vougeraie, the same vintage -2004, and from different Grand Cru. An excellent comparison of site taking out the impact of vintage and producer. So back to the title of this post – Vintage Matters. In tasting the wines and discussing them last night, there was much discussion on the two vintages in the tasting, 2004 and 2006 being poorer vintages and whether they were good examples. Would we have been better to be tasting vintages like 2005 or 2009? I love vintage variation and the fact there’s a place for each of these vintages, lesser or super stars. These so good lesser or poorer vintage wines were incredible and approachable much earlier than they would be from vintages like 2005, 2009 and the like. I also find in vintages like 2004 that you see an even greater expression of the site. In fact, worth considering that if the 2005 need 30 years to be ready – is that the right timing for you? So that’s my rant on vintage, a great night last night – looking forward to the next.

Burgundy 2010 Vintage

Following the hype of the 2009 vintage in Burgundy, initially the region seemed a little shy to show outward praise for the vintage, whilst the wines were in barrel. Perhaps put off by the noise their counterparts in Bordeaux were making about the 2010 vintage or maybe it was the tiny volumes many producers had to work with. Now in bottle and arriving / arrived around the world, these wines are starting to stand tall – deservedly so.

December 2009’s cold weather got the vintage off to a slow start, millerandage (poor fruit set) ensuring a small crop. Summer started off well, with a warm July, August was nothing to write home about and all seemed settled. A late thunder storm swept through the region with relatively small damage as a strong wind followed and dried out the fruit. 2010 was not consistent throughout Burgundy and can be classified as a winemakers year. A year in which you need to either know the producer well or take the advice of a good retailer. In some cases much selection was required as the fruit arrived at the Domaines, those with the resources to make such decisions have produced outstanding wines.  

Tasting through the 2010 it was clear the producers I talked to loved the vintage, many preferring it to the 2009, I must say, for me, I do prefer the 2010 wines. I loved the forward fruit, pined together with structured tannins and a taught acidic backbone. Whilst a large generalization, if you are looking for the differences between recent vintages, the acidity and freshness of the 2010 for me characterized the vintage. I enjoyed the 2009 wines, loving the fruit ripeness and in many cases the round, soft edges. 

The white wines from the Cote d’Or in 2010 are something quite special, the structure is consistent with the 2007 vintage white wines with stronger acidity ensuring incredible freshness and vibrancy.

Our 2010 Burgundies are starting to arrive, a complete review of the vintage and the wines will soon be available online, we will add the link to this shortly.

Pinot Noir NZ 2013

At the end of January, Wellington plays host to the fifth NZ Pinot Noir Celebration. An amazing event, which I am very much looking forward to attending. This event started in 2001, when a group of winemakers decided to put their Pinot Noir (and the whole countries Pinot Noir)  forward for a critical review of sorts. This event now occurs every three years and has become a must do for those serious about wine around the world. 

Glengarry were the retail partner for the 2010 event and are thrilled to be associated with this event as the Retail Partner for 2013. We see it as a very important association and a way that we can support our local industry. In 2010 it was an inspirational four days of tasting, seminars, lots of great food and it goes without saying, superb Pinot Noir and the 2013 event is shaping up to reach new heights.

For the 2013 event, which starts on Auckland Anniversary day -28th January, there are 112 wineries participating. The first three days are dedicated to exploring 5 key regions and reviewing them in depth, 300 wines will be tasted and discussed. A host of winemakers will be on hand, passionately presenting their regions and ensuring we are well versed in its virtues. As well as our local industry stars, an impressive collection of international speakers have been secured by Pinot noir 2013’s proactive board, who are chaired by Villa Maria Group’s Head Winemaker – Alastair mailing MW.  The International Guests include Jasper Morris MW, Tim Atkins MW, Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, Emmanuel L.T. Bourguignon and Ned Goodwin MW. To get things underway, the initial address and Welcome will be from NZ actor and wine grower- Sam Neill.

The final day of this event is going to be amazing, there’s a Grand Burgundy Tasting followed by a NZ Pinot Noir Grand Tasting. Then to finish the whole event off – a party on the Wellington waterfront. I will be joined in Wellington by Jak Jakicevich, Regan McCafferey and Meredith Parkin, you’ll be able to follow the event here, on aboutwine.co.nz as we blog our way around it and update you real time via twitter . You can also join us there in person – there is a public tasting on Wednesday 30th January – details here .

A very rare variety indeed

The three main varieties used to produce Champagne are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, with Blanc de Blanc (white of white) champagnes made out of 100% Chardonnay. There are however other grape varieties permitted in the production of Champagne.Champagne Drappier I first came across this when visiting Michel Drappier at his families Champagne house two years ago. Michel introduced me to Drappier Quattuor, a blend of four varieties including some of the historic white grapes from the Champagne region – Petit Meslier, Vrai (Pinot Blanc) and Arbane. Michel recalled a delightful story of presenting the Champagne to some of the regions leaders blind, they loved the wine but the conversation quickly changed when he revealed the grape varieties that he’d made the wine from. Whilst still permitted in Champagne production, these old varieties make up a very small percentage of the varieties grown in the region and are not widely used. I had not seen these varieties outside Quattuor, until we recently started working with Champagne Moutard Diligent, who from what I understand are the only house to produce a 100% Arbane (also spelled Arbanne) Champagne. The bottle we tried was the Moutard Cepage Arbane Vielle Vignes 2006. It was a delight to try it and something quite difficult to explain, you can probably picture the scene though – most of us sat there for more than 10 minutes as we sniffed, swirled and then sniffed again, trying to find words to describe the aromas. It’s a challenge with such an usual variety, you don’t have a memory bank of aroma descriptors tucked away. So here goes my thoughts – it smelled a little like candied banana, there were hints of apples – not crisp green ones, but rather a floury apple that leaves you disappointed. The more I looked at it, the more I got characters similar to old Chenin Blanc and some Pinot Blanc notes. It was noticeably viscous, in fact so much so that the bubbles seemed to hang in the glass. Taste wise, it was also very unusual, a truly unique wine – a great wine to taste and definitely memorable.

Anne Gros

To say that Anne Gros makes good wine is like saying Valerie Adams can throw things.

Domaine Anne Gros

Every time I have the very great privilege of tasting Anne’s wine I am surprised and delighted all over again. One of the great things of course about the last tasting that I did was that all of the wines were from the great 2009 vintage. This vintage has proved itself again and again and while Anne Gros has established herself in the challenging vintages the rewards in a stunning vintage are undeniable.
We went through and tasted all of the 2009 Anne Gros wines that we have in stock here and they were all spectacular from bottom to top and even though they were approachable now the group thought that most would benefit further from a bit of age.

We started with the Bourgogne Chardonnay as a little palate cleanser it showed some lovely white floral notes and hint of toasty oak. We followed with the Bourgogne and Bourgogne Hautes Cote de Nuit both showed well and offered extremely good value although most thought that the Hautes Cote de Nuit could do with another year or so bottle age the Bourgogne was on the whole pleasurable now. We then moved in to the Chambolle Musigny La Combe D’Orveaux and Vosne Romanee Les Barreaux and both of these are a step up from most village wines and her skill in getting the most out of her grapes shines here. Anne gets a wonderful depth of flavour in her wines but without massive extraction just sublime.

Domaine Anne Gros CellarBut wait there’s more! (This by the way is the part of my job that doesn’t feel like working at all!) We did the Clos Vougeot, Echezeaux and Richebourg. Just for fun one of the group suggested that we did them blind this was great as it took away any preconceptions that we may have had. I am happy to say that I did guess them correctly when it came to the reveal –phew reputation intact! They were as expected all remarkable and a delight to taste the Richebourg stood out from just the sheer power of the wine, this is a massive wine and would be a worthy addition to the cellar of a serious Burgundy collector. With that said the star of the night was without a doubt the Clos Vougeot it was elegance personified and enjoyed by all.  The Echezeaux was a star in its own right it had lovely spice notes and fantastic structure it was another five star wine but just slightly overshadowed on the night by the Clos Vougeot