Johanneshof Cellars Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2006

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Johanneshof Cellars Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2006

Johanneshof Cellars Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2006

My notion of keeping each post on the homepage of this site from a different country is rapidly running out of steam as my recent drinking habits include far too many Australian and French wines for it to remain viable.  But I can stretch it for another day with this wine of New Zealand, the Johanneshof Cellars Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2006.

I’ve featured only one Gewürztraminer before in this blog, from Spring Vale Wines, but since my copy of Wine Grapes recently arrived, it’s time to have another look.  The first time around, I described the variety as a relative of Traminer which is found throughout Europe.  However, it appears that DNA profiling has shed a bit more light on the situation.  Traminer is actually Savagnin Blanc, and Gewürztraminer is just a slight mutation of Savagnin Rose.  Apparently, Savagnin Blanc, Savagnin Rose and Gewürztraminer, are not so distinct as to be considered siblings, but rather they’re just clonal mutations of the same vine.  That said, I’m keeping them as separate varieties for purposes of a century I’m having a hard enough time hitting a hundred varietal wines as is.

So setting the record straight, Gewürztraminer is just a clonal mutation of Savagnin, but there’s certainly more to know than that.  It’s most commonly associated with Alsace, but it can be found throughout both Europe and the New World.  Though it has pink berries, it is used to produce white wine which is known for intense aromatics, full body, and often high alcohol, though at times also with low acidity.  Additionally, it is one of the most identifiable wines in the world, even just on the nose, with lychee and rose petals featuring prominently.

This is a wine of Marlborough, best known for Sauvignon Blanc, and which was the origin of the Astrolabe I tasted back in June.  Based at the northern end of the South Island, it has a maritime climate with dry summers and winters that can be frosty.  The soils are alluvial with silt and river stones, and the area is generally flat.  In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, there are some plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and apparently Gewürztraminer.

Johanneshof Cellars is a small boutique winery established in 1991.  The founders, Edal Everling and Warwick Foley, from Germany and New Zealand respectively, met while studying winemaking in Rheingau.  Their wines are distinctly Germanic in style, with a combination of traditional methods and modern technology.  For instance, their winery is gravity fed to alleviate the need for most pumping and their storage cellar is dug deep into sandstone, but at the same time the fermentations are temperature controlled and carefully monitored by a modern laboratory.

They produce a range of wines and styles that includes Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir, from which they make varietal wines in dry, late harvest, and sparkling styles.  They also produce spirits, including an Edelbrand in the style of Cognac and a grappa.

In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with a medium lemon yellow colour and quick, thin legs.  On the nose it’s clean and developing with a pronounced intensity and notes of rosewater, lychee, floral characters and perfume.  On the palate it’s off dry, with medium acidity, medium plus body, pronounced flavour intensity, medium alcohol, with medium plus length. There are notes of lychee, Turkish delight, rosewater, perfume, and a bit of sour nail varnish on the finish.

This is a very good wine.  It’s the type of Gewürztraminer that you really can identify from across the room just from the nose – very strong on the varietal typicity.  It has the classic notes, and while not subtle, is well constructed despite it being over the top in terms of intensity.  Also, it’s worth noting that I drank this wine in 2012 and the back label suggest drinking only as late as 2010.  However, I don’t think I did this bottle a disservice – it was still developing and still had a great deal to give.

Millton Gisborne Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2006

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Millton Gisborne Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2006

Millton Gisborne Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2006

Today it’s a wine I actually drank some time ago, but am only just now writing it up.  Alas, when you drink more quickly than you write, it’s difficult to keep up, but I’ve slowed down slightly on the drinking front and hope to clear out the backlog before the end of the year.  So without further delay, I give you the Millton Gisborne Te Arai Vineyard Chenin Blanc 2006.

My wife and I have been together for long enough that when we sit down at a restaurant and are looking through the menu I can tell what she will order even before she has decided.  Her tastes are fairly consistent and there’s usually something that I know she’ll go for.  She can typically do the same in terms of knowing what I’ll drink, and if she spotted this on a wine list she would pick it for me right away.  The combination of an under appreciated classic Old World grape in a New World terroir draws me in more often than not.

This is not the first varietal Chenin Blanc we’ve seen, nor even the first from a New World producer, but the Kilikanoon Brut Vouvray was something of a trick – a holiday wine essentially, made by an Australian while visiting France.  A quick recap of the grape is probably worthwhile.  Chenin Blanc is a white grape with its Old World roots in the Loire Valley, most famously in Vouvray where it is made into sparkling wine, dry wine and sweet wine, all depending on the vintage.  It was at one time the biggest white grape of South Africa, and it can be found planted throughout the rest of New World.  It requires a long growing season to fully ripen, but it rewards warm climates by retaining its acidity when other grapes become flabby.  It’s also one of the few white wines that really improves with cellaring – Chenin Blanc can develop complexity over years or decades in bottle.

Gisborne is a new region to this blog, situated in the eastern peninsula of the North Island of New Zealand, roughly in the middle.  It is situated on a flat, fertile river valley, with loam being the dominant soil type.  The climate for New Zealand as a whole is often described as maritime, with mild winters and cool summer.  Gisborne in particular has low heat summation, and most grapes grown are cool climate white varieties.

The region initially rose to prominence in the 1960s-1970s for the production of vast quantities of bulk wine, much of it slightly sweet and made of German varieties such as Müller-Thurgau.  When the area was struck in the 1980s by phylloxera it required replanting, and many growers took the opportunity to replace Müller-Thurgau with Chardonnay at the same time they were replacing their rootstock.  The area also diversified somewhat from exclusively bulk production with smaller, often high quality, wineries carving out a niche.  The ratio of grape growers to wineries remains high.

Millton Vineyards & Winery was founded in 1984 by James and Annie Millton around Manutuke where Annie’s family had been involved in grape growing since the 1960s.  The couple had spent the preceding years learning the trade in France and Germany before returning home to replant much of the family holdings and establish the winery.  They became New Zealand’s first certified organic winery in 1986 and then were one of the first to qualify for certification as biodynamic.  (I expressed my thoughts on biodynamic practices when I wrote about Marchand & Burch.)

Millton specializes in single vineyard varietal wines of their own estate.  They have three lines of wines, their namesake, Clos de Ste. Anne and Crazy by Nature, and have plantings of Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Viognier, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Merlot.  In addition to varietals of those grapes, they produce a Muscat Mistell, a sparkling Muscat, and organic grape juice.

In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a medium gold colour, and slow, thick legs when swirled.  On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium intensity and notes of green apple, quince, some lemon, and a bit of honey.  On the palate it’s dry, with high acidity, full flavour intensity, medium plus body, medium minus alcohol, but a medium minus length.  There are notes of quince, sour apple, a little black pepper, and some struck match.

This is a good wine.  While it’s interesting on the nose, it comes on very strong on the palate with exceptional acidity and intensity.  The flavour profile, while clearly Chenin Blanc, has some elements that are a bit out of the ordinary, particularly the sour notes.  I would have gone for very good except that it’s a bit short, something I find surprising given its strong attack.

Esk Valley Winemakers Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2007

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Esk Valley Winemakers Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2007

Esk Valley Winemakers Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2007

When I first visited New Zealand, it was 2002 and I knew nearly nothing about wine.  However, as I had travelled to the opposite side of the planet, I wanted to bring back a nice bottle to enjoy at home in London.  I enquired at a wine merchant in Auckland for their best New Zealand wine, and was presented with a bottle of The Terraces from Esk Valley.  I opened it with friends and enjoyed it on November 11th, 2006 after attending the official dedication of the New Zealand War Memorial at Hyde Park Corner.  Tonight it’s another wine from the same producer, the Esk Valley Winemakers Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2007.

While I was not a student of wine at that point, that bottle was special to me because I went to some trouble to procure it and transport it around the world.  (It was also a bit dear.)  Drinking it was made all the more special because I enjoyed it with friends on a memorable occasion, and one related to New Zealand at that, and the result of those factors means that despite not having a particularly good memory, I can recall those details clearly to this day.  The obvious question is why am I not writing about a bottle of The Terraces, which is one of the great wines of New Zealand?  Well, one of the people with whom I shared that bottle is now my wife, and she has given up drinking for the time being as she is pregnant.  So while I have purchased more of The Terraces since my first trip, I’m resigned to letting certain bottles stay in the cellar for another year rather than drinking them without her.

So New Zealand.  I’ve written about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Central Otago Pinot Noir, but Hawkes Bay is well worth some exploration, particularly as I’ve been there for a visit (which is when I picked up this bottle).  Located on the east coast of the North Island, the region spreads out north, south and west from Napier on the coast toward a range of hills.  The climate for the region as a whole is maritime.  The hills provide shelter from most weather, making Hawkes Bay one of the warmest areas in New Zealand with a corresponding high number of sunlight days and low amount of rainfall.

It’s also a region where finding the right patch of a certain soil type is key, as opposed to some places where aspect or other factors are more critical.  It has a very complex geology, influenced by ancient glaciers and four rivers which wandered before cutting out terraces and the valleys they now inhabit.  As a result, there are areas of high fertility and water retention in close proximity to free draining soil with poor fertility.

Within Hawkes Bay, this wine is from the Gimblett Gravels area, which is considered to have the least fertile soil of the region.  Formed when the Ngaruroro River changed course after a flood in 1867, the area has a thin layer of sand and loam topsoil over alternating layers of deep shingle and more sand which provide efficient drainage.  While Hawkes Bay is the country’s oldest wine region, with the first plantings dating back to the 19th century, Gimblett Gravels emerged in the late 1990s as producers came to better understand the soils of the region.  A highly sought after terroir for the production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it sparked a rush for acreage and the majority of the area is now under vine.  More recently, Syrah has also carved out a niche.

Esk Valley is both the name of this producer and the name of another subregion in which they are based in the north area of Hawkes Bay along the coast.  What is now Esk Valley was founded in 1933 by Robert Bird as Glenvale Winery, and the concrete fermenters in use date back to the original construction.  The company produced fortified wines for over 40 years until the late 1970s when the focus was shifted to premium table wines and the Esk Valley brand was born.  Unfortunately the company was a victim of price wars a few years later and was subsequently purchased by George Fistonich of the massive Villa Maria Estates.  After investment and renovation, Esk Valley is now run as an independent, boutique winery.

The company produces two ranges of wine, with the classic range largely made up of  varietal wines from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Verdelho, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chenin Blanc grown or sourced from within Hawkes Bay or Marlborough.  They also produce a red Bordeaux-style blend and a Merlot / Malbec blend rosé in that range.  Their Winemakers Reserve range includes a Chardonnay, a red Bordeaux-style blend and this Syrah which are almost exclusively made from Gimblett Gravels fruit – the Chardonnay can have some Hawkes Bay fruit as well.  Their flagship wine is The Terraces, a co-fermented field blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc sourced from a 1HA vineyard.  I highly recommend it if you have a particularly special occasion.

As to this wine, in the glass it is clear and bright with medium plus ruby colour and tinted slow legs.  On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium plus intensity and notes of strawberry, blueberry, sweet spice, liquorice, and some black pepper.  On the palate it’s dry with medium acidity, medium plus flavour intensity, medium minus fine tannins, medium body, medium plus alcohol, and medium plus length.  The palate compliments the nose, in that there are notes of liquorice, blueberry, a hint of red meat, and some pencil lead on the finish.

This is a very good wine,  It has strong typicity for a cool climate Syrah, it has a complex array of flavours, it’s intense on the nose and palate, and has good length.  The tannins and acidity are a bit of a let down relative to the other, more prominent aspects of the wine, but its generosity of fruit and flavour balance out those factors.

Finally, punctuation.  In terms of top level local governance, New Zealand is broken into 16 regions, and they seem to my mind to be roughly equivalent to states in the USA or Australia.  Hawke’s Bay is one of those regions, spelled with an apostrophe, and all the geography I’ve mentioned is located within it.  However, throughout this post I’ve been referring to Hawkes Bay, without an apostrophe.  I believe that is how the region is commonly named with respect to wine, and how Esk Valley spells it on their bottle and website.

Ridgeview Waiheke Island Malbec 2004

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Ridgeview Waiheke Island Malbec 2004

Ridgeview Waiheke Island Malbec 2004

I’ve been to New Zealand a couple of times on holiday, and while one of the aims of the most recent trip was to make it to Hawkes Bay to visit wineries, I didn’t have any winery visits in mind beyond that.  However, with a little unscheduled time in Auckland on our schedule, we hopped on a ferry and spent a lovely day driving around in a hired convertible on Waiheke Island and picked up a few bottles to bring home, including this one from a bottle shop, the Ridgeview Waiheke Island Malbec 2004.

Waiheke Island is a small patch of hills about 18km east of Auckland, just off the North Island.  It has some nice beaches that reminded me of Northern California and there were no shortage of day trippers over on the ferry.  In addition to the beaches, there’s a good collection of roughly 30 small wineries on the island spread across just over 200 HA.

The island enjoys a maritime climate with more moderate conditions than most of the North Island.  Not only are the highs and lows less extreme, the growing season is longer as the seasonal temperature changes are more gradual.  The geology of the island has been fractured multiple times, resulting in abrupt changes in soil types sometimes over very short distances.  Large portion of the island are covered in dark grey-brown soil over a lower layer of brown to yellow subsoil, but there are areas of clay, pumice, sand, decomposed organic bog, and weathered volcanic rock.

Plantings on the island are largely a French greatest hits collection, with vines originally from Bordeaux, Burgudy and the Rhône all doing quite well apparently.  The most common reds are Syrah and Cabernet, though all the red Bourdeaux blending partners seem to be planted as well.  Whites include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier.  Pinot Gris and Montepulciano are also planted in small quantities.

Unfortunately, with most wineries on the island being very small, and having such a vibrant influx of tourists, you’re unlikely to encounter wines from Waiheke Island far from the island itself.  There are certainly some wineries that have international distribution, but only to limited markets, and the quantities are tiny.  So apologies for writing about a region that you’re unlikely to encounter unless you visit, but at the same time it’s certainly worth a visit if you’re ever in Auckland.

I may also have to apologize in terms of what I can tell you about the producer as I can’t tell if it still exists.  The name of the producer in the first paragraph is typically a link to their website, but it is no longer even registered, so the company may not be trading.  They were founded in the 1990s and in addition to red grapes of Bordeaux, also have/had plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  I did find them on the map, right next to the airport, and their vineyard is among the highest on the island at 500ft.  Also they hosted a big party in 2009.  Fascinating, I know.

This is not our first Malbec, and when I last tasted the Majestic Plough on Malbec World Day I actually wrote something sensible, so for a full run down of the grape please check that out. So that’s the location, producer and grape at least mentioned, so it’s time to have a look at this wine.

In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with dark garnet colour and quick legs.  On the nose it’s clean, with medium plus intensity, developing, with notes of perfume, scented candle/potpourri, blueberry, raspberry, and a little red meat.  On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium minus tannins, medium body, medium plus flavour intensity, medium plus length, and medium plus alcohol.  It’s very tart, borderline bitter, with notes of cranberry and iodine, a little bit peppery, with some funk.

I’ll call this wine very good quality.  To my palate it’s very much in the style of an older Bordeaux in terms of being savoury, but not oaky or tannic.  The tannins are soft and well integrated – barely there – but clearly they’ve kept the fruit in check.

As you might have guessed by the fact that I’ve posted about feeling a bit bad and that I’ve missed a couple of days of updates, things have been a bit bleh around here lately, but I’m on the mend I hope and look forward to being back on form next week.  I may even write about a wine that you could find and drink if it sounds interesting.

Astrolabe Province Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011

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Astrolabe Province Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Astrolabe Province Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011

If all you knew about New Zealand came from this blog, first off I would tell you that you need to do a bit more outside reading.  But second, I would apologize to you because my coverage of my neighbours across the Tasman has been pretty scant, and so far limited to two wines, both from Central Otago.  Today I’m going to try to improve on that slightly, and for a change I’m not going for anything unusual or obscure.  Instead I’m going for something of a benchmark, the Astrolabe Province Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is considered a classic by some, a cliché by others, but it’s indisputably one of if the best known wines of the New World.  It is the wine that put New Zealand on the map, and love it or hate it, it’s not only widely enjoyed but increasingly emulated.

New Zealand has been making wine for almost 200 years, but it is only in the last 40 years that it has produced high quality wine for export.  Vines were first planted in Marlborough only as recently as 1973, but it was in 1985 that Cloudy Bay brought the region and the country to the international stage with their Sauvignon Blanc, and now New Zealand has more Sauvignon Blanc planted than the Loire or Bordeaux, and many time more than Australia.  The more fruit-forward style, combined with gooseberries, bell peppers, and to some palates, cat piss, took the world by storm and advanced New Zealand’s brand as a clean, pristine land producing excellent wines.

Of course wine is a fashion driven industry.  As far as fashion, the world continues to consume no end of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but as a successful industry it has continued to grow and the premium it once commanded for brand New Zealand has been somewhat undermined by the huge increase in supply.  While the wines of New Zealand can still command a premium, it’s not what it once was, and the minimum price you can pay for a bottle continues to drop.

However, I think it’s fair to put most of those concerns behind us for now as we look at Astrolabe, unquestionably one of the premium producers of Marlborough.  Established in 1996 by a group of four friends, the name Astrolabe refers both to the ship of a 19th century French explorer who sailed through the Marlborough Sounds and to the navigational instrument for which it was named.  The A motif on their label is a stylized representation of an actual astrolabe.  Tragically, in October 2011 the company had 4000 cases of wine destined for Ireland on a container ship that was grounded on a reef that shares the company name.

They produce three main types of wines – Province based on regionality of Marlborough in general, Valleys based on subregions within Marlborough, and Vineyards based on single vineyards.  (Until recently, the names for those ranges were Voyage, Discovery and Experience respectively.)  While the majority of their wine is Sauvignon Blanc, they also produce Sauvignon Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.  Their market is exclusively at the top end, meaning restaurant and fine wine trade.

Marlborough itself is worth a word in addition to its place in bringing New Zealand to the forefront with Sauvignon Blanc.  Located at the north end of the South Island around Blenheim, Montana was the company who made a huge investment (and thus took a huge risk) and first planted vines in 1973.  The area is a flat river valley with alluvial soils of silt and water smoothed stones. The climate is maritime, with dry summers and sometimes frosty winters.  Irrigation is a must throughout most of the region.  The explosion of wine production in the region was accompanied by a growth market in contract winemaking which encouraged many growers with no experience in winemaking to produce their own label wines.  Raupara Vintners (once Vin Tech) is described as “the closest thing that New Zealand has to a co-operative winery.”  While Sauvignon Blanc reigns supreme, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fight for distant second and third, and are sometimes both used in the production of sparkling wine.

So that’s the producer and region, which means I’m home and dry since I certainly have discussed the grape, Sauvignon Blanc, before.  Except that I haven’t.  This is not my first Sauvignon Blanc varietal in this blog, but the other one was a Saint-Bris, and the novelty of that overwhelmed my ability to stick to format.  Therefore, on to the grape itself.

Sauvignon Blanc is a classic white grape, traditionally associated with both Bordeaux where it is typically found blended with Semillon for both dry and sweet wines, and the Loire where it is more commonly a dry varietal wine.  It buds late but ripens early.  Its character is determined to a large extent by climate, with high acidity and crisp flavours being pronounced in cooler climates, but with lower acidity and more tropical fruit characters being evident under warmer conditions.  While likely French in origin, it has certainly emerged as an international variety, with plantings not only in Italy, Spain and parts of Eastern Europe, but especially throughout the New World, with California, Chile, South Africa, and Australia joining New Zealand.

In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, with pale lemon green colour and legs when swirled.  On the nose it’s clean, youthful, with medium plus intensity, and notes of green pea, asparagus, lemon-lime, and green pepper (capsicum).  On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium body, medium plus alcohol, medium plus flavour intensity, and notes of green pepper, lemon, sweet pea, and asparagus.  It has a medium plus length and a clean finish.

This is a very good quality wine.  It has some elements of complexity, particularly for such a young wine, but not a huge amount.  What it does have though is intensity.  It’s also well balanced, in that it’s fairly full on throughout.  It’s also strong on typicity – you would not mistake this wine for another variety, nor would you think it was from any other part of the world.

Pin in the map is Blenheim – their office address is a post office box there and that’s the closest I can get for now.

Wild Earth Vineyards Central Otago Pinot Gris 2011

Wild Earth Vineyards Central Otago Pinot Gris 2011

Wild Earth Vineyards Central Otago Pinot Gris 2011

Looking at my recent posts, I’ve been in something of a rut geographically.   Europe, Australia, Europe, Australia.  Some of the recent wines have just been been so interesting that I couldn’t pass them up.  Others were wines I knew I’d like, and I much prefer to write about a wine I like than one I don’t.  And some have just been a bit of laziness on my part, picking up whatever is close at hand.  As a result, much of the New World has been neglected.  New Zealand in particular has been crying out for attention, wondering why I don’t call or email anymore.  So to try to make things right, tonight’s wine is the Wild Earth Vineyards Otago Pinot Gris 2011.

It turns out I’ve only written about New Zealand once before, on Christmas Eve, with the Two Paddocks Pinot Noir, also from Otago, and I certainly enjoyed it.  However, it really brings to light now poorly served New Zealand has been by this blog, in that I haven’t even covered the basics.  If I were on a mission to teach someone about Kiwi wine, I would start with the two cornerstones of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and  Central Otago Pinot Noir.  Then, it would be off to Hawkes Bay with their fantastic Bordeaux red blends, as well as their Syrahs, and then a discussion of New Zealand’s place in the wine world, how it’s been having a great fashion moment with Sauvignon Blanc, and how it can hope to move forward instead of being cast aside when the next big thing arrives.

Fortunately, I’m not really on that kind of mission – I’m just here to tell you what I’m drinking, and a bit about the region, grapes and producer.

Speaking of regions, this hails from Central Otago, a wine region on the southern of the main islands that make up New Zealand. It’s the most southerly wine region in the world.  Being so far south, and at an average elevation of 300 meters, it’s fairly cool.  Unusually for New Zealand, it a continental climate, as the vineyards are protected from a strong maritime influence by the surrounding mountains.  So while the area is on the cool end of the spectrum, the seasonal and diurnal temperature variation is fairly pronounced.  The soil has a base of metamorphic rock with a high mineral content and drains easily.

Central Otago is best know for Pinot Noir, which makes up some 70% of the plantings.  Pinot Gris is a distant second, wich Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer also finding a foothold.  There is some sparkling production, largely making use of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

This is far from the first Pinot Gris/Grigio I’ve covered, though the first from the New World, and to be honest I didn’t write much about the grape itself when I wrote about the Pinot Grigios from Trentino and Friuli Grave.  Pinot Gris/Grigio is a European grape most commonly associated with white wines of Alsace and the north of Italy.  The grapes themselves are generally pinkish, but can range from blue to brown hues, even within a single bunch.  It’s a mutation of Pinot Noir, and until the berries ripen, it is easy to mistake the vines for one another in the vineyard.  It produces well in cool climates, maturing early with good sugar levels.

Internationally, Pinot Gris/Grigio is very well traveled.  While the Alsatian and Italian versions are the best know, there is a surprising large amount planted in Germany, and it can be found throughout eastern Europe.  Beyond Europe, it is planted in the vast majority of New World wine producing countries, including the USA, Canada, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa, and of course New Zealand.

New Zealand as a country has done very well of late with their wines, managing to carve out a high quality/price niche both for their Sauvignon Blancs out of Marlborough and their Pinot Noirs from Central Otago.  However, as wine is a fashion driven industry, particularly with regards to the New World, producers in New Zealand have been looking for the next big thing, or at least have been hedging their bets for when the wine markets want something different.  To that end, plantings of Pinot Grigio within New Zealand have been on the rise, doubling between 2006 and 2009, and becoming the third most planted white variety in 2007.

Wild Earth is a relatively small producer, founded in the late 1990s, producing Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Riesling varietal wines, and a Pinot Noir rosé.  They have 50 acres under vine across two regions of Central Otago – Lowburn where they grow University of California, Davis clones of Pinot Noir, and Bannockburn which is Dijon clones of Pinot Noir as well as small parcels of Pinot Gris and Riesling.

In the glass, this wine was a very pale gold.  On the nose it was of medium intensity, developing, and had notes of Nishi pear nose, blossom, and butterscotch.  On the palate I got more pear and apple with medium minus acidity, and a medium body.  It has a pleasant flavour, if not overly complex.  It had a slightly sour finish, though the length was short enough that it didn’t trouble me.  This was a fine “by the glass” wine, and a good value at that, but I think there’s room for improvement.

Pin in the map is the Bannock Burn Vineyard’s address.

Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006

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Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006

Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006

I’ve neglected New Zealand since I started writing, not for any reason in particular, but just because I haven’t had any of their wines at hand and hadn’t gone out of my way to pick up any.  In fact, I’ve been to New Zealand twice, and while only one trip was wine related, it is a lovely country, they produce some fantastic wines, and I was proud to put on a New Zealand jersey to support them when I watched one of their draws in South Africa a year and a half ago.  Their national team in football/soccer is the All Whites, as opposed to their rugby squad which is the All Blacks.  It was potentially awkward, being an All Whites supported in South Africa, but no harm came of it.

As to their wine, they’re a very fortunate country.  They’ve come to the international wine trade business relatively recently, but they’ve done well to establish themselves with good quality wines across the board, and as such brand New Zealand commands better prices than most countries in important markets such as the UK.  They made a certain style of Sauvignon Blanc fashionable, to the point that some Old World producers have made changes to their winemaking.  While they don’t get quite the same value per bottle they did a few years back, New World producers (and some Old) would love to be the next Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc.

So while New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has certainly had an impressive rise on international markets to the point that I believe it’s not in decline, they haven’t quite had the same success with Pinot Noir.  It’s been a success, certainly, but more a success in establishing itself as a category and Central Otago as a region, rather than dominating a whole sector the way New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc did.

When I bought this bottle I was of two minds.  First, I wanted a Kiwi Pinot Noir where my notes would broadly be applicable to a wide range of their offerings.  On the other hand, I also wanted a wine I’d be happy to enjoy with a meal.  Two Paddocks is a well known New Zealand producer, and while it’s not exactly the most common wine on the shelves, this one ticks both boxes I was after.  This is a wine you can find around the world, and it is very typical of the Central Otago style.  It’s a step up from their Picnic Wines, but at roughly $40/bottle it’s not overly expensive.  The only thing that really would set it apart from what’s most readily available in this category is its age – as a 2006 it’s at least a couple of years older than the current release.

It’s a lovely wine – lots of sour cherry and herbs.  At five years old, it’s not so fruit forward that I immediately think New World, but when I look at the colour I can see that the age is the factor in the restraint, not the winemaking.  The herbs are quite savoury, and I look forward to tasting something like this next to a Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills to pick out the differences.  I know they have a different flavour profile, but it’s book learning and I would love to internalize it with some glasses in front of me.

Appearance

Clear and bright, medium-plus garnet, quick legs.

Nose

Clean, developing, with medium intensity of iodine, red cherry, herbs and cinnamon.

Palace

Dry, with medium intensity, medium fine tannins, medium-plus acidity, medium alcohol and medium-minus body.  Notes of black pepper, sour black cherry, herbs and a gamey character.  Medium-plus length and a spicy finish.

Conclusions

This is a very good quality wine – while not particularly intense, the flavour profile is very pleasing and complex across fruit, herb/spice and meat characters.  While the body is relatively light and the acidity relatively high, it works for a wine of this style.  While it’s showing its age of five years, I think there is more to come as fruit will give way to further secondary characters.  Can drink now, will improve over the next three years.