Central Pinot or Pinot Central?

By | 01/02/2016

Having departed a beautifully sunny and ever-spectacular Central Otago with heavy heart, the opening of a brief window before the plunge into the inaugural International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration has allowed a moment for a few brief thoughts.

The Centralistas should be proud of what they’ve achieved with their Pinot Celebration. Their willingness to be open, explore new territory and continue to ask questions of themselves and us makes this an exciting event to visit and should be applauded (as should the fact that these guys know how to have FUN. Back away very carefully from the dance floor if you value your sanity).

What shines through very clearly is that though they may be in competition with each other, they have worked out there is much more to gain collaborating in what makes their remarkable piece of land tick, learning about how to tease out more of its expression in their wines. The era of simple Central Otago fruit bombs has passed and commentators suggesting it as the ‘Barossa of Pinot’ are displaying more about their own ignorance than enlightening their readers about what is really going on on Central. The balance, elegance and earth seen in a great many wines is now a more defining character and I don’t think it would be too long a bow to draw to say Central is now at the forefront of ‘terroir’ exploration (and expression) in New Zealand, however you conceive of that.

Jane and I will write up our time as COPNL’s guests fully once we emerge from this stimulating run of wine fora (after Blenheim we are off to Gisborne for the New Zealand Chardonnay and Sparkling Symposium) but for now, a few wines that caught my eye are listed here:

2015 Carrick Sauvignon Blanc – stony, dry, taut and finely herbal, could be easy to overlook this but it works a subtle magic, keeping you returning as it unfolds in the glass.
2014 Amisfield Fumé Blanc – a complete contrast to the Carrick. I’m not sure where all the new oak disappeared to in this wine but it is impressively integrated and beautifully rich.
2014 Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir – reminded me of Blair. Might wear a flowery shirt but at its heart is thoughtful and meticulous.
2012 Rippon Mature Vine Riesling – textural, vivid, vital. Could have drunk the whole bottle.
2015 Mount Edward Albarino – I now tend to inwardly roll my eyes when seeing varieties like this in NZ but this wine made me realize that I was just displaying MY ignorance. It’s really good.
2014 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir – loved this. Everything good pinot should be: complex, compact and characterful but not self-conscious at all – has a wonderful blitheness.
2014 Doctor’s Flat Pinot Noir – fragrant, juicy, very complete palate, fine powdery tannins. Not yet released but as any Doctor’s Flat pinot is good, just buy them all.
2007 Ceres Pinot Noir – must have been a monster when it was young as the tannins are still stern but now wrapped beautifully in savoury and impressively primary fruity richness; drinking very smartly indeed, no rush.
2014 JF Ganevat Côtes du Jura ‘Julien en Billat’ – a natural wine I’d actually buy. I think I’ll stop now.

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