Standing on the side of the Kawarau River, it crossed my mind that you really have to think the pioneering spirit of old is still alive and well in Central Otago. Only these days it’s in the form of boutique vineyard owners rather than gold prospectors (and the gold comes in the form of show medals than nuggets). Surely the work is just as intense and the likelihood of turning a profit about the same?
We were at the Georgetown Vineyard of Ian and Marianne Dee. It’s tiny, just 1.4ha, nestled in a thin strip of land between the blue-green river and Kawarau Gorge Road, close planted with pinot noir and scattered with remnants of its former life as a sheep run. There’s also an old and very picturesque miners’ hut which these days doubles as a tasting room, providing a wonderfully evocative link to the area’s past.
The idea is to keep things close to Burgundian techniques: vines are small and low pruned, there’s as little irrigation as possible and a hands-off approach to winemaking (wines are made by Ian offsite at Packspur, literally a ‘garagiste’ outfit if ever there were one).
Ian says, “Being as small as we are enables us to really focus on every square metre of our little pocket of Central Otago. It’s from these little plot that the quality individual wines come. That’s what I think a big part of artisan wine is about.”
You can’t help but admire his dedication and enthusiasm for the task (he is up for lively discussion on all topics vinous and I don’t doubt anything else you might care to debate) and it’s presumably this passion that helps him and Marianne pour in long hours and plenty of resources to their vineyard and wines. In this sense, Georgetown is probably closer to Burgundy than Ian might hope – a passionately-tended vineyard, the family-run enterprise intent on nurturing their vines and expressing their site. This is heartening, for as much as we need the large exporters, the high-flyers and the deep-pocketed show ponies, we also need the tiny, mum-and-dad outfits who help fill in the tapestry of the industry and illuminate the emerging differences within the regions and sub-regions. Still gold in them thar hills…
2010 Georgetown Pinot Noir
Still tight and youthful but nose is starting to open to reveal fruits in the exotic spectrum; a bold expression of Central Otago fruit. Soft and supple upfront then a bite of tannin in a big mouthfilling style. Just lacks a wee bit of length.
2009 Georgetown Pinot Noir
Plenty of black cherry, eau de vie, some spicy star anise, and new oak; the 2009 offers brighter fruit in a generous, very opulent style. Tannins are supple, alcohol shows a little, moderate richness and length.
2012 Pinot Rosé
Very pale, light onion skin. Bright fruity nose of red berries, ripe pear, quite sweet fruit with a bit of spice. Nice palate weight, dry and well balanced. Has a light crisp finish, seems well suited to food, a pleasant style.