The Buyer
Discovering lesser known Pinot heroes: Pinot Noir NZ 2017 Day 2

Discovering lesser known Pinot heroes: Pinot Noir NZ 2017 Day 2

Pinot Noir NZ 2017 Day Two started with an international masterclass that highlighted eight international Pinot Noirs. After ruminating on the words ‘greatness’ and ‘perfection’ Michelin-starred chef Roger Jones went in search of both amongst the tables of winemakers, some of which are well known in the UK and others were wonderful discoveries.

Roger Jones
1st February 2017by Roger Jones
posted in Tasting: Wine ,

Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and North Canterbury are three areas that Roger Jones finds winemakers producing Pinot Noir that is near perfection.

It is Pinot Noir NZ 2017 Day Two and we are instructed to meet at 8.15 am to explore the ‘greatness’ of Pinot Noir – these being wines selected by an esteemed panel of four and the vision was to highlight each panel’s inspiration and thoughts on this wonderful grape. New Zealand Pinots were not allowed to be selected.

All Blacks – not quite ‘great’

I personally have an issue with ‘greatness’ or ‘perfection’. Nothing can be perfect, and the word ‘greatness’ fails to allow development, in the same way as an Olympian in 1960 could not deliver the same quality that an Olympian delivers now.

If you achieve ‘greatness’ there is nothing to achieve, and this is the backbone of being an All Black, who strive to be better every day.

International Pinot Masterclass, or should that be Aussie Pinot Masterclass?

Quiet please and no conferring

Four esteemed international panelists were challenged to present two Pinots each to an audience of over 500 wine enthusiasts.

Each of the panelists highlighted their vision for Pinot, and had decided on their wines nearly a year ago but had not conferred with each other, thus out of eight wines presented, three were from Australia and a further wine was made by an Australian, in Burgundy.

The panel consisted of Jancis Robinson OBE, MW, no introduction needed, German born Marcel Giesen who, together with his wife own Bell Hill Vineyard in North Canterbury, Japanese wine retail entrepreneur Kenichi Ohashi MW, and Australian wine geek, Mike Bennie.

The wines chosen were as follows;

Jancis Robinson OBE, MW

Mark Haisma, Morey Saint Denis, Burgundy Premier Cru Les Chaffots 2013

Mark Haisma. (Pic Chrissy Rasmussen)

Australian maverick Mark Haisma who makes wines in France, both in Burgundy and the Rhone, highlights how a bit of New World can aspire Old World Burgundy. Lovely fresh purity, precise clean and feminine in style.

Tolpuddle, Coal River Valley, Tasmania 2015

Under the guidance of Adelaide’s Shaw and Smith family, this wine highlights the quality that can be sourced from Tasmania – savoury and seductive.

Marcel Giesen

Marcel went to California, to inspire his choices, with Au Bon Climat 2015 and Domaine de la Côte, Bloom’s Field 2014 both from Santa Rita Hills offering two wines that were immense in purity, and exciting, fresh, bright, lower in alcohol compared to most Californian wines and above all vibrant, but definitely New World style.

Mike Bennie

Clearly Mike had put some incredible thought into his choices and wanted to tease the audience with his selection. First was a Swiss wine, Mythopia, Arbaz 2013, was a funky, tomato stalk, individual wine that challenged the audience, whilst his Mount Pleasant, Mother Vine 2014 from the Hunter Valley was a brilliant masterpiece. This stunning wine had clarity, depth and a wonderful texture, I know the Hunter Valley, but never knew that they could produce such stunning Pinots.

Kenichi Ohashi

Dr Mayer, Pinot, Yarra Valley 2014

This to me was the closest to Burgundy, the balance, complexity and wonderful mouth feel was quite hedonistic.

Meyer, Nakel, Ahr, Germany, Spatburgunder 2014

We sell this wine, it is a wonderful expression of how good Germany are at making Pinot Noir. Juicy, wet stone river, bright, precise just a stunning wine to drink.

Time for me to explore some of the smaller Pinot-producing areas of NZ

Following the Masterclass, and 5,000 Riedel Pinot glasses to be washed (not by me I might add), there were other inspired lectures, group meetings and discussions from music and wine to ‘Aspiring to be Kick Ass!’

My time, however, was focused on the smaller Pinot areas of New Zealand and I spent a wonderful afternoon inspired by some rather exciting wines, from the smaller regions of New Zealand.

Lime Rock – Hawke’s Bay

On the Southern district of Hawke’s Bay, a husband and wife team that produce some pretty exciting, small bespoke wines, I was lucky enough to visit their vineyards on my last trip to New Zealand and they certainly deliver some exciting wines, and often find pre-historic fossils on their land. Aussie winemaker and owner Rodger together with his wife Rosie are a charming couple, that you cannot fail to fall in love not only with their beautiful homestead but their kindness and friendship.

Ata Rangi – Martinborough – Wairarapa

Clive Paton, a wryly little winger who scored against The British Lions back in the day, started Ata Rangi back in the 1980s, I have been a supporter and collector for many years and together now with the inspirational Helen Masters making the wines, this estate is a benchmark for the region.

Craggy Range – Martinborough – Wairarapa

(l-r) Roger Jones, Helen Masters, winemaker at Ata Rangi, Matt Stafford, winemaker at Craggy Range

Craggy was set up to develop and source the finest wines in New Zealand, their base is in Hawke’s Bay, but they produce two Pinot Noir wines in Martinborough, and their aim is to express the individuality of wines and terroir.

Their prestige Cuvée, Aroha from the Te Mina Road district of Martinborough is a clsssic thought-provoking wine that delivers class. Aromatic, spiced, dark fruit, this is a complex wine that evolves with time. The purity is just right, there is a great balance of raspberries to cherries and a real underlying excitement – this is a wine to treasure and age.

Dry River – Martinborough – Wairarapa

Tried the 2015 and 2013, both displayed a level of beautiful class, the 2015 is a hedonistic perfumed masterpiece, fresh bright, cranberries and sweet cherries, long and luscious, that will develop and age with grace.

Kusuda – Martinborough – Wairarapa

Hiroyuki Kusuda

Established in 2001 through rented vineyards, and fully established in 2015 when they purchased their vineyards, this Japanese-influenced winery is one of the most sought after wine brands in New Zealand – the bright, clean, precise purity of the wines is a reflection of the time, energy and precision that goes into their production. Since 2015 a better control on their cork closures has increased the level of perfection.

The 2014 was one of the wines of 2016 as chosen by Peter Dean, The Buyer’s Drinks Editor.

Martinborough – Martinborough – Wairarapa

As the name states this is a classic Martinborough Pinot, one of the first to be established in the area in the early 1980s – winemaker Paul Mason delivers wines of great depth and purity. His Marie Zelie 2013 is a fabulous, bright, fresh, soothing wine. Mason just delivers a classic feminine Pinot so much so that I had written in my notes “pretty and near-perfect”.

Schubert – Martinborough – Wairarapa

German-born Kai Schubert is a rather special kind of guy, his and Marion Deimoing’s wines just ooze with class and purity – ripe, luscious and youthful in their freshness, wines that glow in the glass, but there is an underlying complexity that makes them special. Top of the class was a 2014 Block B.

(Kai and Mario are pictured in the main image of this feature)

Escarpment – Martinborough – Wairarapa

Larry needs his own story – a legend and myth of Martinborough, watch this space.

Southbound again! This time I’m heading to North Canterbury

Rog, there are some ‘vineyard areas’ that look decidedly like drops of wine 😉

Moving away from the township of Martinborough to the South Island and the area of North Canterbury, this is a region that is yet to fully develop its potential, the wineries currently there are at the top of their game, producing very exciting high quality Pinot. Only 35 wineries currently exist here and are, in the main, small and privately owned.

Pegasus Bay – North Canterbury

The Donaldson family is the pioneer of the region and produces wines of great purity and precision, the style and process very much in the Burgundian way. And, importantly, they age their wines before release.

Pegasus Bay Prima Donna – I tried three different vintages, and here highlight the 2006 but could equally have waxed lyrically about all their wines, words like ‘purity’, ‘stunning’, ‘precise’ are littered in my notes, just a joy to drink.

Bell Hill – North Canterbury

Slightly out on its limb in a hidden-away, picture-perfect gem of a place.

I have to admire owner and winemaker Marcel who challenged himself to cook me dinner when I visited his beautiful homestead. German born and a man of quietly spoken wisdom he, together with his wife, Sherwyn produces wines that are rather special.

The 2008 Pinot was a mineral-induced classic Burgundy-influenced wine, with spiced cherries, a fabulous background depth of juicy roast legs of young lamb oozing out of the glass… superb quality and wines that shout out for fine food.

And talking of fine food and Pinot Noir… just look at this wine list from the evening’s festivities. Not bad eh?