Roger Jones… in Medlar’s dining room… with Nigel Greening… and 33 vintages of Felton Road. It does read like a Cluedo card and it does feel like there will be a prostrate body discovered somewhere during proceedings. But, far from it – Felton Road’s Nigel Greening was in town, hitting the circuit to promote the Felton Road 2021 vintage – this Central Otago-based winery’s 25th vintage release. And what better way to analyse this estate’s short but influential journey than opening a raft of library bottles alongside the new wines to demonstrate their future trajectory?
“From 2023 the 2021 Felton Road Vin Gris will be made every year where possible and available exclusively to restaurants in the UK for house pour,” writes Jones at the Felton Road 2021 vintage launch.
Roger Jones joined Nigel for lunch at Medlar on the Kings Road for an in depth tasting followed by lunch with even more wines including a fabulous bottle of the 1995 Felton Road Pinot Noir, supplied by Mimi Avery from her cellar.
The 1995 Felton Road Pinot Noir, was a trial wine made by Grant Taylor at Gibbstone, at the request of Christopher Fielden, the well known UK wine importer of the time, with two hogsheads produced. No wine was made in 1996 with the grapes going to Gibbstone for their own reserve wine, but in 1997 Felton Road’s young winemaker; Blair Walter produced the first estate bottle of Felton Road that Robert Parker immediately hailed as a perfect “ringer’ to challenge the great wines of Burgundy.
I have had the privilege of buying Felton Road directly from the Greening family for many years and also visited the estate, which is not only an organic and biodynamic but practises a closed gate policy. Here on site everything is supported from inside the estate whether it is feeding the staff, water or fuel. Greening and Walter continue to strive for perfection and also love to share their spoils.
There are three Rieslings made at the estate; Felton Road Bannockburn (which was simply called Felton Road Riesling prior to 2010) which is a Germanic style, similar to Mosel in my mind, luscious in youth but evolves beautifully, the Felton Road Dry Riesling, as it says this is a ‘Dry style’ not quite as dry as the Australian bone dry wines but a ‘serious’ style that, again, ages beautifully. Finally, the Felton Road Block 1 Riesling made to age, sourced from steeper slopes which yields ‘riper fruit’, this wine is made in the style similar to a late harvest Mosel Spatlese (without noble rot);. Both the Bannockburn and Block 1 are 9.5% alcohol, whilst the Dry Riesling is 12.5%.
Felton Road Dry Riesling 2001under cork
Tangerine but a touch oxidised, highlighting the power of the stelvin. As it opens up you certainly can tell that sadly the cork has failed with this partnership.
Felton Road Riesling 2002 (aka Bannockburn)
Stunning, fresh, focused with lovely rich fruit, a hint of tropical fruit, juicy, textured, lingering – the mouthfeel on the finish is beautiful, so full of sunshine – fresh even after being opened for some time.
Felton Road Block 1 Riesling 2002
Much more fruit-driven than the previous wine, rich and textured, full and more Germanic in style, still young though, chalky and creamy. It’s the depth and texture that highlights these superb Block 1s but still so youthful with decades of life ahead of them.
Latest release Rieslings
Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling 2021
Full-flavoured, luscious with some clementine and sunshine, easy drinking now especially with sashimi or tempura.
Felton Road Dry Riesling 2021
Citrus lemon curd, textured, herbaceous with great depth, this has a fresh, crisp outlook that powers ahead, with minerality and focus.
Felton Road Block 1 Riesling 2021
Complex, luscious, with great depth, creamy, some chalk, layers and layers of complexity, lots of clementine fruit and class.
Felton Road Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2002
Lively, precise, juicy white stone fruit, quite superb, some minerality, there is spice and a racy feel as it evolves.
Felton Road Chardonnay Elms 2002
Savoury and herbaceous then bright clean fruit as it opens up – clean and linear.
Felton Road Chardonnay Elms 2011
Textured, savoury, dark-fruited, bruised stone fruit, a touch funky, ripe Pear William – the oak seems forward with a butterscotch note.
Felton Road Bannockburn Chardonnay 2011
Focused, clean, pure and precise, gentle stone fruit, clean and fresh.
More recent Chardonnay
Felton Road Bannockburn Chardonnay 2018
Steely mineral, focused, I love the purity, precise stone fruit, hint of stone, flint, savoury and pure.
Felton Road Bannockburn Chardonnay 2019
Chunky, young unripe stone fruit, soft acidity, taut, needs time, not as forward as the 2020.
Felton Road Bannockburn Chardonnay 2020
Focused, orchard fruit, stone fruit evolves gently in the background, some savoury herbaceous flavours
Felton Road Bannockburn Chardonnay 2021
Bright clean, mineral, melon, pear, saline, joyful.
Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay 2021
Taut, some stone fruit, savoury, young, a lovely balance with mineral nuances and saline, clean and precise.
Felton Road Block 6 Chardonnay 2021
Focused with some flint, restrained, elegant, peaches and pears with gentle acidity, brioche and almonds, lingering clean and focused on the finish.
Felton Road Vin Gris 2021
Pale rose gold in colour and made from saignéed (to bleed off), free run Pinot Noir juice from Cornish Point. Only a small amount made and only in specific vintages, with the last being 2016, but from 2023 onwards it will be made every year where possible and available exclusively to restaurants in the UK for house pour.
The varietal notes of Pinot Noir are evident in this gently fruited and broadly textured wine. Red berry freshness on this blush white wine, you can definitely tell the Pinot Noir element, the freshness on the palate is quite superb,… fresh, focused and linear.
Felton Road Pinot Noir 1995
Intense purity, focused, dark fruited with great freshness. The fresh clean intensity of raspberries coming through is amazing, so clean with focused hints of copper and gentle red meat juices, luscious and full, as it evolves in the glass it starts to fade. As noted in the introduction this was made at Gibbstone and made in limited quantities and all shipped to the UK, Felton Road still carries this original label.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2008
Bright, clean, a touch smokey with fresh, clean acidity, there’s a plummy maybe stewed element, mushroom – not quite as fresh as the 1995 certainly, as it opens up there is a gripping forest floor feel.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2009
Textured, ripe with some tannin, fresh and bright, juicy dark cherries, chewy, sinew, and again falling slightly on the finish but still clean.
Greening stated that “2012 was ou ‘renaissance with earlier picking, an end to all additions and restraint in the cellar.”
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2012
Dark fruited, damson, savoury, precise, dark and brooding, Juicy and dark fruited, it has got that lovely intensity
Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point 2014
Fresh, focused with great purity, juicy, fresh clean, loved it. This was Greening’s favourite with sweetness of the fruit at the fore. Elegant and evolving beautifully – the acidity – wow! that precision and freshness.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert 2015
Clean, focused, pure, fresh acidity. A touch of juicy young venison/ game flavour, bitter fruit in a good way, truffled then some dark berries.
The Young Guns
Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert 2021
Ripe cherries, clean, focused, some taut tannin, clusters of small berries, seamless and will age beautifully – smooth, then juicy on the finish with strawberries and spice.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point 2021
Clean and focused, a sleeping beauty, so balanced, textured, closed currently, red berries with gentle tannin.
Felton Road Pinot Noir MacMuir 2021
Silky, textured elegance, dried red berries, restrained savoury feel, gentle acidity and on the finish there is this subtle herbaceous nots – sage and rosemary.
Greening says: “MacMuir is the first new Pinot Noir for us since Cornish Point with the 2007 vintage and Calvert in 2006. The land was part of the original Calvert holding that we began leasing in 2001 when it was a hay paddock and, later, a nut orchard. After several years of working on the soils while pestering Owen, he eventually relented and agreed to sell it. We commenced planting in 2012 to a higher density, improved row orientation and some new Burgundy clonal selections of 828 and 943, along with our own carefully selected Abel, and some other favourites.”
“While it’s just a few hundred metres west of our Calvert vineyard, it impressed from the first harvest with its deeper and richer soils always providing an intensity of fruit and plushness. This vineyard has contributed impressively to the Bannockburn Pinot Noir for many vintages now, but this unique voice deserved to be heard alone.”
“MacMuir has been priced at where we think the overall quality sits: between the other single vineyard wines and the considerably older vines, not to mention reputation, of the single block wines. It is a formidable addition to the range,” says Greening.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2021
Savoury and spiced with dark red fruits, some stem, cocoa and freshness.
Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2021
Love the juicy, meaty, roast lamb blood juices, with hints of rhubarb, spice, cocoa and truffle – seamless finish with a lovely gentle feel.
An insight into Bannockburn Pinot Noir
Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2017
Cherry, spice, rhubarb, cocoa, spice, savoury and a touch dusty
Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2018
Glowing in the glass – toffee, lamb juice, red berry, beautifully balanced with a clean focus, hints of strawberries and frais de bois, meaty nose, evolves beautifully,
Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2019
Relaxed, a touch closed, refined, a mix of dark and red berries and forest floor. Evolving.
Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2020
Clean, fresh – all about the cherries (yellow and blush), savoury grip, focused and taut.
Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2021
Gentle perfume, so clean and refined with delicate red fruits; quite superb, I love the gentle spice on the finish, enjoy now in its infancy or keep to see this excel.
From one chef to another – Chapeau!
What a spectacular lunch this was – held at Medlar, the UK’s most friendly “Corkage” fine dining restaurant.
Crab raviolo with samphire, brown shrimps, fondue of leeks and bisque sauce, a stable on the menu and delivers perfection each time; rich but light, intense flavour but a clean masterpiece.
Ballotine of guinea fowl with yellow wax beans, ricotta gnocchi and salsa verde was a great foil to the older Pinots.
Under blade fillet with Café de Paris snails, stuffed portobello, shallot purée and béarnaise – certainly an influence here from Greenings who is by no means an amateur cook but a rather refined chef. A rich textured dish that evolved the 12, 14 and 15 Pinots.
If you love cheese you are in your element at Medlar, and an array of strong cheeses were matched perfectly to the 2002 Felton Road Block 1 Riesling.
Behind the Pinot Noir label
Hate calling this an ‘entry level’ wine, but it is a blend of the Elms, Calvert and Cornish Point Vineyards, matured for 11 months on oak then bottled without filtration.
Six kilometers from the winery – this wine has a sturdy and powerful style that ages well. Matured in French oak barriques, think plums and spice.
From the Calvert Vineyard, which neighbours Felton Road – think perfume, cherries and a bright vivacity that allows early drinking and excels over time.
Grown on the estate on a north-facing slope, 270 metres above sea level, high clay content in the soil, giving dried herbs and ripe fruit characters. Matured for about a year in Burgundy oak barrels.
Grown on the estate, and is Blair’s favourite Pinot, aged in mature barrels for a year before further time in seasoned oak casks. Meaty and gamey to the fore, a deeper style to the Block 3.