New World Pinot Noir
John Pierce

Well, what to do about star riatings? This lot were blind tasted by an expert panel (and me) and are in ascending order of scores.So obviosly I think they are all deserving of a star or two. In the end, I've taken price into account and marked accordingly.

1. Spy Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2005
Clean, fruity - strawbewrry, red and blackcurrants – soft tannins and some spicy oak. Hand picked and gently crushed into 5 tonne ferment tanks. After a short period cold soaking fermentation started naturally with wild vineyard yeasts. Hand plunged. Finally, pressed off the skins and aged in oak barrels for 12 months. Ex-Papillon Wines (bought by Adams)
McHughs 9.95 (normally €16.95)

2. Innocent Bystander, Victoria, Australia, 2008
I love the name and the label! Clean, clear, spicy. Good acidity. Grip. Strawberries and cherries with a lovely finish. The winemaker says: “nose of dark cherries, cranberry juice, fresh raspberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, truffles, with underlying meaty, wet earth and mushroom characters. Juicy, succulent fresh berries with a slippery, rich and slightly tart finish. Good with char grilled quail and rosemary, Peking duck pancakes, San Daniele prosciutto and Washed rind, aged Beaufort and Gruyere cheeses”.
From five vineyards: Quarry Ridge and Little Cathedral (Port Phillip) and Arthurs Creek, Slatey Creek and Lone Star Creek (Yarra Valley). Fruit was destemmed but not crushed to open top fermenters. A three to seven day cold soak at eight degrees was followed by fermentation with mainly indigenous yeast strains. Hand plunged (one to two times a day). Matured in a combination of French oak and stainless steel.
Jus de Vine 13.99

3. Saintsbury ‘Garnet’, Napa, California, USA, 2004
A very light wine and elegant wine that, I think, goes well on its own. “Gentleness and restraint” go into it, according to the wine-maker. In late winter, after all lots have completed malolactic fermentation and have been resting in small French oak barrels, they taste through the barrels looking for those lotsthat show a balance of tannin and acid, fruit flavors that while rich, dark-red and complex, are not overblown or leaning toward the burnt jam style of Pinot. Our Carneros bottling delivers distinctive Pinot Noir character in a wine of power, grace and elegance.
Sweeneys 22.00

4. Ata Rangi ‘Crimson’, New Zealand, 2007
A lovely garnet colour. Strawberry and mocha. Soft and lively tannins, wine gums, coconut. Evolving, complex and spicy but currently with a hole in the kiddle that prevented me giving it higher marks.
It’s a blend of younger vines fruit from Martinborough (a more structured and textural pinot from the very small 2007 vintage (cold flowering weather and spring frosts reduced yields to less than 0.5T/acre) and Central Otago (Tarras) – bright, earlier drinking, lifted red-fruit aromatics. Winemaker Helen Masters created an accessible and immediately delicious wine with real depth, character and complexity that will evolve and soften over the next 2 to 3 years. Floral hints enhance the brambly, spicy nose which opens with a little time to a richer spectrum including chocolate, dark cherries and hints of licorice. There’s a structured core of fine tannin running centrally through the sweet, ripe fruit on the palate, making this a succulent food wine.
Sales support the work of Project Crimson, a charitable conservation trust established in 1990 for the protection of New Zealand’s iconic native red-flowering trees - pohutukawa, and northern and southern rata. Ata Rangi founder Clive Paton has long been an avid conservationist and tree planter.
Jus de Vine 23.99

5. Stonier Reserve, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia, 2004
Light colour; very French. Slight volatile acidity. Austere, decent acid. Lovely finish. They say it’s a fruit-driven, early-drinking style made from younger vines but, to my mind, this has aged beautifully.
The contrast of the hottest December on record, then a cool and windy January and February gave us early concerns for the 2004 vintage. Fortunately, March and April stayed warm and dry, and allowed the full ripening of the slightly more substantial crops than the previous two years. Pinot Noir from the oldest vineyards was fermented in small, open fermenters, with about 25% receiving extended skin maceration, and around 5% being whole bunch fermented. Post ferment it was pressed to French oak (30% new) for malolactic fermentation and ageing with minimal winemaking interference before bottling in April, 2005. The 2004 Reserve shows typical intensity and purity of fruit reflecting the older vineyards from which it is sourced, and has the structure to reward medium term cellaring.
Deep, bright red. Aromas of plums, redcurrants and maraschino cherries, with some floral, violet complexity and subtle French oak bouquet. Rich red fruit flavours and a typically generous and silky mid-palate are balanced by good acidity, and fine grain tannins give great length and structure.
Alcohol: 13.5%; pH: 3.51;TA: 6.4 g/L; Bottled: Apr, 2005; Released: Nov, 2005
Jus de Vine 29.99

6. Wild Earth, Central Otago, New Zealand, 2007
Beefy, fruity nose. Good acid, complex, fruity, fresh, decent tannins. Lovely finish; no off notes at all. The grapes for this wine came from Bannockburn Estate Vineyards and Lowburn Estate Vineyard. The Bannockburn vineyard is composed of predominantly Dijon clone vines and Lowburn is planted mainly in clones 5 and 6. The cooler spring and early summer led to a slow start to the growing season, and unsettled weather in December affected flowering and fruit-set. Small clusters and berries were typical throughout the region, resulting in lower than expected yields. However, a warm and dry February and March promoted good ripening and clean, high quality fruit. The juice extraction rate was low, reflecting the smaller berry size/bunch weights.
Ripe, clean fruit was hand-harvested from in late March and April 2007. Ten different fermentations were undertaken for this blend from different clones. The fruit was de-stemmed/crushed, settled, and fermented slowly in open top stainless steel tanks. The must was left for 3-4 days on cold and pumped over once a day during this time. Around 30% of the ferments were innoculated with wild yeast. The wines were then plunged three times a day for the first third of the ferment and then increased to four plunges per day at ferment peak of 32° Celsius. The wine spent an average of 2-3 weeks on skins to extract tannin, colour and aromatics. They were then gently drained, pressed and tank settled, before racking to French oak barriques, of which 30% were new oak. The wines were kept cool and humid in the barrel hall until spring, topped frequently, with lees stirring taking place during elevage. The room was then warmed and the barrels underwent malo-lactic fermentation. The wines were then racked out of barrel and blended in tank in February, before undergoing egg-white fining and cross-flow filtration; then bottled in early April.
The wine offers generous berry and forest fruit on the nose, in a concentrated bouquet that leads you in to a richly textured palate with layers of intense, dark fruit and spices. The silky tannins complement a well structured wine with great length of flavour on the palate. Careful cellaring will see this wine develop wonderfully from rich fruit elements to more complex savoury tones.
Alcohol: 14 %, Titratable Acidity: 5.4g/L, pH: 3.45, Residual Sugar: <1.0g/L
Jus de Vine 29.99

7. Mad Fish, Western Australi, 2007
Light red, lots of legs, an Oxo nose. A whole symphony of flavours with fruit pastilles overlaying everything.
Sourced from a variety of vineyards throughout the Great Southern region of Western Australia. Great Southern Pinot Noir produces fruit that shows an opulent black cherry and strawberry flavour profile. The 2007 vintage started with very warm conditions which led to early budburst and flowering and the fruit came to maturity earlier than normal. These warm conditions and early ripening led to fruit that showed rich and full flavours. Nearly half of the fruit was hand-picked, allowing the selection of very clean and sound fruit. The remaining fruit was gently de-stemmed, crushed and chilled and was then pumped to a static fermenter where it underwent cold maceration for optimal colour extraction. Fermentation was by an addition of one of a number of Burgundian cultured yeast isolates. The fermenting must was allowed to reach temperatures of around 32°, excellent for tannin extraction in the variety. Fermentation took approximately ten days including aerative pump-overs during this time. The wine was pressed off its skins at the completion and was then settled for a short period in tank before being racked off its gross lees. The wine was matured in French oak barrels for about 12 months where it underwent malolactic fermentation. Each parcel of fruit was then individually assessed for the final blend to ensure an optimal expression of fruit.
Tasting Notes: This wine has a wonderful brilliant crimson cherry hue. The nose has elegant and attractive aromas of red cherry, strawberry and earth. The palate is also reminiscent of strawberry but tends towards black rather than red cherry and slightly tart plums. The palate also exhibits forest floor characters and a firm yet subtle backbone of tannin. These tannins are palate covering and elegant and finish wonderfully with a slight acid twang.
Cellaring Notes Notes: This wine is perfect for immediate consumption for those who enjoy a luxurious and fruit driven style. Those who have patience to cellar will be rewarded with a more elegant and restrained wine showing more earthy and leathery characters after about four years.
McHughs 18.95

8. Waipara Springs, Waipara, New Zealand, 2008
Light, pale, almost pink. A bit closed; raspberry. Lovely mouthfeel, good fruit, spice, acid; well-balanced. A lovely long, finish.
Each vineyard block was hand harvested separately and delivered to the winery to be put across a sorting table. After de-stemming the grapes were tipped into small open topped fermenters and cold soaked for 6-7 days with daily pump-overs. The parcels then underwent an un-inoculated fermentation with hand plunging twice daily. Post ferment the vats stayed on skins for up to 4 weeks with gentle pumping over until the desired tannin integration was achieved. After pressing the wines went into French oak for the winter and in the spring underwent natural Malolactic fermentation. The wines remained in barrel until racking, blending and bottling in the following winter.
The focus for our 2008 Waipara Springs Pinot noir was to create an elegant complex wine with an emphasis on fruit expression, structure and complexities with ripe flavours. Harvested at physiological ripeness, it has sweet red berry fruit and vanilla aromas with hints of complexities. On the palate the low pH gives elegance to the natural fruit sweetness and the minimal extraction has resulted in a fine tannin structure. Cellar with the confidence of screwcap.
McHughs €16.95

9. De Bortoli, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia, 2007
Farm, decent acid, good fruit. Strawberries. Gorgeous!
Elegant Pinot Noir fruit aroma with red currants, cherry and raspberry, subtle spice and forest floor. Medium bodied but building weight across the palate. Richly textured, long and fine with gentle but obvious tannin.
2008 saw timely December and January rainfall followed by warm dry days and cool nights. Harvest dates were earlier than normal. With some January rainfall we actually got to pick out some botrytis affected fruit on the sorting table.
Fruit is sourced from from 4 estate vineyards planted in 1971, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2002. Vines are cane pruned to 25 buds per vine and shoot thinned at the 10-15cm stage so that there are no more than18 bunches per vine. The vines are hand picked into 8kg buckets and transported to the winery. The fruit is then hand sorted and destemmed to 6 tonne open fermenters. Fermentation proceeds naturally with ambient yeast from the vineyard and winery . After 21 days maceration and fermentation, the wine is carefully drained to tank and allowed to rest for 24hours. The clear wine was then racked via gravity to French oak casks for 10 months. Will continue to develop complexity and interest for up to 10 years if stored in a good cellar. Alc/Vol : 13.0 % pH : 3.59 TA : 6.2 g/L
Oddbins €22.99

10. Bald Hills, Central Otago, New Zealand, 2006
Mid-red. Beautiful, fruity, rich, clean nose:gorgeous fruit, clean, silky tannins warm fruit.
The 2005 won Decanter's International Pinot Noir Trophy in 2007 and the 2006 vintage was rated 95 points. The 2008 “Three Acres” Pinot Noir displays delightfully rich aromas of coffee beans, caramel, spice, leather and a hint of baked hillside herbs with a layer of red berry fruits. The palate is light and ripe in the mouth. Good acid and light tannin definition supports the sweet fruit flavours where raspberries and cherries predominate. Decanting will render the tannins subtler still, and soften the acidity. Hand-picked fruit, cold soaked, 30% selected whole clusters. Fermented in open top fermenters, plunged by hand 4 times per day. After a post fermentation period of 1 week the wine was pressed gently and transferred to French oak barriques, 35% new. Aged for ten months in barrel.
Ten years ago, Blair and Estelle Hunt entered the wine business with nothing more than a bare plot of land. Both were approaching 60 and, while they were familiar with what made a good bottle of red, they had no idea how to make it.That didn't stop them. This year, industry experts judged their 2005 Bald Hills pinot noir the best red wine in the world. It beat 4,760 other entries to take the Champion Red award in the International Wine Challenge, the world's biggest blind tasting. And, it was the first time a vineyard outside France took Decanter magazine's top prize for best pinot noir over £10. "We were amazed," said Blair Hunt. "It's impeccable timing for a small vineyard in the face of such extensive competition." Success has come rather suddenly for Blair and Estelle. After 45 years of marriage, three children and varied careers in management, real estate and teaching, they had been looking to wind down.
They sold their house in Sydney and moved to rural New Zealand to search for something to keep them occupied in later life. "I'm really wary about the word retirement," Blair says. "I don't quite understand it, although the reality is that it is our income so you could say it's our retirement." They had been considering entering the dairy industry, but as they criss-crossed the country searching for a place to settle down, the stunning landscape of Central Otago in New Zealand's South Island won them over. "Just the sheer beauty of the place led us to say right let's give it a go," says Blair Hunt. As it turns out, Bannockburn, one hour outside Queenstown, was an ideal place to grow grapes. "We knew that from research on record we had good soil types and in relative proximity we could see grapes growing. The plot was just a bare 11 hectares, or 27 acres. It had a nice slope to the north, north-west, so you've got that sun bearing down on it all of the day. Everything seemed to be lined up and, as it turns out, it has been."
They planted their first vines in 1997. Back then it was a part-time job. Every weekend they'd drive up into the hills from their home in Balclutha, South Otago to tend their vines. They built a house on the site and moved there in 2001. Even then it didn't demand their full attention. Until June, Blair Hunt was working full-time as the Chief Executive of the local hospital. "Not bad for an old fella," he laughs. He is 69. Estelle, 68, shares his passion for a day's hard work washed down with a glass of fine wine each night.
Blair is quick to correct the suggestion that their success is anything other than the result of hard work by a dedicated viticulturalist and his team, as well as an expert winemaker. Renowned New Zealand winemaker Grant Taylor started working with them before the first grapes were picked. He has his own label and is very selective about to whom he lends his expertise. "I have worked with many, many grape growers in 28 years of winemaking. I never try to push my thoughts on them because usually they will cost the grower money, but simply say what I think and let them make the decision," he says. "Blair and Estelle have listened, then acted. They have been fine tuning their viticulture, I have been fine tuning the winemaking, and the vines have been getting older and doing their job better. But underneath it all is a shared philosophy, which is to do everything in the vineyard and winemaking to make the best wine possible. There are no shortcuts aimed at saving money."
Pinot noir grapes are notoriously difficult to nurture. They're thin-skinned, susceptible to rot and are really only successfully grown in three locations: Burgundy in France, Oregon in the U.S., and New Zealand's Central Otago region. There, growers go to great lengths to ward off winter frosts in the cold mountain ranges. Some fly helicopters low over the vines to stir up the icy air. At Bald Hills, there are two wind-machines on standby if the temperature starts to plummet. The rest of the season, the vines are pruned and tended by hand, the grapes individually picked. Strangely, the vineyard's "spare no expense" philosophy hasn't produced a hideously expensive wine. Visitors to the cellar door can buy a bottle for 38 New Zealand dollars, or less than U.S.$30. And, despite the scarcity of the product -- there are only 100 "uncommitted" cases left -- the Hunts have not put up the price -- yet. "We're contemplating that, and the consequences of doing that in the longer term. At the end of the day you're talking about long term viability and sustainability rather than short-term gains," Blair says. This couple, although approaching 70, is in it for the long haul. The judges called their 2005 pinot noir well integrated, harmonious and impeccably balanced. The same might be said about them.
Terroirs €39.50

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