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Wine of the Week for week ending 9th March 2003
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New Zealand 1, Switzerland 0
Neudorf Moutere Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2001
Nelson, New Zealand
Chanteauvieux Dôle du Valais AOC 1999
Valais, Switzerland

New Zealand 1 Switzerland 0. Wouldn't we have loved to have seen this result after the first race of the America's Cup. But it was not to be. Alinghi won every race to blitz the opposition 5-0. It was a whitewash.

So let's turn the tables I thought. A Swiss Pinot Noir vs a New Zealand Pinot Noir. That should be an easy win to New Zealand. But I have to tell you it was a close race as well.

The 'Capsule Dorée' was unscrewed on my 375 ml bottle of Chanteauvieux Dôle du Valais AOC from the 1999 vintage in Switzerland. I had assumed it was Pinot Noir and it tasted like a Pinot Noir. The back label on the bottle, written in French, didn't mention varieties either. But a little research gave me the impression this 13% alcohol by volume wine was most likely 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Gamay, as are most wines from the Valais AOC.

The wine was pale in colour, a watery garnet red with ruby hues that looked youthful for its age. The smell was great and so was the taste. Attractive aromas of cherries, heaps of cherries, fresh cherries, marinated cherries and lots of savoury herbs emanated from the glass. It was fresh tasting on the palate with herbs, baked tomatoes and a rich fruit driven concentrated finish that was dry and savoury with hints of nutmeg and puckery cherry stone flavours that really came forth.

As I sipped on the wine my thoughts went flooding back to the winter I had spent in Davos, Switzerland many years ago. Dôle was the first red wine I had ever liked - not surprising since in those days the NZ reds were pretty ghastly. I drank a lot of Dôle, the light fruity reds with their savoury flavours were most appealing in a user-friendly way. It was many years later when I found that Dôle was Pinot Noir and only today when I found it also had some Gamay.

The Chanteauxvieux Dole du Valais reminded me very much of a Central Otago Pinot Noir and if I was drinking this wine blind, that is what I would have guessed at, for there was no distinctive Euro nuance at all. We were impressed. Very impressed.

As I pulled the cork on the second wine, the Neudorf Moutere Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2001, I was a little scared. "I hope the wine's not corked", I said. While Neudorf are strong proponents of the screwcap closure, the Home Vineyard, with its limited bottling, had the traditional piece of bark.

I poured the dark ruby coloured liquid and smelt it. Phew, no faults. It was instead compelling, awakening the senses even more so than the Swiss wine before it. This is an oaky wine, lots of warm cedary vanillin oak and berry scents in the small tasting glass while black cherry and savoury meaty musky winey scents were far more obvious and far more deep, intriguing and sensual in the designer glass.

It's crisp, rich and full in the mouth, spicy and lifted with lots of flavour. It's a more earthy, gamey style of pinot with delightful herbal influences amongst the smoky honeyed bacon-like oak that sits so well with the sweet fruit, cherry chocolate nuances and well controlled velvety tannins. It's a powerful, concentrated and finely structured wine and the finish is sweet and long. It sits in the mouth and you can savour the flavours for ages. It has pinosity-plus.

I go back to the other one and it tastes almost metallic in comparison.

We all agree - New Zealand 1, Switzerland 0.

But really both wines were terrific in their own special way. The Swiss wine was the entrée, the New Zealand wine the main.

We accompanied the wines with dried herb encrusted fillet steak, roasted herbed potatoes and a summer salad. The piece of fillet was seared in a hot pan, baked in the oven for 20 minutes, rested for 10 minutes then carved and served with gravy made from the pan drippings and reduced with a splash of Pinot Noir. The meat was perfection with the Neudorf Moutere Home Vineyard Pinot Noir. The herb flavours and the tomatoes in the salad went so well with the lighter Dôle.

As far as I know, Swiss wines are not available in New Zealand. The Dôle was bought in Davos, Switzerland by my sisters when they holidayed there recently. I rate this wine highly and would love some more - but how do I get it?

The Neudorf Moutere Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2001, just released, is available in New Zealand but it is a limited production wine and may be hard to find. But it is worth the effort. I rate this one of the best I've tasted in the last few months - and for those of you who know and love the Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir 2001, it is all that and more.

This is the wine that used to be called 'Reserve'. Made mostly from Clone 5 with a tiny addition of other clones (22, 10/5) that are grown on the original home vineyard, the wine was matured in French oak (44% new) and has 14.5% alcohol by volume. It retails on mail order for NZ$56 a bottle.

Check out the Neudorf website for more information.

© Sue Courtney
2 March 2003

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