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Wine of the Week for week ending 4 July 2004
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Felton Road Pinot Noir 2002
Central Otago, New Zealand

It is always worth leaving the Wine of the Week to the last possible minute because you never know just what is going to turn up. This week, especially more so, with the First Glass Wine Options competition being held on Sunday, the last day of the week.

Eight wines, four white, four red and some exceptionally good wines poured. The competition started with the trophy winning Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay 2002 followed by the exquisite Schoffit Cuvée Caroline Gewurztraminer 2001, the excellent Matua Valley Paretai Sauvignon Blanc 2003 and the scintillating and very German-like Fromm La Strada Marlborough Riesling 2003 to complete the whites. The Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2001 paved the way for the reds followed by the seductive Felton Road Pinot Noir 2002, the mysterious Banfi Chianti Classico Reserve 1999 and finally the d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2000.

But there was only one wine that I would want to have with me on the couch as I whispered sweet nothings to my true love – and that was the Felton Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 2002. I fell in love with the wine even though we didn't ace the wine in the competition, although we got mighty close.

This was wine 6 out of 8 and it was my turn to take the individual first question. All I had to do was pick whether the wine was Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, which was pretty easy given that I had already deduced after swirling, sniffing and sipping that the wine was an exemplary example of a Central Otago Pinot Noir from the 2002 vintage. We aced questions 2,3, and 4, which asked the country, the vintage and the region. But when it came to the question five –"is this wine A: Mt Difficulty, B: Peregrine or C: Felton Road?", that is when our team foundered. We went for the double trophy winning Mr Difficulty but oh, were we were so wrong. The correct answer was 'of course' "C" – Felton Road Pinot Noir 2002, still it didn’t stop me from thinking that this was the most gorgeous Central Otago Pinot Noir I'd tasted in a while. And I could console myself a little as both the Mt Difficulty and the Felton Road wines come from the Bannockburn subregion.

"A sexy wine", I said to Brian, who was sitting next to me. "Seductive and drinkable – seductive because it is so delicious to drink and before you know it you and your partner on the couch will be getting quite amorous".

But what I actually wrote in my note book – and I was probably the only person at the competition writing notes – was, "lovely deep ruby colour, chocolate and cherry, very smooth, very drinkable, delicious, good acid, medium bodied, forest floor, slightly savoury pepper spice finish, lingering rose petals. This is the style of Pinot that at this stage of the competition [when retaining our 2003 Champions title was beyond us], that I like to drink".

I slipped a note to Patrick, our steward, to give to my husband who was working out the back opening the bottles. "Save some of that pinot for me, if possible. It has to be the Wine of the Week", I wrote. That was before I even knew what it was.

The other options were both show trophy winners, the Mt Difficulty having won the Liquorland Top 100 2003 and Easter Show 2004 trophies for Best Pinot Noir and the Peregrine having won Best Pinot Noir at the Sydney International Wine Competition. Felton Road doesn’t enter competitions in New Zealand any more. It doesn't have to, it has such a good name. But wouldn’t it be exciting to have these three wines lined up together.

In the absence of the others, Felton Road was the winner in my book on the day. Such a delicious, seductive, exciting pinot noir.

It should be noted that the wine served in the competition was a blend of 17 bottles poured in more or less equally into 15 jugs. "It was not exactly a gentle pour. A bottle was held in each hand and sloshed into the jugs", said Neil who was in charge of quality control, checking for faulty bottles, including all the screwcapped wines like the Felton Road. He found no bottle variation in this Pinot Noir, which was sloshed into the jugs after wine number 5 had been taken out for the contestants to deliberate upon. Between wines 5 and 6 a 'bonus' wine was served to one person in each team, so the Felton Road was resting in jugs out in the back room for about 20 minutes before the first team member got to taste it.

I'm sipping on some of the leftovers now, as I write this note – it seems to have a little more smoke and is a little more earthy if anything but it is still darn seductive and one thing can be sure, I'm not going to sit at the computer much longer.

All I can say is find out more from the Felton Road website. Unfortunately they will have already sold out from the winery but it may be available wherever you are. According to bottle I've got here, the wine carries 14% alcohol. And it is going to last for absolutely ages because it is sealed with a screwcap.

How much does it cost? I'm not really sure. The 2003 is selling ex-winery at $40 a bottle so the 2002 was probably in that vicinity too.


And no, we didn’t win Wine Options this year. That accolade went to Xtreme ChiX and ChinX – Raymond Chan, Sam Kim, Kay Morganty and Sue Davies, the winners of last year's Wine Options Extreme. Good on ya mates!

© Sue Courtney
27 June 2004

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