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Wine of the Week for week ending 28 Aug 2005
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Voss Estate Pinot Noir 2002
Martinborough, New Zealand

"Once women get a whiff of it, what can I do?" said Buck Wilmington, one of the Magnificent Seven in the television series of the same name. He was referring to his animal magnetism but he could very well have been referring to pinot noir because this earthy smelling wine sometimes has a very magnetic, animal-like allure. It is one of the hard-to-put-your-finger-on pheromone-like scents that makes this wine style so intriguing.

When I get a whiff of it - pinot noir that is - I know what to do. I drink it.

Pinot Noir is playing a starring role with the new Magnificent Seven, a group of Kiwi winemakers who have just taken centre stage as the latest band of marketeers, fighting together like seven hundred in today's highly competitive wine scene. Unlike the 'Family of Twelve' - who formed their group for a world-wide marketing campaign, the Magnificent Seven share the same distribution agent in the USA. So after a successful month touring the United States with their agent, they continued the impetus by touring here.

The Magnificent Seven are Clearview Estate from Hawkes Bay, Escarpment and Voss Estate from Martinborough, Fromm Estate and Foxes Island from Marlborough, Pegasus Bay from Canterbury and Peregrine Wines from Central Otago.

With names like these, not surprisingly Pinot Noir features prominently. Except for Clearview Estate, everyone had Pinot Noir. Some had two, some had three. But Clearview makes up for their pinot deficit with magnificent Chardonnays - the best of which - the stunning Clearview Reserve Chardonnay 2004 - has already been reviewed as Wine of the Week here.

Wine of the Week, therefore, is Pinot Noir, and the honour this week goes to Voss Estate.

Voss had three Pinot Noirs for tasting - a mini-vertical of 2004, 2003, and 2002.

"What order should I taste them in?" I asked the incredibly slender Annette Atkins, the marketing half of Voss Estate - Gary Voss, the winemaker, was not there. "Youngest to oldest," replied Annette, picking up the 2004.

"Any reason why?" I asked.

She thought for a second. "Because you will be tasting from lightest to heaviest." That was good advice.

Voss Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2004 is an alluringly aromatic wine with lovely pinot charm on the nose. Rich without being over-powering with cherry / guava / bittersweet pinot fruit, just a hint of chocolate and a long savoury aftertaste. It has a silky graininess to the texture and though young, it looks like it has great potential.

Voss Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2003 has lots of immediate appeal with a velvety texture, earthy savoury fruit and a long rich finish. I thought it very, very good, liking that way the oak had integrated and the palate had evolved since last my tasting of the wine - ten months before.

But Voss Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2002 took the taste experience to another level. It is savoury, earthy, smooth and velvety with a touch of forest floor good acidity from the tamarillo / guava-like fruit that gives the peacocks tail flare to the finish and the aftertaste is long and cherryish with a fruit-cake spice overtone. I loved the interesting complexities were being introduced into the wine with the extra age and the long, svelte finish.

When I look at the Voss website, I see the 2002 has attracted some pretty decent reviews by the writers that the winemakers want to quote. For example, Michael Franz in the Washington Post rated it his favourite New Zealand wine in November 2004, out of 200 kiwi wines tasted. Now that's not bad!

Try this wine with duck. We did when we drank the wine at home. Ducked twice cooked in the oven with spices rubbed into the skin and a rich gravy made from a reduction of the drippings and infused with anise. Quite delish and easy to do now I know I can buy fresh duck from a supermarket in Auckland's North Shore suburb, Browns Bay.

Voss Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir costs around $34 a bottle, which is a steal for wine of this quality compared to some of the others on the market. All the pinots are sealed with cork. 2003 is the current release from the cellar door and the 2002, which carries 13.5% alcohol by volume, may be hard to find. But it won’t be impossible - so it is worth the hunt.

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© Sue Courtney
21 August 2005

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