A few weeks ago I was in Central Otago tasting a few of the regions pinot noirs.
It was a blind tasting and one wine I really liked was later identified as the Hinton Estate Pinot Noir 2004.
It was a little lighter than many of the other wines but it had the essence of pinot in its flavour.
I awarded it high marks and preferred it to the Hinton Estate Pinot Noir 2003 at the time.
But that was then.
Now I've had the chance to taste the wines again and my preference has been reversed because now it is the richer, plush, velvety Hinton Estate Central Otago Pinot Noir 2003 that takes my fancy … with bells on.
It was the wine I wanted to drink with the main course.
So why the change?
Okay, the first time I tasted these wines I was looking at the wines more critically. The 2004 was clean and pure with no faults and lovely varietal characters. I liked the savouriness of the wine and the succulence to the finish but because of its lightness my fellow tasters did not share my enthusiasm.
The 2003 initially smelt of herbs and deli meats, the wine evolved in the glass and the sweetness of the fruit came through. It had a creamy / velvety texture and quite strong acidity with cherries emerging on the aftertaste.
Tasting them at home this week, in the warmer climes of Auckland - approximately 1070 kilometres further away from the South Pole (as the crow flies) - the wines at room temperature were definitely warmer than in Central Otago some 6 weeks before.
Now the Hinton Estate Pinot Noir 2003 absolutely seduced me with its velvety lushness and spicy flavours with rich, sweet berry and cherry fruit and a touch of chocolate that simply melted the senses. It's a richly coloured, full-bodied, mouthfilling wine with a smooth texture and a savoury edge to the lingering finish with those cherries and chocolate hanging in there, deliciously - very much what I expect from good Central Otago Pinot Noir.
I still liked the Hinton Estate Pinot Noir 2004, however. This time I found it to be earthy and savoury with cherry and strawberry fruit, nuances of herbs, silky tannins and a long clean finish. And although it is a more transparent and lighter style, it has lovely vinosity and is a surprisingly good match to chilled, fresh, early season strawberries. It is the wine to have as the entrée to the main course.
Neil let loose in the kitchen and cooked up a delicious dinner made from a neck of lamb. He didn’t actually realise it was a neck until later though, not until it was cooked and carved and the little bones revealed its identity. This was home grown meat, correctly hogget rather than lamb, and in our normal manner, cuts had not been identified when they were thrown in the freezer. It looked very much like a thick shank end.
His recipe went loosely like this.
Saute a chopped onion and a large clove of chopped garlic in some butter until soft and golden. Add the meat to sear it on all sides. Remove the meat to a large enamel casserole dish (Dutch oven) and pile the onions on top. Deglaze the pan with about 1/2 cup of red wine (he used merlot) and pour this over the meat. Cover and place in the conventional oven and cook at about 180 degrees Celcius for about an hour.
After this time you will realise the temperature was too high and the liquid has dried out, add some water while preparing the veges.
For the vegetables we had parsnip, carrot, kumara and potato. Neil peeled them and sliced them and cooked them in the microwave for about 4 minutes - because he realised that the meat was too far along for the veges to cook entirely in the oven. Pile the veges around the meat in the casserole dish, stir them around so the juices cover the veges, cover and cook for half an hour more.
To serve, carve the meat off the bones, pile the veges on the plate - note that the kumara and potatoes may have gone mushy - and accompany with baby peas.
This turned out to be an absolutely delicious match with the Hinton Estate Pinot Noir 2003. Needless to say, there were no leftovers of wine or food for the next night.
Hinton Estate is based in Alexandra where the Hinton name is one of the kingpins of the stonefruit industry. The Hintons are one of the largest stonefruit producers in New Zealand and their produce can be found in stores throughout the country. They have produced table grapes for many years but only made the foray into wine grapes in 1999, with the first vintage of pinot noir released in 2002. Howie Hinton, a Lincoln University graduate, is the winemaker and he was assisted by Californian Kenneth Juhasz in the making of the Hinton Estate Pinot Noir 2003.
Hinton Estate Pinot Noir 2003 carries 14% alcohol by volume, while Hinton Estate Pinot Noir 2004 carries 13.5% alcohol by volume. Both wines sport screwcap closures and both cost $37 a bottle on case buys from the Hinton Estate website. There should be some of the wine available in discerning retail outlets too. Click on the link to find out more about this exciting new producer or email Sarah Hinton for more information.
© Sue Courtney
6 November 2005