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Wine of the Week for week ending 26 Aug 2007
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Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999
Central Otago, New Zealand

After tasting the current release Felton Road wines with winemaker Blair Walter last Wednesday night at a consumer tasting at First Glass Wines and Spirits, in Takapuna (Auckland, New Zealand), my better half decided it would be nice to taste an older vintage of this iconic producer's Pinot Noir.

So on Friday night he opened a bottle of Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999, a wine made in a year I consider one of Central Otago's great vintages - even better than the lauded 2002. I feel that in 1999 the wines showed much more of pinot noir's savoury character in a rather graceful way whereas the hot vintage of 2002 produced huge ripe fruit and high alcohols right across the board. However there were fewer Central Otago producers in 1999, the wines were hard to obtain and they were reasonably expensive. In 2002 there were many more producers and for some producers it was their very first vintage; the wines were easier to procure nationwide and they simply seduced the palates of full-bodied red wine drinkers - which wasn't a bad thing for the industry. But I'm thinking that the wines from the cooler 1999 season may have more longevity than the 2002's, especially if this Felton Road wine is anything to go by.

Eight years after vintage, Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999 is simply stunning and although the grapey-red / purple colour of its youth is now a fading garnet, the semi-opaque liquid still has some cherry pink in its hue. Savoury and complexly vinous on the nose with a scent of dried roses, spiced cherry and potpourri, the lifted spices carry through to the deliciously savoury palate which has an earthy, savoury, gamey depth, spiced cherry and plum fruit, rose petals and hints of liquorice and anise. The tannins are velvety and there's still some underlying acidity that adds brightness to the persistent finish and keeps the wine moving across a plateau. It seems like it still has a long way to go and drinking the second half of the bottle the following night, it shows no sign of falling over at all. Mouthfilling and satisfying, this is one incredible wine. It's times like this you wish you had bought more.

The label indicates the wine has 14% alcohol by volume and the heavy bottle is sealed with a cork.

Seductive on its own, it is also ultra food friendly. The first night the wine accompanied crumbed chicken schnitzel with dried savoury herbs and a hint of spice in the crumb. The second night it was outstanding with a shank end leg of lamb braised in red wine, garlic and copious amounts of thyme.

While the Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999 is probably impossible to buy except at auction, I'm recommending that if readers have this in their cellar, then give it a go. Drink in a suitable 'Burgundy' glass and enjoy.

Looking back at my notes of 1999 vintage Pinot Noirs, there were quite a few stars from that vintage. As well as Felton Road Pinot Noir 1999, there was the Felton Road Block 3, which, when tasted in 2000, had so much potential. There was Mt Difficulty Central Otago Pinot Noir 1999 and Olssen's Slapjack Creek Pinot Noir 1999, both with vineyards on Felton Road, not far from Felton Road Wines. Wines from Marlborough and Martinborough suggest it was a fine vintage there too. Highlights from my 1999 reviews page include Cloudy Bay, Seresin and Selaks Winemakers Reserve from Marlborough and Ata Rangi , Dry River and Martinborough Vineyards from Martinborough.

© Sue Courtney
20 Aug 2007

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