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Wine of the Week for week ending 14 Jun 2009
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Karikari Estate Pinotage 2007
Northland, New Zealand

Northland's Karikari Estate has a new image. No, it's not the people, the winery or the adjacent luxurious Carrington Estate. It's the wine labels that have changed. The original bottle labels showed a map of Karikari Peninsula, the next and somewhat temporary rendition showed the curved archway architecture of the winery building but the new label with its bold clean lines now has an octopus - a black octopus in the middle of a sea of white. An octopus? Yes. It's the new Karikari Estate icon and represents presents Puwheke, the mound-like hill at the western end of the pristine white sands of Karikari Beach. Puwheke is the sentinel at the entrance to Rangonui Harbour and catches your eye from the elevated winery setting. It has its name because the first Maoris to sight this striking outcrop thought it looked like a giant wheke, or octopus. Hopefully, says winemaker Ben Dugdale, this latest label presentation with octopus icon is here to stay.

I recently had the chance to taste a vertical of the Karikari Estate's Pinotage - just five wines - from the first release in 2003 to the latest and rather delicious 2007. They are wines that all have varietal similarities of bittersweet red fruits, underlying wild berry acidity and a savoury, gamey, Pinotage signature. But there's also the winemaking that influences the tannin structure, and the use of oak. The 2003 and 2004 both had heavy toasted American oak matured while the 2005 saw the introduction of some French oak and a little barrel ferment. 2006 saw more French oak with less emphasis on heavy toast and the super ripe crop from 2007 saw more of the same.

It's an evolution that leads up to the blockbuster Karikari Estate Northland Pinotage 2007. Deep black red coloured with a violet sheen, it's savoury and spicy on the nose with chicory / mocha / chocolate and smoked meats in unison - fresh - voluptuous - tantalising. Youthful and primary to the taste with lots of underlying acidity - tannins are amazingly supple and svelte and have a fine texture while the flavours has a meaty savoury depth and bittersweet red fruits - but it's juicy and full of sweet berry and cherry too.... tasty, sweet-fruited and a little spicy - momentarily Aus Shiraz comes to mind - but it's too savoury and gamey to ever be that. Don't like Pinotage - then try this. It's simply excellent.

We drank this wine over a week - and it never fell apart (the 2003, 2004 and 2005 did after about two days) but the 2006 held in longer and the 2007 held in there. By the time I polished the last of the bottle off, it was definitely like an aged Aus Shiraz. I was surprised because the bottle has a Diam closure and they don't often reseal that well. Alcohol is moderate for reds these days, clocking in at 13.9%.

Price is on the luxurious side at $46 a bottle, but this is luxurious wine. Treat yourself to fillet steak, cut it thick, cook it rare and you'll enjoy a magical wine and food match.

I've linked to the Karikari Estate website at the beginning of this article, but I also suggest you check out Vincrastination, the winemakers blog at

© Sue Courtney
8 Jun 2009

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