The week's wine of the week is a surprise in many ways - it certainly surprised me. I think of Astrolabe as one of New Zealand's top Sauvignon Blanc producers and I have tasted an Astrolabe stickie that was simply sublime - but Astrolabe Pinot Noir - I really didn't have any expectations.
But from the first taste the Astrolabe Voyage Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 was exciting and sensual. However the voyage of discovery started before that with the deep purple garnet colour and the smoky, sensuous aromas - smoked cherry, savoury oak and a pretty violet perfume too. Then there's that exciting taste of wild cherry, stewed tamarillo and violet-infused chocolate on a bed of smooth tannins with woody herbs, sweet oak and that intrinsic Pinot Noir savouriness. Last but not least a lovely lift of flavours on the finish - the peacock's tail flare - bought about by well-balanced orange peel acidity. A good long finish too.
This is not overly heavy - I'd say medium to medium-full in style with a solid 14% alcohol. It's one of those wines that has taken advantage of the variety of clones available now with the tech sheet on the Astrolabe website listing 777, 667, 115, 114, 5, 10/5 and Abel. Actually, it is probably the latter that gives it the stewed tamarillo complexity that I love so much.
2007 seems to be one of the best vintages on record for Pinot Noir yet, right across the regions, and you can see why in this wine made from grapes grown in Marlborough's Lower Wairau, in the Brancott Valley and at Grovetown. There is some wild ferment in there too.
This one was one of the wines in a pinot pairing to see what goes best with fresh pan-fried salmon fillet - the pinot pairing was gris and noir - and the answer to what goes best - it seems to depend on the way the wine is made.
We enjoyed a light fruity pinot gris that also had a citrussy twist to its backbone, but we didn't enjoy a complex, mealy, pinot gris with some oak aging. We loved this delightful Astrolabe Pinot Noir, whereas a two-year older Marlborough pinot noir - a body builder in its prime - was too meaty and overpowering for the delicate salmon to sublimely combine.
And for all my readers in the USA and other places in the globe - there is gorgeous Pinot Noir outside of Martinborough and Central Otago. This Marlborough Pinot Noir is one of those wines.
Recommended retail is NZ$29. Check out www.astrolabewines.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
29 Jun 2009