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Wine of the Week for week ending 7 February 2012
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Rippon Lake Wanaka Gamay Noir 2011
Central Otago , New Zealand

It's known that some producers do not like screwcaps, for whatever reason, that is their prerogative. And when they also want to shy away from natural cork, there are alternatives. Like the Diam, for example. And that was the closure in the Rippon Lake Wanaka Central Otago Gamay Noir 2011. But in this instance the Diam tried hard to resist the wine pourer's efforts to extract it. His usually quiet nature and calm demeanour turned into grunts and frustrated mutters of almost unrepeatable words before the climatic orgasmic 'pop' was followed by a relief-filled sigh. As he poured the wine the glass filled with the inky black purple liquid edged with transparent purple red.

"That's dark for Gamay Noir," I exclaimed. Yes Gamay Noir - a classic grape variety most famous for producing the top flight Beaujolais – that's the name of the wine region just south of its famous neighbour, Bourgogne, or Burgundy as we English-speaking people call it. Not exactly a trendsetter of a grape variety, it's seen by many as inferior to its glamorous parent, Pinot Noir, yet the casual drinker wouldn't know the difference. To a Master of Wine, the confectionary aromas could be a clue, however. That's an expert's clue to carbonic maceration, which is how the wines of Beaujolais are made.

Smelling of blackcurrant and raspberry jubes, and juicy and jubey in the palate with a savoury backbone and fine soft tannins, it's the kind of soft juicy red that immediately hits the g-spot. Some earthy, leathery notes then cake spice, a touch of rose petal and a long savoury finish bring parallels to Pinot Noir. It's soft, juicy, spicy and fruity in a medium-bodied style. Resisting the urge to drink the lot – and that wouldn't have been hard to do - we found a Zork stopper to stick in the bottle.

Tasted again a couple of days later it's fine, silky, perfumed, soft and juicy with some of the gamey characteristics of Pinot Noir. An absolute pleasure to drink, this is undoubtably 5 star Gamay Noir.

The back label on the Rippon Lake Wanaka Gamay Noir 2011 states the Gamay Noir vines have been growing on their property in Wanaka for over 20 years. Used for Rosé previously, this is the first red. Biodynamically farmed grapes, carbonic maceration, natural yeast ferment, no sulphur, a winter resting in older barrels and unfiltered, only 35 cases were made. It's a rarity, but a goodie. Rarity costs, so expect to pay about $36.50 a bottle.

Go to the website to find out how to buy or if you are in the beautiful Wanaka region, rock on up to the cellar door.

© Sue Courtney
31 January 2012

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