edited by Sue Courtney
© Sue Courtney
Tasted 26 Jan 2001, posted 1 Feb 2001
If you see this wine come up at auction (for you won't see it anywhere else) grab it, for it is one of the world's most unique and rarest wines, the New Zealand Reserve Vintage 2000 Pinot Noir.
What is so unique about the wine is that it is the first ever blend of Pinot Noir from all the Pinot Noir growing districts of New Zealand, with equal quantities of pinot noir from the spectcular 2000 vintage contributed by the 64 wineries represented at Pinot Noir 2001, New Zealand's inaugural Pinot Noir celebration1.
What is rare about this wine is that there was just two and a half barrels made and bottled into 750ml-sized bottles, magnum and jeroboams. Most of the wine was to be auctioned at the gala dinner held in conjunction with Pinot Noir 2001. Most, that is, except a few bottles for promotion and sampling and a magnum or jeroboam or two given away as gifts to people such as Jancis Robinson, keynote speaker at the conference and Richard Riddiford, Chairman of the conference board.
Boy oh boy, did I happen to be in the right place at the right time when chatting to invited guest winemaker and Pinot Noir 2001 celebrity auctioneer, Jim Clendenen. He said "We're going to open this wine and try it. Come along". Well how could a pinot-loving chick refuse an invitation like that?
Larry McKenna, the Aussie-born winemaker who's already a legend in New Zealand's pinot noir history book soon arrived with the bottles and the winemakers began to gather with glasses at the ready and when a corkscrew was found, the wine was poured.
I found that in the glass it is bright cherry in colour and with delightful aromas of a youthful fruit-driven pinot, the flavours are fruity and savoury with integrated spice, a silky texture and a bright flare of citrus zest on the finish.
But who am I to comment when there's a host of winemakers around. And who better to ask for an unbiased opinion, than the celebrity guest winemaker from California, USA, the ABC2 man himself, Jim Clendenen. The photo shows Jim Clendenen (on the right) pouring the wine to (from left to right) James Healy, Brent Marris and Gary Duke.
And what is Clendenen's view? "What I like about it is that it hasn't moved into that black fruit spectrum where it is too weighty. Its got really really really great vinosity, pretty perfume, great balance, great acidity and persistence. I don't think anybody's going to worry about this". he said. "It's a nice combination of finishing dry with good acidity but it also has representative pinot noir sweetness. It really is a sweet entry into the mouth with an attack of bright fruit and continues nicely. For a young wine it is really super."
Wow, what a great endorsement for this wine. I'm sure all the New Zealand winemakers are going to say nice things too. Let's see.
James Healy (Cloudy Bay): "Good fruit definition. Pretty lifted, black plum, cherry, lovely".
And standing by was Matthew Dellar, a young wine professional who has passed the Master of Wine tasting examination. "It has intensity, vibrancy and fruit flavour, voluptuous richness and concentration. Noticeable new oak characters which will integrate in time and I think it is a pure expression of NZ pinot.
At the auction, conducted 'Dutch' style, the 6-pack went for a song. Just NZ$350.00 a pack, which means the price of this unique rare wine was just NZ$58.00 to those lucky bidders. The dozen-packs in their beautiful wooden boxes were not such a bargain, while the boxed magnums sold for NZ$450 a piece and the boxed jeroboams, each put up as a separate lot, ranged between NZ$900 and NZ$1500 each.
The New Zealand Pinot Reserve Vintage 2000 Pinot Noir was the brainchild of Larry McKenna of the Escarpment Vineyard in Martinborough, who organised the whole thing. Each vineyard sent the same quantity of presumably their best pinot noir. The samples were blended together and Alan Johnson of Palliser Estate managed it through the barrel aging while Sharon Goldsworthy did the cellar work. Neil McCallum of Dry River Vineyards bottled the wine and Martinborough Winemakers Services packaged it for free.
The following wineries contributed to the blend of the New Zealand Reserve Vintage 2000 Pinot Noir: -
2 ABC is the abbreviation for Au Bon Climat, Jim Clendenen's Californian winery.
Sue Courtney attended Pinot Noir 2001 courtesy of the "Courtney Retirement Fund". Thanks Neil.