The panel for the New Zealand tasting from left to right
Blair Walter (Otago), Matthew Donaldson (Pegasus Bay), Larry McKenna (Escarpment Vineyards), Steve Smith MW (Craggy Range), Tim Finn (Neudorf), Brian Bicknell (Seresin), Neil McCallum (Dry River), Rob McDonald (Vidal), Michael Brajkovich (Kumeu River).
It must have been a mammoth task organising the formal tastings for Pinot Noir 2001 but after it was all over Raymond Chan, the tasting coordinator, said he was very pleased with the way it ran and everthing went like clockwork.
Each day, about 3,500 wines had to be poured into the correct glass on the labelled tasting mat to be ready for the delegates as they emerged from the lecture sessions. This necessitated the wines being poured well in advance and some tasters may have had wines that were sitting in the glass for two to three hours. All, except one wine, held up extremely well in the period they were exposed to oxidation in the warm tasting rooms.
There were two venues for the seated tastings - one for about 320 tasters plus the panel and the other for about 150 tasters plus the panel. On the first day the International Tasting was held in the large venue, while the New Zealand tasting was held in the small venue. The following day the New Zealand tasting was held in the large venue while the International Tasting was held in the small venue. I attended the sessions in the larger venue.
The New Zealand Tasting
These wines represent some of the best New Zealand has to offer. Wines from the producers attending the conference were put forward to a panel and the following wines were the ones selected to represent their region. These are my personal notes and the scores I gave on the day.
Auckland: Kumeu River Pinot Noir 1999
Winemaker presenter: Michael Brajkovich MW
Lightish colour. Vibrant lifted aroma with a hint of tar and savoury developing to a funky earthiness as it sits in the glass. Rich, dry, meaty (bacon), oaky, sour cherry flavours with a splash of citrus. Oak hardness quite dominating but sweet nuances emerge and linger. The flavour is long with a sweet meatiness and a developed fruit spectrum of cherry and plum. 17.5/20
Hawkes Bay: Vidal Estate Pinot Noir 1998
Winemaker presenter: Rob McDonald
Earthy, funky aroma - a little odd. Dry, sourish, oaky and hard. Some strawberry fruit emerges and a touch of sweetness tries to appear. Firm tannins and earthy, gamey plummy flavours.
It should be noted that this wine retails for less than $20, half the price or more than the others, and is a year older. It has not benefited from sitting in the glass for a couple of hours before the tasting commenced.
Martinborough: Dry River Amaranth Pinot Noir 1999
Winemaker presenter: Neil McCallum
Dense colour with bright hues. Seductive aromas with hints of citrus zest and cherry stone. Very mouthfilling, upfront, vibrant flavours with all sorts of layers of spice, citrus, ripe cherry and sweet blackberry fruit, a subtle earthy note and excellent use of oak. A bright and lively wine, very lifted and long with dense velvety tannins. This wine oozes opulence. 19.5/20
Marlborough: Seresin Pinot Noir 1999
Winemaker presenter: Brian Bicknell
Dense cherry red colour and enticing berry cherry floral and vibrantly rich aromatics, probably the most evocative aromas of any the pinot noirs on show. A hint of oak and a notion of herbs adds to the complexity and mystique.
In the palate rich spicy fruit, warm oak with a chocolate richness and vibrant lifted cherry fruit finishing with a flash of spicy citrus zest. Smooth round and long, warm with a velvety texture and a hint of that pinot earthiness that will develop with time. A big rich wine but oh so attractive and very drinkable. 19/20
Nelson: Neudorf Pinot Noir 1999
Winemaker presenter: Tim Finn
Lifted cherry aromas with the slightest hint of savoury, earth, tar, spice and citrus. In the palate it is very dry and tight at first with cherry fruit and a little smoke but a myriad of sweet pinot flavours emerge with time. Cherry fruits, cherry stone, faint citrus and a suggestion of peach fill the fruit spectrum. There's a lovely vinosity, sweetness and texture and a little nuttiness too. A big wine that needs time. 18.5/20
Canterbury: Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir 1999
Winemaker presenter: Matthew Donaldson
Bright colour. Lifted floral aromas - yes, intense florals, violets. Upfront attack on the palate. Has an almost oily chocolate nuance from the integrated oak. A myriad of activity, perhaps prnounced by the acidity, tickles the palate. There is subtle savoury, citrus, herbs, mulled wine spices and juicy sweet summer berry fruit: strawberries, raspberries, cherries and even a hint of blueberries. There's a touch of stonefruits too. A broad wine with a smooth chocolate velvet texture. Too young of course but excellent potential. This wine has not yet been released commercially. 18.5-19/20
Central Otago: Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 1999
Winemaker presenter: Blair Walter
Bright but densely coloured. Rich aromatic, dense, smoky, cherry stone and even a hint of apricot liqueur in the opulent aromas. In the mouth it is warm, lifted, aromatic and savoury with licorice, and a hint of tar. Bright fruit emerges. Well balanced with an earthy note, tending almost to mushroom. Very intense, very long and very complex with strong velvety fruit tannins. A lovely nuance of herbs and smoke emerge on the long finish and stonefruits linger. 19.5/20
All in all, an excellent selection of New Zealand wines. Some were delightful, forward approachable examples that would offer immediate delicious drinking while a couple really needed cellaring time to show their potential at its best.
Pinot Noir 2001 - the International tasting.
Pinot Noir 2001 - a tasting of the auction wine.
Pinot Noir 2001 - the event.
Sue Courtney attended Pinot Noir 2001 courtesy of the "Courtney Retirement Fund". Thanks Neil.