edited by Sue Courtney
So there was a line-up of 6 New Zealand pinot noirs in front me. I was being serious about the tasting, sniffing, sipping and spitting. I got to Wine No. 4. "What a fantastic nose", I thought. Kind of really funky and interesting. It really overpowered the others. "Smoky with tar, oil, sheep dags and cherry fruit that tends toward plum", I wrote.
I loved the flavour of the wine. It was really rich and complex with funky, savoury, gamey, 'sucking on a cherry stone' flavours, ripe tannins, good texture and structure, excellent length. It was incredibly well-balanced with a hint of citrus on the finish giving the wine that 'peacock tail' flare. It was my favourite by far.
Then my thoughts were interrupted by the voice of another taster. "Wow, what's this. It smells like pot".
Pot! Mary Jane. Marijuana. What does that smell like? A heap of burning grass clippings if I recall correctly? That's why it is sometimes called 'grass', right. But it's been over 2 years since I quit working at the University so the wafting smells of pot from dark corners on campus and in Albert Park no longer drifted past my nostrils.
The taster went on and on. "It fells illegal", he said. "It's like walking into a tinny house", he said. "Are you sure we should be drinking this?" he asked?
It turned out he didn't like the wine but I, and one other taster who also drinks a lot of pinot, really loved it.
Later, when the wine was revealed to be the Kawarau Estate Reserve Cromwell Pinot Noir 2001, I had to laugh. It's organic wine, you see. "Ah, perhaps that's the reason the wine smells like pot", said someone. But I had to wonder whether 'pot' is actually one of the aromas and flavours of pinot noir. I've not seen it as a descriptor of pinot before, however. I'm wondering if it is little documented because wine writers / wine lovers who drink expensive pinot noir are not over exposed to pot and the like. Happy with wine, if you know what I mean. ;^)
The following week, in a tasting of seven pinot noirs from around NZ, that 'potty' aroma struck me again. What do you know, it turned out to be the Kawarau Estate (non-reserve) Pinot Noir 2001.
Visit the Kawarau Estate website to find out more about these wines. Kawarau Estate Reserve Cromwell Pinot Noir 2001, retails for about NZ$37 to $40 depending on where you buy.These wines were tasted on 10th and 17th October 2002. Thanks to Joyce Austin for supplying the wines.
© Sue Courtney. 15 December 2002