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A Tasting of Seven Pinot Noirs
© Sue Courtney
28 November 2006

I thought it time to record some of my tastings that I do from time to time, so here goes. This was a tasting of seven Pinot Noirs, chosen at random from the tasting box by Neil and served to me blind and then tasted blind again, with food.

The food actually determined the style of wine that would be tasted, and as I had had been marinating a couple of lamb shanks in red wine, citrus and herbs for most of the day, it seemed that Pinot Noir would be the perfect match.

Well, as it turned out, it wasn't the perfect match for all the wines, but the food worked well with most.

There were three regions represented and two vintages from each region.

Top wine of the 'initial' blind tasting and also following through as the Best Wine and Food Match was Lowburn Ferry Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005 with the Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2005 close behind. However the most 'drinkable' wine, especially without food, was the Seresin Raupo Creek Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004, which was not the most complex but had a delicious seductiveness about it. That extra year of age certainly helped.

Here are all the wines in the order tasted.

Riverby Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005
13.5% alc. $27. Screwcap.
Medium weight cherry red. Savoury smoky aromas and ripe cherry fruit flavours - sweet fruit cake cherry and spice, not overly complex but very drinkable with soft smooth tannins. There's underlying acidity which adds a spritzy character to the finish and the aftertaste is long and savoury. The wine becomes more and more complex as the night goes on. Good drinking now but will develop a little more complexity with more bottle age. With the food, however, this wine seemed a little sweet.
Neil said "Crisp acid tannins. Some savoury notes."

Seresin Raupo Creek Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004
14% alc. $45. Cork.
There's a touch of vanilla and chocolate oak and ripe, sweet cherry fruit on the nose that carries through to the soft, rounded, smooth, creamy palate which has a spicy savouriness to the finish. Medium-bodied in style, not overly complex, but utterly seductive and very easy to drink. With the food it becomes far more complex with the spicy, savouriness of the wine holding its ground.
Neil said "Plums. Cooked herbed mushrooms. Good finish."

Saint Clair Doctors Creek Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005
13.5% alc. $25.95. Screwcap.
Deep in colour with crimson pink hues, earthy savoury aromas lead into a slightly tart, savoury palate with a gamey backbone and a little bit of grip to the tannins. There are some floral notes and good fruit balance and more savoury gamey complexities creeping into the finish. It tastes quite earthy with the food.
Neil said "Pinky, firm tannins, slightly rotten taste."

Lowburn Ferry Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005
12.5% alc. $34.95. Screwcap.
Deep and bright with crimson purple hues to the pleasing dark red colour, there's a crispness to the berry fruit - like biting into a firm skinned ripe berry and letting the ripe, juicy flavours seduce the mouth. There's cherry and raspberry too with an earthy undercurrent, plenty of thyme-like woody herbs and well-balanced acidity emerging on the finish. Quite complex, smoky, savoury and earthy and though still very young, this was the best match to the food.
Neil said "Black cherry. Sweet fruit with some smoky bacon."

Rippon Central Otago Pinot Noir 2004
13% alc. $48.50. DIAM.
A garnet-hued wine, fading pinky red. It looks like a lighter style, light to medium-bodied, savoury and earthy with guava and cranberry fruit. At first it seems to lack complexity but a chocolatey vinous character builds on the palate, giving it a sweeter end. It becomes quite creamy and silky and the aftertaste is long and sultry. This wine is definitely complex and layered with well-poised acidity that emerges with the food but overall itís a pleasing match with the food bringing out more of the herbal savouriness of the wine as well.
Neil said "Spicy cherry. Dusty."

Palliser Martinborough Pinot Noir 2004
14% alc. $38. Screwcap.
Dark pink red - medium in its depth. Earthy and savoury with a reasonably firm tannin structure, there's an underlying complexity and firm acidity that shows in the flare of spiced orange on the finish, which is creamy compared to the grippy nature of the first taste. I taste strawberry, guava and plum fruit with underlying anise-like spices, rose petals and lavender too. An interesting combo with the food, but not the best match.
Neil said "Meaty tannins. Savoury, spiced plums."

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2005
13.5% alc. $45. DIAM.
Deep, dense, crimson red, almost opaque. Cherry-infused vanillin oak imparts a hint of mocha on the nose while the flavour of this thick textured wine is imbued with cherry and liquorice with a spicy savoury undercurrent and the tannins are quite grippy, which bodes well for its cellaring potential. Quite chunky and meaty with chicory notes, it' a big Pinot with a Syrah-like rose petal character and a long savoury aftertaste. It seems more earthy and dark with the food and it's a good match to the gamey flavours of the lamb. It's a wine that will become far more graceful with a year or two, or more, in the cellar and has excellent long term potential.
Neil said "Bit closed. Full-bodied, juicy strong tannins."

Braised Lamb Shanks for two people
Marinate two lamb shanks in half a cup of red wine ( I used some left over cab merlot), the juice and zest of a freshly picked tangelo, and a handful of freshly picked thyme. We have several varieties of thyme growing and used some of each. Turn frequently to get the marinade over all of the meat (thanks Mr Tupperware for making a small marinading container to do this in). My shanks were marinated for about 6 hours.
Turn oven to 160-170 degrees C. Place shanks in baking dish, add marinade plus a sliced onion and five whole cloves of garlic. Season with salt and pepper and add about half a cup of water. Cover tightly with a lid or foil. Place dish in oven and bake until meat is tender and falling away from the bones - about 1.5 hours. Remove lid and turn off oven and let rest for 20-30 minutes while preparing vegetables.
Peel a large mashing potato and a purple-skinned kumara, cut into pieces and boil in salted water until cooked. Drain and then mash with one of the baked garlic cloves, a teaspoon of honey, and enough milk and cream so the resulting mash is not too dry or sloppy.
Meanwhile, drain the juices from the lamb shanks and pour off the fat that has accumulated.
Pile the mash in the centre of the plate, place a lamb shank up against the mash, pile over the onions and pour over the juices. Accompany with a salad or green beans and a tasty pinot noir.

Copyright Sue Courtney
29 November2006


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