The Skeggs family were among the first people to buy and plant vineyard land in Central Otago in the mid 1990s, so were lucky enough to acquire a superb north facing site in Bannockburn. Planted in 1996, this 50 hectare site has since provided the backbone of the Akarua wines. Due to the short growing season in Central Otago, site selection is one of the key elements in making a great wine, and Akarua have a site that is among the very best. Akarua was re-introduced after many years to Liberty Wines by Tony Jordan, who makes their sparkling wines. Tony built Domaine Chandon in Australia, and is one of the world's leading experts in sparkling wine production. He has been enamoured with the potential for Central Otago to make top quality fizz for quite a while, and is now doing so with Akarua.
All the Pinot Noir grapes were harvested from Akarua's 50 hectare site on Cairnmuir Road in Bannockburn, which lies at 270 metres above sea level. The soil here is young alluvial schist based sand/silt and sandy loams overlaying schist rock. The vines are 16 years old.
The grapes were hand picked and 90% were destemmed. Pre-fermentation maceration took place over five days, with temperatures peaking at 31°C. Punch downs took place twice daily and post fermentation maceration lasted six days. The wine spent 10 months in French barriques, 30% of which were new.
Deep bright ruby in colour. The nose displays intense black fruit flavours and the complexity that Bannockburn Pinot Noir is renowned for, with haunting aromatics of bramble fruits and spice. The palate is elegantly balanced with red fruits and finely textured tannins. A wine with great poise and longevity.
2016 started well with a gentle spring that encouraged even flowering and fruit set across the vineyards. Early summer was calm, without the winds that plagued 2015 and the vines were in great shape to deal with a hotter than average February. March saw a return to cooler conditions, a perfect finish to the season.
Ata Rangi is owned and run by Clive Paton and his wife Phyll, together with Clive's sister Alison and winemaker Helen Masters. Clive planted the bare, stony five hectare home paddock at the edge of Martinborough in 1980 and, in doing so, was one of a handful of people who pioneered grape growing in the area. Renowned for their Pinot Noir, which is consistently ranked as one of New Zealand's best, Ata Rangi also produces a range of white wines including Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Crimson is a wine which was inspired by a love of New Zealand's native 'Christmas Trees', the rata and pohutukawa trees. Sales of this wine support Project Crimson, a charitable conservation trust which plants and protects these trees. The Pinot Noir grapes for Crimson are produced from 10-20 year old Martinborough vines in Lismore, Waiora and Walnut Ridge blocks.
The grapes were hand picked and 100% destemmed, keeping as much whole berry fruit as possible. Pre-fermentation maceration lasted between two and six days. The must was inoculated with indigenous yeasts and hand plunged during fermentation that lasted two to three weeks. The wine was racked into barrel, of which 20% was new oak, where it remained for a further nine months after malolactic fermentation until bottling in February 2017.
The 2016 very much shows a turning point from vibrant youth to tension and complexity that more mature vines bring. Aromatically this wine offers layers of flavours: violets, dark cherry and plum, notes of bitter chocolate and tobacco with a hint of game. There is a fresh vibrancy on the palate of acid and smooth tannins pulling the wine through to a long, salivating finish.
Awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their January 2018 edition article: The Most Exciting Wines of 2017 (see blue link below).
Burn Cottage Vineyard Property is a twenty four hectare estate in the foothills of the Pisa range in Central Otago, New Zealand. The vineyard is owned by the Sauvage family which also owns an estate in the Pfalz region of Germany, as well as several fine wine importing and wholesaling companies in the United States.
"At Burn Cottage we believe in minimal intervention winemaking. Our task is to discover the genius of the site and of the individual vineyard blocks within and to allow the wines to reveal it. We believe in minimizing sulfur usage and avoiding all additives whenever possible. We avoid the use of cultured yeasts, bacteria, associated nutrient products and filters. We avoid racking whenever possible and do wine work according to lunar and celestial rhythms."
The property was purchased in 2002 by husband and wife Marquis and Dianne who brought in Ted Lemon as their winemaker in 2003. It had been grazed by sheep for as long as can currently be remembered. There were, and are, no immediate vineyard neighbours. The site was much coveted in the region for it is sheltered from both northerly and southerly winds by large hills and forms a beautiful, protected bowl, much like a modern amphitheatre. The wines produced here are all biodynamic.
The winemaking at Burn Cottage reflects biodynamic principles with low intervention. There is no addition of yeasts or bacteria for fermentations, with minimal sulphur use and no filtration before bottling. The Pinot Noir contains a skilful use of 24% whole-bunch fermented grapes to achieve a lifted fragrance. The wine was aged in French barrels, 22% of which were new oak.
The 2015 vintage has wonderfully complex aromas of fern leaf, rhubarb, potpourri and rose petal contrasted with more mineral notes of dust, graphite and gravel. The palate possesses a lovely sweet attack without ever becoming cloying and it melts into supple, fine tannins which need a few years to completely marry to the wine. Nevertheless, the overall impression is silky and sensual. Excellent acidity lends great vibrancy to the palate and the wine ends on a long, lingering finish. The rich, silky completeness shows the great potential of this property. This wine will reward patience and can be cellared for up to 8-10 years.
The nose is more savoury than fruit driven. Fine layered textures and flavours build on a palate of balanced rich fruit, oak, and earthy tones to form a powerful expression of a very special site.
Awarded 95 points and a rare Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards Rhone Section (see blue link below).
This magnificent property, which dates back to the 9th century, is also known as Château Philippe le Hardi, as it was once owned by the first Duc of Burgundy. Philippe le Hardi is famous as the person who banned the cultivation of Gamay in the Côte d'Or, saying in his edict of 1395 that only Pinot Noir could be used in the production of red wines from the already fabled slopes. Despite its long history, the property had fallen on hard times until it was taken over by the French bank Crédit Agricole in recent years. They have invested heavily, bringing in a new team to support the general manager, Gérard Fagnoni, and putting the emphasis on quality. The property has 98 hectares of vineyard, 72 of which are in Mercurey. These are remarkably well made and good value wines from the Côte d'Or and Côte Chalonnaise.
Château de Santenay owns 25 hectares of vineyards in the Côte d'Or. The soils here are free-draining with a mixture of clay and sand, and a subsoil which has a high limestone content. This forces the roots of the vine to dig deep to find the vital nutrients and water they need, which in turn results in a high concentration of flavour within the fruit.
2014 was a demanding vintage, requiring a lot of effort and care, which was eventually rewarded with success. The wines show a real aromatic purity, great balance and are unexpectedly deep in colour.
On arrival at the winery, the grapes were cold soaked for seven days at 8°C to extract colour and flavour from the skins. Temperature controlled fermentation lasted 12 to 14 days with daily pumping over, finishing with a rack and return, or 'délestage', to impart the grainy tannins that give the wines a lovely structure and length. The wine was then aged in oak barrels for 13 months, of which 20% were new.
A rich, dark garnet in colour, the 2014 Clos de Vougeot offers powerful and concentrated black fruit aromas with an elegant touch of oak. On the palate, flavours of black cherry and black berry fruits are complimented by a subtle spiciness with a long finish.
Aromas of red fruits such as raspberries and cherries, with soft spicy notes. On the palate, this wine is gentle and round, with a long length. It is very well balanced showing harmony between acidity, sweetness and fruit.
Earthy tones of wild mushroom and truffles are wonderfully countered with lovely, fresh, aromatic notes of musk and flowers, raspberry and kirsch. The palate is fine and balanced, driven forward by a lively line of vibrant acid and ending with that familiar d’Arenberg fine, gritty tannin.
Cherry red in colour with fresh and intense aromas of cherry on the nose with a touch of rose petals. A medium bodied wine with fresh red fruit and a refreshing acidity and richness.
Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their October 2017 edition in Steven Spurrier's Fine Wine World column (see blue link below).
The winery and vineyards were originally owned and run by the De Loach family, with Cecil De Loach as winemaker. In 2003, the family run Burgundian estate Jean-Claude Boisset purchased De Loach and brought the focus back to the estate's original high quality winemaking philosophy, with specific emphasis on small lot winemaking, particularly of Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. The winery's 17-acre estate vineyard has been completely restored and converted to organic and Biodynamic® viticulture, a tradition upheld by many foremost Burgundian vineyards. The De Loach estate vineyards are certified organic by CCOF.
All the De Loach wines are made and bottled at their estate facility. The Pinot Noir was made from fruit grown in premium vineyards throughout northern and central California, helping to achieve a unique balance of delicate Pinot characteristics and more intense fruit flavours. The vineyard is located within the Olivet bench region of the Russian River Valley on goldridge soils. The vines are cane-pruned and farmed biodynamically.
Fruit for this Pinot Noir was primarily sourced from the Delta region of California and underwent minimal handling. A pre-fermentation cold soak was followed by fermentation in closed-top fermenters. Post fermentation warm maceration took place to extract good colour and ripe tannins. A small portion of the wine was barrel aged to add some slight oak complexity, but most was kept in stainless steel in order to stay true to its lighter, food-friendly style.
The wine opens with subtle fresh fruit aromas of strawberry and blueberry heightened with hints of anise. The deep aromas lead to enticing flavours of dark, ripe fruit and plums with just a touch of white pepper on the finish.
Deep ruby in colour with aromas of cherry, cola and eucalyptus. Red fruit mingles with hints of black pepper on the palate and a round mouthfeel is accented by smooth tannins and a nice acidity. This is a balanced wine with a lengthy finish.