Central vineyards pinot powerhouse

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 08:27 20/11/2012

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If I were a Central Otago pinot noir producer I would not be waiting for the vinous equivalent of Captain Mainwaring, the comic character from Dad's Army, for "permission to gloat, sir".

I would be doing it already. And I would be doing so for good reason.

Hopefully, I would have shared in an extraordinary string of successes over the past few weeks, or, at least, be basking in the glory and doing good business as a result of the plaudits the area and its wines have achieved.

The latest came with the announcement of results from the Five Nations Wine Challenge, which involves New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and, as of next year, the United States.

It is essentially a "by invitation" wine show, with the wines to represent each country pre-selected by the judge from that country - in our case Bob Campbell, who says this should mean that the standard of wines entered are among the highest for any competition in the world.

For the record, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa each won four trophies, Australia three and Chile one, but the Aussies took the honours with the highest medal tally.

Our trophies were for riesling (Framingham 2010 Select), sauvignon blanc (Matua Valley 2010 Single Vineyard Wairau) and for pinot noir (Akarua 2010), which was also the red wine of the show. For good measure, Doctors Flat 2010, another Central Otago pinot noir, was runner-up and a double gold medallist in the pinot class.

All of this is on top of an incredible performance by Central in Cuisine magazine's annual pinot tasting, which resulted in nine homegrown wines and one from Hakataramea, in North Otago, earning five-star ratings and filling the top 10 top spots.

They are, in order: Grasshopper Rock 2010, Tatty Bogler 2010, Valli Gibbston 2010, Valli Bendigo 2010, Ceres Composition 2010, Gibbston Valley Central Otago 2011, Carrick Unravelled 2010, Rock Ferry 2010, Pasquale Hakataramea Valley 2010, and Yealands Reserve 2011.

The accolades do not end there.

At the International Wine Show in August, Bannock Brae's 2010 Barrel Selection Central Otago Pinot Noir was not only judged the top pinot but also wine of the show. And, full credit to Pasquale in the Hakataramea Valley, its 2010 pinot took the limelight at the more recent Speiglau show.

What this says, or confirms - and it does not take into account other successes at other New Zealand and international shows - is that Central Otago pinot noirs are worthy of their reputation, those from the highly regarded 2010 vintage particularly so.

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Lighter crops, smaller berries and extended ripening resulted in juice that produced powerful and concentrated wines. And let's remember that because many wineries choose not to enter competitions, the list of outstanding Central pinots, as the judges see them, does not include some that are regarded as even better.

Meantime, let's look at some of those that have been mentioned in dispatches:

Grasshopper Rock 2010 Central Otago Pinot Noir, about $30. A pinot that makes no attempt to hide its charms. Alive with rich, juicy black cherries and berries and the joys of a walk in the woods. At this price it is a steal.

Akarua 2010 Central Otago Pinot Noir, $42. Given the many accolades this wine has received, it could now be difficult to source. If you can, expect a brooding beauty crammed with dark cherries, plums and spice. An impressive wine.

Doctors Flat 2010 Central Otago Pinot Noir, $44. The third pinot produced in limited quantities by Steve Davies off his 3-hectare vineyard at Bannockburn. It is rich and concentrated, but more subtle than some from this vintage. It boasts dark berries and plums, with a savoury twist, and licorice, too.

You now have permission to cheer as well.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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