What’s in the glass tonight Feb 26th – Riesling

Lamont Riesling 2013

Lamont Riesling Bendigo Central Otago 2013 – $$$

Mum and Dad came to stay the weekend. After a catchup we decided to head to Café Polo for dinner. I selected this wine for the table:

Light straw. 11.04% alc.

Very refined and elegant in expression with mineral citrus bouquet with a delicate phenolic tang. Dry, dry, dry, to taste, with light and tight fruit flavours, and a preponderance of mineral character. A quality drop, but also a somewhat challenging expression of Riesling, due to its shortage of apparent sweetness.

BTG 3+

A Vineyard on the Edge – MS Rippon Vineyard tasting, November 30th 2015

MS Rippon Tasting 2015

This was the final tasting of 2015 for the Magnum Society, and a special one also, because the Society invited Nick Mills the winemaker at Rippon Vineyard to speak and present his wines.

Rippon sits beside Lake Wanaka, on the edge of the Clutha Basin in Central Otago. It is way far south. It kisses the Southern Alps. The area is about as ‘on the edge’ as you can get in New Zealand for growing and ripening grapes.

Rippon is a family-owned wine grower and producer. The business started as a sheep and stock station, and when Rolfe Mills the previous patriarch wanted to expand the land-use of the property, he experimented with growing a wide range of vinifera until he landed on the varieties that he thought best suited the site and climat.

Nick has carried on his work. Nick is passionate about his land, and its history, and about  biodynamic farming. He is also incredibly driven towards finding a way for his property to pay its way, and remain in use as arable, food-producing land. You see, Rippon is ‘on the edge’ for another reason – Wanaka is one of NZ’s pre-eminent tourist locations, and the land along the lakeside has become so valuable, and so coveted as sites for expensive holiday homes, that it is practically uneconomic to farm based solely on return on capital land value. I have been there and it is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We were presented with the following wines:

Rippon “Rippon” Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2013

Rippon “Emma’s Block” Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2013

Rippon “Tinker’s Field” Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2013

Rippon Pinot Noir 2005 En Jeroboam and donated for the tasting by Nick

Rippon “Rippon” Mature Vine Riesling 2011

Rippon Gewurztraminer 2015

As usual, we tasted first without, and then with, food.

The tasting was very interesting to me. I won’t go through them wine-by-wine, as there are Society members far better skilled to comment on the quality and characters of the wines than me, elsewhere. I looked at them instead as a total expression of the site’s capability, strengths and terroir. And I came up with a potentially contentious conclusion…

The pinots are all quality products. The vineyard management, cropping, and vinification is bio-dymanic and first-rate. What is in the bottle I expect to be the best wine that can be wrought from this site. The Tinkers Field Pinot Noir 2013 was a stand-out, as was the Pinot Noir 2005. The eponymous Rippon Pinot Noir 2013 was a great example of a house style. But not one of these wines blew me away as I had expected to be. They weren’t as perfumed or as brambly or as dense as I have come to expect and treasure in a beautiful Central Otago Pinot Noir. What’s going on here? Is the site not as suited to this grape as I was informed?

You see, when I tried the Gewurztraminer 2015 I was blown away. This was easily the best Gewurz I have tried in ages. It was delicious, perfumed, expressive. Then it was followed up by the Riesling 2011. Again, delicious, superlative. Many of the tasters agreed. A truly fine wine.

What if the Rippon site is best suited to growing fine aromatics, in the Alsatian or German mold? What if this is the one place in NZ where these varieties can be grown to the utmost extent of their beauty, precision and expression? And rival the northern hemisphere? Should Nick seize the opportunity and forge a new path towards being a sole monopole grand cru aromatic white producer?

I guess not. Wine growing is a business. Buyers of New World wines are followers of fashion and marketing. NZ Pinot Noir is hot. Buyers will pay more for it. Whereas Riesling has nowhere near the same demand or $ attached to it. And I expect you can barely give some Gewurtztraminers away. So producers like Nick are in an invidious position. They have to follow the money, and do the best they can.

What I can do as a consumer is to buy Rippon pinots and support their endeavour, and buy their Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers for their beauty. I urge you to do the same.

MS Rippon Tasting 2015 2


What’s in the glass tonight December 20th – Pinot Noir

Rockburn PN 2010

From the Cellar: Rockburn Pinot Noir Central Otago 2010 – $$

A multi-award winner. 14%. Regular pinot ruby colour. Herby, spicy and floral. Fruity with notes of wild thyme. All typical qualities of a good Central Pinot. Starting to show some mustiness and forest floor aromas and matchbox, but still red-cherry dominant.

This was a very intriguing wine. It started off somewhat languid and light, and finished dense.

Light bright fruit flavours, the expected red cherries etc. Vanilla. Fine tannins. Then it got more interesting. Developed in the glass. Became more driven, elegant and minerally. A spicy finish began to kick in. Became very structured and finished surprisingly dense. Remarkable, and most unexpected off the first sip.


What’s in the glass tonight November 12th – a Pinot Noir

Last Shepherd 2013

The Last Shepherd Pinot Noir Central Otago 2013 – $$

Very dark inky ruby colour. 13% alc.

Light and soft savoury nose.

On palate – fruity, fleshy, tannic, brassy and brusque straight out of the bottle. This somewhat angular ands thin first impression changed, softened and rounded out over time, and into the second day. I saw typical Central red cherry flavours, ripeness a touch on the herbaceous side, with a line of straw at the back. A nice, long finish.

BTG 3+

What’s in the glass tonight October 23rd

Rockburn Pinot Noir 2013

Rockburn Pinot Noir Central Otago 2013 

Another wedding gift 🙂

Deep pinot ruby. 14% alc.

A first-up hit of wild herbs and savoury notes, manuka leaf, hay, dark cherries, and a bit of stalk. A good hallmark of a cool-climate Pinot Noir.

In the mouth; bright ripe fruit, velvety tannins, warm, smokey, bouquet of old library books. A sweet finish, long and hot with spice. There is a touch of stalk on palate as well.

VG 4

What’s in the glass tonight October 12th

Black Cottage PN 2013

Black Cottage Reserve Pinot Noir Central Otago 2013

A much-appreciated wedding gift wine. I drank it out of one of the new Eisch pinot wine glasses we were also given.

13.5%. Dark carmine, slightly cloudy.

Closed, dumb nose. Some red cherries. Over time it became more piquant.

Good fruit weight, lots of mouth-filling flavours of soft ripe red fruits. Tannic mid-palate, spicy finish. Long and expansive. Great with dinner.

BTG 3+

What’s in the glass tonight Aug 24th

Grasshopper Rock PN 2010

From the Cellar: Grasshopper Rock Earnscleugh Vineyard Pinot Noir Central Otago 2010 – $$

This Pinot Noir was the top wine at that Under-$30 NZ Pinot Noir tutored tasting I wrote about recently. It was then included in the Over-$30 NZ Pinot Noir tasting that followed, and showed very well in that company also.

From their website, “Grasshopper Rock is one of the world’s southern most vineyards, established in 2003 and dedicated exclusively to pinot noir.[ ] The vineyard is situated on Earnscleugh Road, across the Clutha River from Alexandra. The site enjoys high sunshine hours by day and very cool temperatures by night and is sufficiently harsh and difficult to make the vines work their hardest.”


Champion Wine of the Show Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2012

Champion Pinot Noir Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2012

Cuisine magazine Top New Zealand Pinot Noir 2012

and, now….Deep carmine blush…13.9% alc.

Bright floral aromatics – red cherries and pink roses. Hint of thyme, with some gamey savouriness and spice.

Red berry fruits on the front palate, a bright line of acid, complexity and layering on the mid-palate, and a long finish with spice. I see slight under-ripeness at the death which I guess is the quid pro quo for the florality on bouquet.

Bright and forward. A wine to think about and savour, and a very good expression of Pinot Noir at an affordable price.


What’s in the glass tonight May 22nd

Maude Pinot Noir 2013

Maude Pinot Noir Central Otago 2013

L’s good friends J and B came over for dinner. They love their Pinot Noir, and have great taste. They know I do too! This wine they brought to share with us while we enjoyed some great scotch fillet steaks together.

Out of Wanaka, Central Otago. Dark carmine. 14% alc. The wine had a lovely savoury nose. Dark cherries and plums. Dried herbs.  Not too big, but a bit going on here nonetheless.

In the mouth there were velvety tannins, lots of fruit, and no metallic notes or bitter finish which can point to under-extraction and high cropping rates. A bit brambly too.

Noice choice.

VG 4

What’s in the glass tonight April 27th

Felton Road Chardonnay Bannockburn 2010

From the Cellar: Felton Road Chardonnay Bannockburn Central Otago 2010 – $$$

I have thought for a while now that Chardonnay grapes grown in Central Otago, due to the cooler climate down there, are well-suited for producing Chablis-like wines – wines with a more minerally, austere character, rather than the more fruit-drive ripe versions grown further north in the Hawkes Bay.

Unfortunately Chardonnay production levels from this region are low (blame the fashion for Central Otago Pinot Noir), and are correspondingly expensive so I don’t get to drink much Central Chardonnays to test this hypothesis. Here is a small chance to put this right:

This is a regional blend from three Felton Road vineyards in Bannockburn Central Otago. Brilliant pale gold colour. 14% alc.

Compressed fruit nose. Nutty and elegant.

Linear and somewhat austere flavours. Lacking a bit of zing and vivacity. Grapefruit and white peach. Dry minerals. A bitter finish. This wine is as good a candidate for a Chablis descriptor as you could get around here. I would have liked a bit more steel, if a full flavour was not on offer.

BTG 3+

What’s in the glass tonight April 13th

Gibbston Valley Rose 2013

Gibbston Valley Rosé Central Otago 2013 – $$

Now this was a nice rosé. Deep salmon strawberry blush colour. 12.5% alcohol.

Bouquet of sweet strawberry fruit, jellybeans, raw cut pumpkin, and funnily, newsprint paper.

Fresh acidity in the mouth. Mouthfilling, bracing, graceful. Flavours of sweet apples and green tomatoes. Very refreshing. Short. Mouthwatering. Yum.

VG 4