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JOHN ROZENTALS tastes some rippers from Central Otago and reckons that he’s found a new — and quite feral — descriptor of the flavour of great pinot noir.

June 1, 2019 Beverage, Headline News No Comments Email Email

Many years ago, Adelaide’s Phillip White, who I’ve long regarded as the nation’s best wine writer, penned a delightful piece on the flavours of top pinot noir.

He used the analogy of a small boy picking blackberries, I recall, and falling off his ladder through the bush, landing covered in juice, slightly bloodied and with a little bit of shit in his pants.

They were evocative descriptors, not all of them at first reading all that appealing. But I think that they came very close to the mark.

Good pinot has a distinctly feral edge to it. That’s part of its appeal.

Any way, I think that I’ve found another, slightly off-putting at first, descriptor — somewhat soiled bandages.

I came across it in a bottle of Domaine Thomson 2017 Explorer Pinot Noir, from Central Otago, on New Zealand’s South Island.

You’ll find the wine — if you look hard enough — for about $30 or so. I urge you to  find some and see if you find it imbued with the same character.

Central Otago, and its principal city of Queenstown, are remarkably beautiful parts of the world. I’ve recently been there and can certainly vouch for them.

On the basis of latitude, you’d classify Central Otago as being impossible for viticulture, and it does snow there.

But, thanks to the bowl formed by reflective surrounding mountains and hills, it can get mighty warm as well.

Thee are many, typically small, growers there and Central Otago has a firm place on the map as one of the world’s best places to make top-notch pinot noir.


Huntington Estate 2016 Basket-Dried Shiraz ($75): Winemaker Tim Stevens hand-harvested a tiny parcel of premium Mudgee grapes early in vintage and basket-dried them in the amarone method, gradually concentrating the sugars and flavours. The result is an outstanding dry red with oodles of rich floral, fruity and peppery flavours — and the birth of a new premium red for Huntington Estate. Drink with prime beef.

D’Arenberg 2016 Derelict Vineyard Grenache ($29): Not so long ago, when grenache was the some reason unpopular, Chester Osborn and his dad acquired quite a few abandoned and overgrown McLaren Vale vineyards planted to the variety. Many of the old vines are still dishevelled but are producing small yields of outstanding fruit, as exemplified here. We’re just coming into the season for it. Rub your hands together and enjoy with a rich, hearty stew.


Domaine Thomson 2014 Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir ($60): This is classy pinot noir. They’re hidden beneath an amalgam of earthy, forest-floor flavours here, but the soiled bandages are still there if you look for them — and how attractive they are. Dark-red berry fruits are primary but there’s much else to this long, intense and deep wine as well. Serve with rich, gamey meats, but save a glass for contemplation afterwards. It’s that sort of red.

Written by John Rozentals

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