The silky wines of Central Otago, near Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island, have helped turn the country into a pinot noir superpower over the past few decades.
Just a couple of hours’ drive north of Central Otago, however, there’s another wine region now exciting international wine critics, who are comparing these pinot noir to wines from the world’s most famous pinot playground, Burgundy.
Pinot noir from Waitaki Valley, about 40km inland from the Pacific Ocean, has caught the eye of Wine Spectator’s respected critic, Matt Kramer, who described Waitaki wines as being the New World’s answer to Burgundy’s Chambolle-Musigny, a village noted for its layered, perfumed pinots.
“Frankly, I can’t think of higher praise than that,’’ wrote Kramer, who covers Burgundy for Wine Spectator.
A cracking Waitaki wine, the Tatty Bogler by Forrest Pinot Noir 2019, leads
The Australian Wine Club’s pinot mixed dozen deal this week, alongside wines from the Adelaide Hills, Tumbarumba and Martinborough, another leading New Zealand pinot-producing region.
John Forrest, the winemaker behind the Tatty Bogler (Scottish for scarecrow), is regarded as a viticultural pioneer in New Zealand, giving up a successful scientific research career for a life in the wine game in 1988.
Dr Forrest shared with me a wonderful but sad story of how one of New Zealand’s most successful entrepreneurs, the late Howard Paterson, introduced him to the potential of Waitaki.
Paterson, who died in mysterious circumstances in a hotel room in Fiji in 2003, had become acquainted with Dr Forrest through his work on a New Zealand wine industry science advisory body.
“Howard insisted I come and see Waitaki, and he organised a helicopter to fly me there from Dunedin,’’ Dr Forrest says.
“We flew up the coast to the Waitaki River and then turned west and followed the river along, and I saw how these beautiful limestone hills and granite hills stopped the cold air coming into the valley,’’ he says. The region also boasts unique soils – free-draining river gravels, inter-layered with ancient limestone seabed – which give the wines distinctive traits.
“Howard wanted me to make some wine from his pinot grapes in 2002 but when the grapes came into the winery, they looked so scungy, we nearly didn’t bother.
“When we tasted it, it had this magnificent, lavender, violet character on the nose and this beautiful savoury finish.’’
It wasn’t until the following year that Dr Forrest gave Paterson the finished wine.
“As it turned out, Howard left a phone message for a friend before he left for Fiji saying how good the wine was. That was the last message before he was found in his room.”
Dr Forrest dedicates his Tatty Bogler wines to his friend and mentor.
“People are now seeing the real potential of Waitaki thanks to Howard’s vision – and that has all jumping around with a fair bit of excitement.”
Savoury smokiness wafts around intense aromas of cherries, plums and spice, with charcuterie, tamarind and coffee in the background. Juicy fruit flows across the soft palate – sour cherries, rhubarb, earthiness and a hint of dates. Gentle seasoning of oak and a long finish.
Pinot fans will rejoice in this complexity. 13% alc; RRP $45 a bottle.
SPECIALS $39.99 a bottle in any dozen; $29.99 in pinot noir dozen.
New Zealand’s Martinborough is one of the world’s special pinot places. The Luminary leads with aromas of tart strawberry and red currant, with violets, cloves and vanilla in the background. This is a delicate fruit-driven style but there are touches of savouriness; silky tannins and gentle acidity drive to the finish.
Open and decant for an hour before drinking to let those flavours come through. 14% alc; RRP $33 a bottle.
SPECIALS $29.99 a bottle in any dozen; $29.99 in pinot noir dozen.
Crafted by legendary winemaker Ben Riggs, a veteran of 47 vintages who worked for years at Wirra Wirra before founding Mr Riggs Wine Co in 2001. Mushroom and spice aromas waft from the glass, along with violet, black cherry and almond notes. Ripe fruit flavours of red cherries and red currants are carried with fresh zingy acidity to a lingering finish.
From an excellent vintage in the Adelaide Hills. 93pts at the Melbourne International Wine Show. 13% alc; RRP $35 a bottle.
SPECIALS $28.99 a bottle in any dozen; $29.99 in pinot noir dozen.
From the high country in the Snowy Mountains. Perfumed aromas of red cherries, pepper and spice introduce a silky palate flowing with red apples, fresh cranberries, thyme and savoury notes. Firm line of natural acidity forms the backbone, driving to a long finish.
Should cellar for 10 years. 13% alc; RRP $45 a bottle.
SPECIALS $34.99 a bottle in any dozen; $29.99 in pinot noir dozen.
PINOT NOIR DOZEN Three bottles of each wine above for $29.99 a bottle. SAVE $114 a dozen
Order by simply clicking the links to our online store or telephone 1300 765 359 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm AEST. Deals are available only while stocks last. The Australian Wine Club is a commercial partnership with Laithwaites Wine, LIQP770016550. Stockhead is partnering with The Australian Wine Club on this offer.mushroom stocks deal