Wine is often associated with love. We open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate a wedding or the birth of a child. We give wine to friends to mark the Chinese new year.
Love and wine brought winemakers Sarah-Kate and Dan Dineen together. They met in Australia while working for rival vineyards in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. Sarah-Kate, a New Zealander, convinced Dan, an Australian, to move to the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s south island.
Central Otago is one of the most visually magnificent places in the world. It is also rapidly becoming known as one of the world’s best regions for cool-climate wine, especially pinot noir. America’s Robert Parker, probably the world’s most influential critic, featured the region in the Wine Spectator magazine.
Jancis Robinson MW, wine writer for the Financial Times, was in Shanghai and Beijing last month to launch the Chinese edition of the World Wine Atlas. She described Central Otago as possibly “the next great pinot region”. And influential Australia critic James Halliday called Central Otago “God’s country” in relation to pinot noir.
Sarah-Kate and Dan Dineen have launched their own label in Wanaka in Central Otago (www.maudewines.com), and I had the pleasure of tasting the current vintage and some barrel samples while in Wanaka.
Sarah-Kate makes wine for her own label, Maude, and for a vineyard her parents own, Mount Maude. All are seriously good wines. The 2008 Maude pinot gris spoke of long romantic walks in an orchard, surrounded by the perfume of pears. The 2008 Maude pinot noir is refined yet complex – a lot like a good relationship. The 2008 Mount Maude chardonnay is creamily elegant, with excellent length on the palate.
Barrel samples of the 2009 pinot noir and chardonnay promise even better things. The chardonnay was like walking into a bread shop, to be embraced by aromas of brioche and bread dough. The pinot noir offered a range of red fruits, all contained in an elegant structure of new oak.
Wine speaks so much of love and wonder, and should be enjoyed in excess.
In Australia, where I live, people consume an average of about 80 glasses a year.
Australia makes good pinot noir. But pinot noir from New Zealand’s Central Otago region has been receiving much attention from the world’s influential wine critics.
Rudi Bauer, winemaker for Quartz Reef in Central Otago, is the region’s best-known winemaker. He was one of six people short-listed as international winemaker of the year, the equivalent of a wine-world Oscar. The award will be announced March 20.
Gibbston Valley was an early standard setter in Central Otago, its 2000 vintage gaining the trophy for best pinot noir at the London International Wine Challenge. That wine is so much in demand that it sells for $NZ450 (US$322) a bottle.
In 2008 the Wild Earth 2006 pinot noir received an award for best pinot, and then the trophy for champion red wine, at the International Wine Challenge in London. Last year Cuisine magazine named the wine New Zealand’s best pinot noir.
Wild Earth’s owner Quintin Quider, an American, told me yields were deliberately kept low to improve fruit quality. The vineyard sits at the end of Felton Road, opposite the famous Felton Road Vineyard.
Next door to Wild Earth, another American, Jen Parr, is weaving magic in the vineyard at Olssens, and picking up lots of awards, especially for her whites. Parr’s 2009 Annieburn Riesling is sold out, such is the demand for this sweet delight. The 2009 dry version of the Riesling has elegance and great length, with minerally hints of honeysuckle and lime.
Perhaps the best-known red at Olssens is the Nipple Hill pinot noir, named after a mountain above the property that looks like the breast of a powerful Amazon goddess. It is a friendly, entry-level red with plenty of ripe fruit.
* Published in Asia News, 19 March 2010