china daily wine column #17

The newly released 2009 Felton Road Block 5 pinot noir is only available through a mailing list. Currently the vineyard has a queue of people waiting to join the list. So this wine, which retails for about $70 at the cellar door in New Zealand, is probably not available in China.
Yet wine lovers will pine for this wine. It is one of the most elegant pinot noirs I have tried from Bannockburn in the Central Otago region. The wine comes from a special part of the vineyard known as The Elms, with 14 hectares of vines. About half is pinot noir, with the rest chardonnay and riesling.
The area appears well suited to the production of complex pinot noir. The Elms, the first Felton Road vineyard, was selected by Stewart Elms in 1991 and planted the next year. It is a gentle valley, and one of the few in Bannockburn to escape the attention of the miners who sluiced many of the Bannockburn slopes during the gold rushes of the 1860s.
Bannockburn in Central Otago is on latitude 45 degrees south, similar in location to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and some of the fine wine regions of Burgundy in France. The vineyard is in one of the most southerly wine-growing regions in the world. It has north-facing slopes and deep loess soils. Loess is fine-grained silt or clay. Much of the land in the region was damaged during the gold rushes, and some areas of Central Otago look like the moonscape.
Winemaker Blair Walter said the wine was a result of farming without chemicals and observing the “natural rhythms” of the region’s eco-systems. Walter studied at Lincoln University and Oregon State University before working vintages in New Zealand, Australia, Oregon and Napa in the United States, and Burgundy.
The various Felton Road vineyards exhibit their own macroclimates, and are surrounded by high mountains. Many of the mountains are capped by snow all year. Some critics suggest the location is on the edge of sustainable viticulture. But these macroclimates combine hot days, cool nights and long dry autumns, which makes them ideal for creation of fine pinot noir.
All barrels for Felton Road pinot noir are coopered in Burgundy. Each vintage typically has 30 per cent new oak, selected for its ability to extract subtle flavors over time. The Felton Road 2009 Block 5 pinot noir is dark cherry in color, restrained at first, but with flavors of plum and sour cherries. Ideally it should be cellared for a decade.
* “An elegant pinot noir to pine for” in China Daily, 20 November 2010, page 12.

Categories: Not home, wine

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