Again – an invite that I am always grateful for, if it is extended… and I am quick to arrange that I can attend; is to the annual unveiling of a carefully curated box of Pinot Noir by Curt Thomas. The ‘guru of Pinot’ puts together a set of wines from each vintage on the year of release and hides them away in his cellar for eight years. Then, on one special day, he opens them all in a day-long feast of epic proportions… eight years on. In the company of a privileged invited few, and accompanied by the most delicious food – that everyone contributes to. It is hands-down the most informative and downright enjoyable session on wine that I attend in any given year. See here for last year’s session on the 2014 vintage – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=7696.
2023 was a shocker of a year, and this is a welcome start to what I hope will be a less-troubled and more stable twelve months. We’re presented with a collection of wines from the 2015 vintage – all the wines are from the same year. Today there are wines from across the globe – taking in Burgundy, Argentina, Australia’s Mornington Peninsula and wines from New Zealand’s main Pinot-growing areas.
The vintage in France started well, with early flowering in a dry and warm Spring. Weather remained ideal and harvest was early. Stephen Tanzer suggested that “In terms of their consistent quality and broad appeal, 2015 will be a difficult vintage to top”. The Mornington Peninsula also had a great vintage, with a “perfect growing season, one of the vintages of the decade” according to Decanter magazine. In New Zealand Rebecca Gibb calls it “a vintage of quality not quantity” – nationally yields were down by 27%.
Here are my thoughts on each of the wines with a few highlights…
Bodega Colome ‘Lote Especial’, Valle Calchaqui, Salte, Argentina. A wine from a particularly high altitude vineyard – the ‘Altura Maxima’. At 3000 metres high – compare that to the higher vineyards in the Awatere Valley (like the next wine) in Marlborough at around 450 metres. A very perfumed nose with a striking ‘candy store’ note – like opening a bag of lollies. Also a slather of earthy notes strikes a contrast to liquorice and cassis flavours. Medium-bodied, with supple tannin. A very good start. 95pts
Clos Marguerite, Awatere Valley, Marlborough. A wine where the New World meets the Old World. Very New Zealand fruitiness, with a European profile and structure. Savoury edge of red pepper, salami, with some balsam as well. Powerful, with oak quite firmly showing plus and a salty acidity. Complex and very characterful. 94pts
Hans Herzog ‘Grand Duc’, Marlborough is a selection of what Hans considers to be the “best blocks/rows from a particular soil type of a particular vintage picked at the tiniest yield” Red notes of cranberry, with greener parts of herbs and menthol come through on the nose. Polished and concentrated on the palate – still a baby, with a plucky acidity. There’s a simplicity and calmness through the palate. More savoury at the smooth finish. Years to go with this yet. 95pts
Thierry Violot-Guillemard ‘Les Reugnes’ Auxey-Duresses, 1er Cru, Burgundy presents a pretty, freshness in the glass. A little shy but quite fine and precise into the palate. Blackcurrant, cherry sorbet and a ripe fruit sweetness come through. Gradually turning more textural as it comes out of its shell – and although the finish is still austere, there is a fine balance and a good linearity. 95pts
Two wines come from Corofin – the Corofin ‘Settlement – East Slope’, Marlborough has a lovely strawberry creme chocolate aroma, mixed with kirsch, morello cherry and toasted spices. The palate is kick-started with a juicy, tart acidity and tannin is fine and powdery, in a supporting role. Even, well-balanced and quite succulent. 92pts. Then the Corofin ‘Churton Clod Block’, Marlborough takes a step up. A luxurious, complex beastie, showing some lovely oak char and quite grippy tannin. Quite full, immediate and attention-grabbing. There’s a gritty minerality to the spine, and some intriguing tarragon and butterscotch flavours at the long finish. 93pts
Mark Haima ‘Paux Bois; Volnay, Burgundy is made by and Aussie (who, for a decade was at Yarra Yering) working as a negociant in Burgundy since 2009 – renting space and buying grapes. Some whole-bunch spicy perfume and with a very dry, almost dusty edge to the palate. Well structured, with oak, briney acidity and a chalky minerality. The wine is subtle – simple almost – and the finish is the same – long and balanced. 93pts
Valli ‘Gibbston’ Central Otago shows the very best of this well-regarded New Zealand Pinot pioneer. In a good year, Gibbston is their flagship, and this is very, very good. The nose is sensuously fragrant. A bloody ripeness follows. Redcurrant, elderberry, cocoa and spice galore, but a real unison to the marriage of layers. This has a strut and presence, and it stood out in this line up (so far). 96pts
René Bouvier ‘Clos du Roy’ Marsannay, Burgundy. With the growth in prices across the region, a lot of people who could once afford the top Crus are looking for value in areas that were previously lesser-known. Marsannay received its Appellation in 1987, and Clos du Roy is probably the best-regarded vineyard. Beetroot, blueberry cherry and floral aromas of violet and rose petal. A crunch and pleasant robustness to the fruit, with a raw power to the palate. Oak adds smoke and spice develops, with savoury and mineral layers revealing themselves. 96pts
Burn Cottage, Lowburn, Central Otago. Has a subtlety on the nose that disguises a firm power in the palate. Lavender and thyme sit above dark fruit and wider ranging notes of red apple, sappy herbs, fennel and incense. Minerality, chalky tannin and piquant acidity. One of the most complex wines so far, yet with a quieter voice. The finish is smooth and textural. 94pts
Gachot Monot ‘Poulettes’ Nuits St Georges 1er Cru, Burgundy. A fine ‘French Pinot’ perfume, with bags of varietal personality. Savoury meets ripe fruit. Blueberry, cranberry and cherry with autumn leaves and a touch of pickled, smoky mushroom. Super-fine tannin, smoky oak and juicy acidity all combine and interact in the backbone of the palate. The fruit bleeds through, balancing out and cocooning the edgier flavours. The finale brings the elements together in a harmonic, svelte fashion. Very elegant but characterful. 96pts
Mammoth, Moutere Hills, Nelson. A very savoury nose – distinctive and robust. Inky, smoky and prickly. This moves beyond ‘structure’ into ‘architecture’! A natural, un-polished wildness through the palate. Herbal, umami (soy), tart cherry and wood smoke all feature in my notes. A rich, full throttle finish to a very interesting expression of Pinot. I don’t hate it but I’m not sure what to make of it. 93pts
A pair of wines from Prophet’s Rock follow. Prophet’s Rock ‘Home Block’ Bendigo, Central Otago by contrast is a clean, lean and ethereal entry. A vibrant energy steals through the palate, showing a structure elegance – bracing acidity and fine, supple tannin. Fruit in the raspberry, blood orange spectrum, but still ripe and aromatic. Still seems quite youthful and evolving. Come back in five more years? Also 93pts, for very different reasons. Prophet’s Rock ‘Cuvée aux Antipodes’ Bendigo, Central Otago is a rarer wine – made by French legend François Millet – from Domaine de Vogue in Chambolle-Musigny. The extraction here is even lighter than the Home Block expression, but does see longer in oak. Floral, medium-bodied, open and expansive. Spices of cassia bark, anise and woody herbs are soaked in ripe cherry and boysenberry fruits. The acidity is key here – linear and athletic, driving the wine on to a lingering, spicy and succulent finish. 95pts
Martinborough Estate ‘Home Block’ Martinborough continues to make Pinot so ‘Martinborough-like’ that they must have written the recipe. The perfume is so varietally spot-on, with cherry, black olive, pepper, liquorice, salami and earthiness. There’s a note of marmite right from the aroma to the finish. The only things that sticks out in a simple, uncomplicated structure is the chewy tannin. 92pts
Ata Rangi, Martinborough shows us a style as far from the ‘fruit bomb’ type of NZ Pinot Noir as you will find. The balanced perfume does hold that classic Martinborough roasted meat and ‘sous bois’ forest floor savouriness, but there is also the delicacy of peppered strawberries, macerated cherry and cherry danish (to borrow some foodie flavour descriptions). A carefully crafted wine of delicacy and coiled energy, with nuance and seduction rather than blunt power and concentration. The palate (and finish) is dry, linear and smooth. 95pts
Scorpo, Mornington Peninsula, Australia comes from a part of Victoria that I’ve been keen to visit – but then you can add several sub-regions of this fascinating State to that list, despite my visit last Easter. Here, the fruits are plush, crunchy and with a lightness set off by an appealing line of acidity. Quite bold, with weight and depth in the palate that shows off some elongated tannins and smoky oak. Still some puppy fat in this one – years to go. 95pts
Greenhough ‘Hope’ Nelson also shows a youthful pop of fruit – remember these wines are eight years old – peppery and spiced. Cherry cola, pomegranite, tomato leaf, plum and rhubarb. Very well integrated tannin and oak allows that bright, ripe fruit to shine. 92pts
Yabby Lake ‘Block 6’ Mornington Peninsula, Australia is another wine from this region with a reputation for making some of the Southern Hemisphere’s best Pinot. The talents of winemaker Tom Carson has produced a perfume is hedonistically bright and spicy. A whack of whole bunch winemaking I wonder? The start is high-toned, but then turns ‘slow and low’ with a slinky texture and a tapestry of plum sauce, dark chocolate, chinotto and cardamom. Good characterful wine. 94pts
Pegasus Bay ‘Prima Donna’ Waipara starts with a bang. The most expressive richness to any perfume here so far. Power-packed and making a statement – it reminds you of how ‘grand’ some of New Zealand’s Reserve Pinots are. A wine for some roasted proteins and maybe a cigar afterwards. The palate has a hurly-burly weight, a firmness and a sumptuous texture. Oak, tannin, ripeness, zesty acid – it is all there. Will last for another decade, and possibly offer a little more integration and calmness then? 94pts
Rippon ‘Tinker’s Field’ Wanaka, Central Otago is one example where you just think ‘this is ready now’. Often we think about what a wine will look like in a certain length of time in the future – or whether it is past the best. This impresses right now. Medium-bodied at most, but what it lacks in heaviness it carries in finesse and subtlety. Vibrant fruit, a complex structure that is tight and quietly firm, and with a zesty, saline acidity. Super. 95pts
Bouchard ‘Les Caillerets, Ancienne Cuvée Carnots’ 1er Cru, Volnay, Burgundy has an even-handed balance and polish as well as some quite intriguing elements (according to my notes). Bubblegum, pot pourri, spring flowers, black tea and fine tannins. Plush and even into a lingering finish. 92pts