Felton Road Picks 2012 As “Best Vintage Ever”
Central Otago’s Felton Road is widely regarded as one of the country’s best Pinot Noir producers. And, in the same vein as the Bordelais in 2009 and 2010, Felton’s long-serving winemaker Blair Walter is touting 2012 as Central Otago’s “best vintage ever.” And that will surprise a few people.
In general, 2012 wasn’t a great summer for most of New Zealand. It was cool and wet in many parts: the high acidity in many Marlborough sauvignon blancs was cause for a trip to the dentist for new enamel. But Central Otago, the world’s most southerly wine growing region at 45 degrees latitude, escaped the rain and had a warm but not hot growing season.
“We had a spectacular summer in Central Otago. We had the most consistent December we have ever had. Then, through February and March it was warm but not the extremes that cause the vines to shut down,” says Walter.
Meanwhile, the rest of New Zealand is pretty excited about the 2013 harvest but Walter doesn’t think it measures up to 2012 down in Central. “While everyone is talking up 2013 in the North Island, in Central Otago we’re not so excited. In 2013 we had warm days but warm nights as well. I don’t think we can surpass 2012 as a vintage.”
Indeed, the first showing of the 2012s is pretty impressive across the entire range with vibrant acidity.
I have to pick the Calvert Vineyard as my personal favorite: it’s serious, taut and fine. Cornish Point is rounder, more voluptuous, with a quirky minty edge but it doesn’t offer the linear streak that I love in Pinots.
Style-wise, Felton Road is moving towards greater refinement with every vintage. As a region, Central Otago can be guilty of being the Barossa of the Pinot world: overripe, overextracted and overoaked. They’re certainly the biggest pinots in the country
“We don’t go out to make these fruit bomb styles, it’s what nature is giving us but some of us in Central Otago are starting to realize we can pick earlier…it’s easy to make wines to impress people with lots of oak, lots of fruit but is that what people want to drink?” asks Walter.
“I have been guilty of picking when the wine is too ripe,” he adds. But with older vines and more grey hairs, the wines are starting to follow an increasingly linear and delicate track.
“We are looking for more detail, more precision and finesse. We are usually the first to start and first to finish [picking in Bannockburn].” It seems to be working.
2012 Pinot Noir Bannockburn
An appealing Pinot with juicy upfront fruit. Lifted red cherry and blackberry aromas with a violet note. Lovely plumpness on the mid-palate that gives your mouth a cuddle combined with lovely line of acidity and fine grained tannin. On the finish, there’s attractive but not overdone oak-derived spice, clove and cinnamon. While it’s the most simple pinot in the Felton range, it would still kick most Central Otago wines’ butts. 88/100
2012 Pinot Noir Calvert
The most refined of the Felton Pinot family. It has a fine floral nose with a puff of rhubarb. The mid-palate is soft and alluring but it remains finely poised. This wine has great direction, helped by amazing acidity, leaving you salivating. The tannins are fine and round, and there’s plenty of ‘em for a Pinot. There’s some chocolatey oak on the finish with black cherry and ginger lingering long in the mouth. 93/100
2012 Pinot Noir Block 3
Made from 20 year old vines this style is mouthfilling with big tannins for Pinot. It flows mellifluously along the palate and manages to retains a lightness of touch despite its underlying power. Great acidity. Long finish. This has great potential for the long term. 91/100
In part 2: Did you know Felton makes damn good Chardonnay?