My Top 5: 2012 Central Otago Pinot Noir

October 14th 2013

While it rained on most New Zealanders’ barbies in the summer of 2012, the sun had got his hat on in Central Otago.

“It was a lovely season,” says Nadine Cross, winemaker at Peregrine. “We were sitting quiet while the rest of the country was talking about the horrendous summer they were having…not trying to be too smug.”

There weren’t any major incidences to speak of during the season. While there were rain “events” towards the end of the season, with double the annual rainfall recorded in February (71mm) and March (84mm), the producers claim that was a welcome relief for the vines, preventing water stress.

Blair Walter, Felton Road winemaker, explained: “The rain made for very healthy canopies that relieved the stress on the vines. That’s a big factor in Central Otago, we can get a lot of stress from the very hot, dry February/March and very very low humidity, which is not great for plants.  They don’t enjoy that.”

If Central Otago does get rain, it doesn’t stay wet for long either:  “Even when we do get 20mm of rain and it’s been wet for half a day, you can almost guarantee it’s going to be windy and sunny and things dry out extremely quickly. The 10 days I was in France in June it was overcast and cloudy. I only saw blue sky for a couple of hours and it just reminded me the stability of continental weather systems as opposed to our island weather system,” he added.

In a blind pre-release tasting of the 2012 Pinots, some pretty impressive wines emerged. I am a big fan of the 2010 vintage but 2012 could give it a run for its money.

The best show a combination of ripe fruit, depth on the mid-palate, a fresh line of acidity and abundant mouthcoating tannin. There’s harmony in this vintage when it comes to both alcohol levels and, oak management, which is well handled in 80+ percent of cases.

In general, the 2012s are much more enjoyable than the 2011s, at this early stage. The 2011s show firm rather than fresh acidity and are looking relatively austere. They aren’t particularly joyful whereas there is plenty of appeal in the 12s already; the 12s have got the legs to age too with plenty of concentration, an abundance of tannin, plus fresh acidity.

Inevitably, quality varies across the region with the less successful examples showing a lack of concentration and relatively simple fruit profile, which may be a sign of younger vines.  There were also a few disappointments from some of the most highly-regarded producers in the region, whose wines didn’t show as well as expected but perhaps that will change with time in bottle. Overall a 4 ½ out of 5 vintage.

Here are my top 5 wines of the vintage, as tasted in September 2013. All scores will be published on my new website, which should go live next month, IT depending…

My Top 5
2012 Valli Bannockburn Vineyard
I love the smell of an unfined and unfiltered wine, it’s slightly dirty yet unadulterated. This is a very elegant wine; if it were a dance it would be the American smooth. Pure fruit, still closed at the moment but showing total harmony. Great depth of fruit: it manages complexity and density with a lightness and delicacy.  Fresh acidity provides dartlike precision. My wine of the vintage.  19/20 or 94/100

2012 Felton Road Block 5
Plum skin and black cherry, firm acidity, fine line, suave but expansive pinot with mouthcoating tannins, concentrated without weight. Mouthwatering. Poised
18.2/20 or 91/100

2012 Mount Difficulty
Complex nose showing plum skin, florals, slight aspirin character, sweet fruit on entry. Light bodied, delicate yet mouthfilling with fresh acidity. An attractive and feminine pinot. Fine line.18/20 or 90/100

2012 Valli Gibbston Vineyard
Vibrant purple appearance. Both struck match and toasty oak dominate the nose at the moment but the class of the wine shows through: pure, focussed and relatively delicate on the mid palate. Attractive structure and high concentration with lovely flow; plum and clove spice linger long on the palate. A great wine but it just needs to get over its reductive edge.  18/20 or 90/100

2012 Pisa Range Black Poplar Block
A tad meaty – slightly reductive at this stage and not giving up much on the nose. On the palate, it has depth and focus. Quite a mysterious little number, there’s clearly plenty of fruit lurking in the glass but it’s a tightly-coiled spring right now. Very pure and silken texture. fine mouthcoating tannins have an almost chalky grain to them. A little warm on the finish but the structure shows low yields with good concentration and long length.  Like to see this again late in its life. 17.7/20 or 88/100

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