Central Otago

Rippon Pinot Noir 2011, Lake Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk March 2015 @ home

The Winery

Originally bought in 1912 by the Mills family, it was in 1975 that Rolfe and Lois Mills, the third generation of the family on the farm, started to plant a series of experimental rows of vines near Lake Wanaka in Central Otago. In 1982 they planted the first block of vines with the express interest of producing high quality wine. In 1989 their first commercial vintage was released. The land continues to be farmed by the Mills family with Rolfe's son Nick now in charge, and production is entirely biodynamic with no irrigation.

ick Mills, Rippon

See Nick's video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGMd1jQEE2s

Nick Mills returned home after several years away, working with Alain and Sophie Meunier at Domaine JJ Confuron, and Pascal Marchand (late of Domaine Comte Armand and now at Domaine de la Vougeraie) in Burgundy.

Nick Mills on Biodynamics, "Granted custodianship over this very special piece of land, the family's principle goal is to create vins de terroir, wines that are an accurate reflection of their surroundings. It is the micro-life in our soils which, in their ability to metabolise minerals into a form that vines can assimilate, are the link in between plants and the earth. This simple biology is the essential framework in producing a wine which is true to its soil and site. With this understanding comes an absolute respect for the land and life therein and it is for this reason that Rippon is run biodynamically. Decisions made in the vineyard and winery first consider the effect the outcome may have on the micro-flora of the soils, vines & wines. Rippon does not use herbicides, fungicides, pesticides or soluble nitrogenous fertilisers on the property. All the property's organic waste matter is recycled to make around 40 tonnes of fungal dominant compost every year. This is spread back over the land during the first descending moon after harvest as an inoculation of beneficial micro-flora for the whole property...and thus starts a diverse and vital web of life on which to live and produce."

The estate is around 15 hectares in size and sits on a north facing escarpment. 

The wine

This Pinot had great aromas and lovely intense, concentrated flavours of cherry and blackberry with a hint of spice, earthy notes on the palate. Fine tannins, and a long juicy finish. Very enjoyable balance of fruit, acidity and tannin from this bio wine with powerful flavours. 

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2012, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk@home December 2015

Bio Logo

The winery

Burn Cottage Vineyard Property is a twenty four hectare estate in Cromwell near the foothills of the Pisa range in Central Otago, New Zealand. The vineyard is owned by the Sauvage family which also owns the celebrated Koehler Ruprecht estate in the Pfalz region of Germany.

The vineyard was purchased in 2002 after an auction by Marquis and Dianne Sauvage. Historically the site was used for sheep grazing and there were, and are, no immediate vineyard neighbours. The site was much coveted in the region for it is sheltered from both northerly and southerly winds by large hills to form a protected bowl.

The first blocks were planted in 2003 and many different clones of Pinot Noir were planted on a variety of rootstocks. In addition to Pinot Noir there is a small amount of Gruner Veltliner and Riesling planted. The Pinot Noir is situated on north and north east facing slopes and the Riesling and Gruner are planted on an east facing slope in a gully in the property. The Gruner Veltliner planting is from the first generation of this variety released in New Zealand. 

New Zealander Peter Proctor and his partner Rachel Pomeroy have been intimately involved in the organisation, establishment and practice of biodynamics at Burn Cottage since the very beginning. Along with 10 hectares of vines there are over 20 hectares of land devoted to creating an enclosed farm system to supply manure for the compost programs. The aim is to minimise Sulfur usage and avoid all additives whenever possible including cultured yeasts, bacteria, associated nutrient products and filters. Racking is also whenever possible and wine work is done according to lunar and celestial rhythms.

The wine

Alcohol 13.2 %, Commenced Harvest: 29th March, Finished harvest 7th April. Burn Cottage composition: Block 1 – 17% Block 2 – 13% Block 4 – 16% Block 7 East – 14% Block 7 West – 21% Blocks 6&8 – 19% Bottled volume : 2050 cases 6 x 750 ml

Spring was somewhat changeable and cool but there was very good weather for grapes in December 2011 with very good soil moisture. There was a brief bit of snow in November with some frost. January brought had good spells of hot, dry weather, with excellent flowering and mid-season conditions. Rain in February was welcome for the soils, while March was slightly wetter and milder than usual, slowing ripening a little in the final weeks.

Fermented Grape Tasting Notes

I was looking forward to trying this 2012 Pinot Noir from Burn Cottage as the winery has the reputation of being one of the best in New Zealand.  

There were strong aromas of dark cherry with a hint of spice. The wine had noticeable acidity and earthy characteristics but this was well balanced by the dark fruit, herby notes and fine tannins. There was a long and satisfying finish. The winemaker described it as "the most firm and enigmatic Burn Cottage we have yet produced" and to me this was a classic elegant Central Otago Pinot. Very expensive but with just over 2000 cases produced Burn Cottage is a low volume producer and it is great to try such an excellent wine with their biodynamic credentials. Recommended!

Two Paddocks Pinot Noir 2010, Central Otago, New Zealand

Fermented Grape Favourite

Drunk January 2014

The winery

Two Paddocks is a small family wine producer owned by New Zealand actor, Sam Neill. His mission is simple, "we have become outrageously ambitious – we want to produce year after year, the world’s best Pinot Noir."

The winery started in 1993 with modest ambitions and first planted five acres of Pinot Noir at their original vineyard at Gibbston, Central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. At the same time, Roger Donaldson planted the land next door, hence the name Two Paddocks.

The first vintage was produced in 1997 and they planted another 5 acres of Burgundian clones there in 2008 bringing the total acreage at Gibbston to 5 hectares. They added two other small vineyards in the Alexandra district, a 7-acre vineyard on a very beautiful terrace above the Earnscleugh Valley and this was planted it with Burgundian Pinot vines (5, 6, 115) in 1998.

In 2000 Two Paddocks acquired Redbank, a 130 acre small farm which became their main vineyard and they planted more Burgundian pinot clones there (777, 667 and 115 primarily). The pinot from this vineyard is the backbone of “Two Paddocks Pinot Noir”, as well as the production site for their Riesling.

In 2008, the winery attained full organic status for Redbank and the Last Chance Paddock. But as part of various personnel changes in the vineyard and certain economic realities they have slightly backed away from a totally organic approach, using a limited amount of herbicide for weed control in the vineyard, but no pesticides or fungicides.

The wine

Two Paddocks is the winery’s flagship Pinot Noir - an estate grown, barrel selection from the Neill family estate vineyards in Central Otago by winemaker Dean Shaw.

These vineyards are high-density and intensively ‘man-handled’ with nearly all vineyard practices carried out by hand (with the exception of compost spreading). As in the vineyard, the wine is hand crafted using traditional methods including a 25% whole bunch fermentation in French oak cuvees and hand plunging. It is then aged in French barriques for 11 months, using a mix of older and new (25%) barrels.

In 2010, flowering took place over reasonably unsettled weather in December, and because of this berry size was smaller and bunch weights lowered. The unsettled weather patterns change from late January and our vintage finished with higher than usual temperature and long settled periods of dry, hot autumn days. The smaller berry size, lack of disease pressure and long length of ripening ensured a top quality wine with 1000 cases made.

The wine was an assemblage from Gibbston First Paddock and the Earnscleugh Last Chance and Red Bank vineyards. Each block and clone was picked and fermented separately, with the final blending taking place prior to bottling

The nose on this Two Paddocks was incredibly powerful - Black cherry, strawberry, blackcurrant and floral notes. The palate was ultra smooth and textured with the cherry, strawberry balanced by herbs and earthiness – again more of a robust than finessed Pinot. The finish was long, long, long. Lovely. This is up there with one of my favourites, Felton Road Pinot Noir. Keep it up Sam!

Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006, New Zealand

Fermented-Grape Favourite

Drunk January 2014

The winery

Gibbston Valley Wines was founded by Alan Brady who planted his first grapes in 1981 with the first commercial wine in 1987. Brady is originally from Northern Ireland, but moved to New Zealand over 50 years ago. He left the day-to-day running of Gibbston Valley in 1997 to concentrate on his own, smaller vineyard and winery, Mount Edward. He is now retired, but retains shares in Gibbston Valley Wines and Mount Edward and is a director of Felton Road Wines in Bannockburn

Gibbston Valley has seven vineyards, two in the Gibbston sub-region and five in the Bendigo sub-region. A semi-continental climate with extreme diurnal rhythms, temperatures can fluctuate during the growing season between 30 degrees centigrade during the day and 5 degrees at night.


Gibbston Valley 1982

The wine

Gibbston Valley wines caught my eye because the 2012 Pinot Noir won the best wine of Decanter's January 2014 review of Central Otago Pinot's. 

This 2006 was almost see through in the glass. The palate was complex and velvety smooth with a savoury, herby, blackberry, sweet cherry liquer and smokiness. Very forward, very fresh. Great.

Bought hard to find wines £26.


Craggy Range Calvert Pinot Noir 2010, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk December 2013

The Winery

When Terry Peabody arrived home from a four-week business trip in the Autumn of 1986 his wife Mary, and daughter Mary-Jeanne, cooked him dinner. The meal was long and leisurely, but not without purpose. Terry wasn't allowed to leave until he had agreed to go into the wine business. The specification was that the business must never be sold. It was to be a family business, an enduring heritage legacy.

Terry and Mary Peadbody

That night, Terry made a commitment to the most important people in his life, and he intended to honour it. The search for a winery began traditionally enough - in France and America, spreading then to Australia, then finally to New Zealand.

'When I pictured a life among the vines, I didn't immediately think of New Zealand, but New Zealand was wonderful, because we were interested in clean air, green fields and a culture of care for the land. We didn't want to inherit or extend other people's mistakes.' Mary Peabody

Fate played its part. An acquaintance introduced Terry to noted Kiwi viticulturist Steve Smith, who had been named by Decanter magazine as 'one of the 50 most influential people in the world of wine going into the next millennium.' He was in good company alongside Chateau Margaux's Paul Pontallier, Pierre Henry Gagey of Louis Jadot, and Jancis Robinson MW. He'd just become a Master of Wine - the only specialist viticulturist in the world to have the distinction.

Steve Smith and Terry Peabody

As some collect antiquities or vintage cars, Steve collected land for vintages. A consultant with a rare instinct, and experience in South Africa and Bordeaux, he received more than 350 parcels of wine annually from all over New Zealand. Gimblett Gravels in the Hawke's Bay on the east coast of New Zealand was an area with the perfect growing conditions for his favourite wines – the Bordeaux reds and particularly Syrah. The spectacularly beautiful Tuki Tuki valley had the soil for Chardonnay and would be the ideal home base from which to build a new kind of winery.

Steve, who always wanted to stretch the boundaries and to whom 'it's nice' would be the ultimate insult about a wine, joined Terry. They made an important decision from the beginning to exclusively pursue the Single Vineyard Philosophy of winemaking, a new concept back in 1997. Craggy Range was the first in the Southern Hemisphere to adopt making single vineyard wines from multiple regions of the country. Grape was matched to place.

Craggy Range own land in two locations in New Zealand, Gimblett Gravels and Martinborough but also source grapes from other producers to make some of their wines e.g. Craggy Range Calvert

It is fortunate to have 100 hectares of this famous 850 hectare area and our Gimblett Gravels Vineyard is widely regarded amongst the very best vineyards for Bordeaux Reds and Syrah in New Zealand.

Its unique location creates the warmest vineyard area in the country, where other climatic factors such as sunshine hours, humidity and rainfall are also ideal. The stony soils further warm the entire environment of the vine and create excellent soil conditions for making ultra premium red wines from these varieties. 

2) Te Muna means "The secret" in Maori. Under the first vine of block one inside the gate of this beautiful young Martinborough vineyard, (established in 1999) Aunt Sally, an elderly and wise Maori woman  buried a piece of the Peabody’s family silver as a good luck omen. 'It is still the strongest vine in the vineyard.' Terry Peabody

The Craggy Range Te Muna Road vineyard is 7km outside the township of Martinborough, at a higher elevation, which delays harvest by about a week. The area enjoys a climate that is closely aligned with the famous cool climate regions of Burgundy, the Loire Valley and Marlborough. Here, the focus is on our own cultivation of the classic cool climate varieties of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

The vineyard consists of two distinct terraces, one with very old stony soils at a higher altitude, producing exceptional Pinot Noir. The second lower terrace is younger stony soil, interlaced with lumps of limestone, excellent for Sauvignon Blanc. 

The wine

Craggy Range added the Calvert Pinot Noir to its range in 2007.

The Calvert Vineyard is owned by Cromwell raised Owen Calvert and is located on the northern side of Felton Road in Central Otago in New Zealand's South Island on an elevated terrace above the KawarauRiver lying The Calvert soils are Bannockburn deep silt loams: a complex mixture of loess, quartz sands, ancient lake bed clays and quartz and schist gravels. These balanced soils hold water throughout the dry Central Otago growing season. 

The Pinot Noir vineyard was planted in two stages between 1999 and 2001 with a combination of the Dijon clones and the two Pommard selections from UC Davis. The vineyard is run biodynamically by the viticulturist at Felton Road, Gareth King, and is the only Pinot Noir property in New Zealand where three producers (Craggy Range, Felton Road, and Pyramid Valley) all make single vineyard wines. 

The wine is medium to deep purple ruby colour in the glass. Very much in the style of the Felton Road Pinot Noir I have previously tried, this has black cherry and plums, the typical pinot earthiness and spice. The palate is silky smooth, intense with dense fine tannin with a long finish expressing fruit and floral notes. Another excellent Pinot from Central Otago. Now I'd like to try their Te Muna Pinot.