New Zealand wine

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

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!

Lansdowne Estate Pinot Noir 2011, Masterton, Wairarapa, New Zealand

Drunk December 2015 @ home

The winery

The Landsdowne Estate vineyards are in Masterton, Wairarapa on New Zealand's north island, around 100km from Wellington.

In 1998 Margaret and Derek Hagar bought land on the west bank of the Ruamahanga River. It was once part of the Beetham Estate, and growing international quality wine as early as the 1880s, according to Derek Hagar, who with his father Derek Hagar, senior, runs the family owned business. The Masterton vineyard owned by the Beetham family and the development of Masterton as a top wine region in New Zealand was halted by the prohibition movement, which in 1908 voted 'no license'. Winemakers went out of business and the vines at Lansdowne were pulled out.

It lay between the Beetham homestead, now historic Lansdowne House, and the Ruamahanga River, which is where the Hagars put down vines in the early 2000's,
on Masterton's Gordon Street. The discovery of an early bell-shaped pump in the soil confirmed Mr Hagar senior's suspicions that his new vineyard was on the same site as the old, and a survey showed five different natural springs on the land. The six acres planted are about the same size as the original Beetham vineyard. 

The terrain with its dry climate, cool nights and long hot sunny days with stony, clay over limestone soil was promising for Pinot Noir.

For the first two or three years, the vines planted by the Hagars did it hard, with many dying and having to be replanted. "A lot of stones as big as footballs" were preventing the roots from pushing down into the soil for water, and the vines that did survive did after a struggle - but that was all for the best, Mr Hagar, Junior, believes."We believe that vines which are stressed when they are growing up produce better fruit," he said.

The commitment to producing quality wine has led to steps such as pruning off 75 per cent of the grapes and to what the Hagars believe is the real key - patience.
The vineyard has also managed to harvest the difficult-to-grow Syrah for three years running, and believe they are the only Wairarapa vineyard to do so.
The vineyard's Pinot Noir, Syrah and Pinot Gris wines are aged for two to three years in the bottle, and with no additions to the fruit - just the natural sugars of the grape."Whatever God sends us is what goes in the bottle," they say.

The wine

2494 litres, Picking date: 28th April 2011. Karl HeinzJohner. Alcohol 13.3%.

Fermented Grape Tasting Notes

Generally wines from the Wairarapa region have darker fruit aromas with a full fruity palate with dark plum and savoury notes as well as a fine tannin structure. This Lansdowne Pinot Noir 2011 also had these characteristics, with the only limitation being the low level of aromatics which you would normally have with Pinot Noir wines. No hint that the wine was overpowered by alcohol. 

It was quite different from many of the wines I have tried from Central Otago in the South Island, with its cooler climate means slightly higher acidity and less overt fruit but superior aroma and more like some parts of Burgundy. It was very enjoyable but lovers of a classic Burgundy style may be left a little disappointed, but those who like California fruit forward style e.g. Russian River Valley or Sonoma, this will be the ticket! An easy drinking style.

Porters Pinot Noir 2006, Martinborough, New Zealand

Drunk February 2014

The winery

Porters vineyard was first planted by Annabel and John Porter in 1992 with the first vintage in 1995. The vineyard is on Kitchener Street, the main road into Martinborough and is only five acres producing Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Yields are low with their emphasis on producing grapes of the best quality every vintage, adopting organic principles and practices wherever possible. Vine prunings are either burnt or mulched back into the soil, the pips and skins from the pressed grapes are composted and used as mulch, and sprays are kept to a minimum. 

The average annual production is in the region of 750 dozen which makes Porters one of the smallest producers in Martinborough, a boutique winery indeed!

The wine

2006 was a bountiful vintage. The spring provided ideal conditions for flowering and fruit set leading into a warm summer. During the autumn, the cool evenings were a great foil to the heat of the day, and provided excellent conditions to promote physiological ripeness. There was more rain than normal over the season which meant that the vines did not experience the drought stress of previous vintages. The weather over vintage was fine and clear which enabled Porters to harvest Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes in superb condition.

I really enjoyed this Martinborough Pinot - elegant and complex. Not heavy handed in any way. The nose is full of strawberry and cherry and the palate not only had the fruity notes but also spice and fine tannins with an excellent earthy character. Acidity was nicely balanced by the fruit and tannin. After drinking quite a few Oregon Pinot Noirs which had excessive acidity in the last few weeks, it was nice to try another great Pinot Noir from New Zealand which exhibited such excellent balance. New Zealand Pinot Noir I love you!

Bought Hard to Find wines, £19.99

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!