Central Otago

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!

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.

Mt. Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2011, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk November 2011

The winery

Mt Difficulty Estate is comprised of six vineyards in the South Island of New Zealand; Templars Hill, Pipeclay Terrace, Menzies Terrace, Mansons Farm, Target Gully and Long Gully – total plantings of 40 hectares protected by the rain shadow of Mount Difficulty in Bannockburn, Central Otago. 

Central Otago is comprised of four distinct sub-regions, separated by mountains and deep gorges. The Cromwell Basin accounts for 70% of the region's vineyards and includes Bannockburn in the south, Lowburn, Pisa and Bendigo to the north. A further 20% of plantings are found around Gibbston, where most vines occupy north-facing slopes and terraces above the dramatic Kawarau Gorge. In the southwest of the region are Clyde and Alexandra (7%), while the remainder (3%) are located around Wanaka, where vineyards run down to the lakeshore against a backdrop of snow-clad mountains and glaciers.

Central Otago is the only area in New Zealand with a semi-continental climate - nowhere else in the country experiences greater daily and seasonal extremes of temperature. Summers are hot and dry, with autumns cool, generally dry and with cold nights. Relatively low rainfall and humidity means a low incidence of disease and rot, greatly reducing the need for spraying. The large diurnal temperature variation (the difference between daytime and night-time temperatures) during ripening contributes to flavour intensity, gives depth of colour and stability to the wines. Heavy frosts are common throughout the winter, and can also occur during spring and autumn. As a result, most vineyards are on warmer, north-facing slopes. Frost protection measures such as wind machines, water sprinklers and helicopters are also used. Visitors to the region in April and May will witness harvest time, when vineyards and wineries are busy picking, sorting and crushing the fruit for the new vintage.


It all began in the early 1990's, when the owners of five newly-planted vineyards in Bannockburn shook hands and decided to work together to produce wine under one label, Mt Difficulty. The handshake bound the owners of Molyneux, Mansons Farm, Verboeket Estate and Full Circle until 2004 when Mt Difficulty Wines Ltd was formed, and the majority of the individual vineyards passed into the ownership of the company. As a result, Mt Difficulty Wines Ltd now owns some of the oldest vineyards in the Bannockburn sub-region of Central Otago. 

The unique microclimate of the Bannockburn area is partially created by the presence of Mount Difficulty which overlooks the southern Cromwell basin, and is the namesake of Mt Difficulty Wines. Mount Difficulty is integral in providing low rainfall and humidity for the region. Bannockburn enjoys hot summers, a large diurnal temperature variation and long cool autumns; conditions which bring the best out of the Pinot Noir grapes. The soils are a mix of clay and gravels, but all feature a high pH level.

The Mt Difficulty brand started in 1998 with a very small production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, made by Grant Taylor of Gibbston Valley Wines (now of Valli Wines). Prior to this the Gang sold their grapes to either Gibbston Valley or Chard Farm. The Air New Zealand wine awards in 1999 put Mt Difficulty on the map.


The wine

Conditions were difficult but the quality of fruit was very good, provided the right decisions were made. Spring was fantastically settled, which led to excellent flowering and fruit set. Usual spring conditions arrived late, and unsettled weather was the norm right through January and February! Despite this, it was also pretty warm; it was almost too perfect for canopy and bunch development, leading to bigger than normal berries, and higher bunch weights as a result. Finally some semblance of normality arrived in March with conditions settling. These conditions continued through autumn, other than one wet spell which highlighted how tender and thin-skinned the berries were this season. In the winery it was a season where the fruit needed empathy, and the direction of the wine was dictated by the fruit.

The grapes for the wines that carry the Mt Difficulty Estate label are subject to two strict criteria: they are managed under the umbrella of the Mt Difficulty viticultural team and must be sourced from vineyards situated on the South side of the Kawarau River at Bannockburn. Each has a specific terroir, largely influenced by climate, and offers a variety of soil types from open gravels to heavier clays. They are all low in fertility, and include light sands, clays, loams and gravels. Mt Difficulty Estate Pinot Noir is blended from a range of Bannockburn vineyards, with the majority of grapes coming from earlier plantings which are predominantly clones 5, 6 and 10/5. More recent plantings are a mix of Dijon clones: 113, 115, 667 & 777.

Harvesting began on the 23rd March and continued through to the 27th April. ]The majority of the ferments were de-stemmed only; the remaining third contained 16-30% whole clusters. The must underwent 9-10 days of cold maceration during which time it was hand plunged once daily. The ferments were heated after this and all fermented with indigenous yeasts. The ferments lasted for an average of 10-12 days during which time they were hand plunged twice daily with the temperature peaking at 33oC. The wine stayed on skins for a further 6-8 days post-dryness, and was plunged once daily with increasing ease. When the wine tasted in harmony it was pressed off to barrel where it resided on full lees for 12 months. It underwent malolactic fermentation in the spring, was racked out of barrel in late autumn and filtered prior to bottling.

Dark, deep ruby-red colour in the glass. Not an intense bouquet compared with say the Felton Road Pinot Noir from the same area but dominated by berry fruit. The palate is juicy with plummy with red cherry and raspebrry with plenty of fruit notes as a result of the warmth of the vintage. Aciditiy is the dominant feature right now, but somewhat balanced by fine grained tannins.

I was a little disapointed by this Mt. Difficulty 2011 as the winery has a great reputation and compared with some of my reason choices in recent weeks e.g. Antica Terra from Oregon and Pyramid Valley Vineyards Angel Flower from Canterbury NZ

Nice but not spectacular in 2013....perhaps in a couple of years.

Bought Waitrose.

Michelle Richardson Pinot Noir 2009, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk October 2013, Vinoteca, London

The winery

Michelle Richardon's wine career began in 1989 at Roseworthy Agricultural College in Australia. Having made many wine styles from various areas in New Zealand and overseas,she decided to focus on those regions where she most enjoyed the fruit. - whites from Marlborough, Central Otago and Waipara and Pinot Noir from Central Otago. She uses wild yeast to bring a textural quality to her wine that has become paramount to the style of wines produced. 

The Pinot Noir's are harvested from the Cromwell basin, West and South of Lake Dunstan.

The wine

100% hand picked and de-stemmed, the fruit was cold soaked and left until natural ferments kicked in. The ferment was hand-plunged until dry. When the caps sink the wine is pressed and racked in to French oak barrels. The wines hibernated until the Spring warmth kicked in and began the malo-lactic fermentation. After maturing in barrel for 13 months, the wine was racked and bottled without any filtration or filtering.

Black cherry and blackcurrant on the nose with spice which is equally reflected on the palate. Smooth and siky with oak balancing the fruit. Another very good Central Otago Pinot with exceptional enviromental credentials. 

Felton Road, Bannockburn, Pinot Noir 2011, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk September 2013


The winery

Central Otago is the most southerly wine region in the world and is responsible for 5.5% of New Zealand's production. Located at the foot of the South Island, the region may be on the 45th parallel but its site among the Bannockburn Hills of the Southern Alps at approx 200 metres above sea level ensures a continental climate, with frosts and marked by significant swings in temperature (up to 40 degrees celsius at times). Soil profiles vary between the deep silt loams of the Bannockburn sub-region, while the wider Cromwell Basin displays both sandy loam over calcium deposits as well as alluvial loess over schist.

Possibly the most famous and respected winery in New Zealand, Felton Road was first planted in 1991 by Stuart Elms and is now owned by one time pop impresario Nigel Greening. Greening, a self-described Pinot Noir "addict" from England, bought it in 2000  and it has been farmed organically & biodynamically since then. Their grapes are entirely grown in their own 'Elms Bannockburn Vineyard' which has a northerly exposure to help maximise ripeness.The winemaker from the beginning has been Blair Walter, whose training took him around the world to places as diverse as Newton in California and Domaine de l'Arlot in Nuits-St-Georges. Blair's experience stood him in good stead for coaxing the best out of the property's vines - he adopts a 'hands off' approach in the winery wherever possible.

Hand harvested, 25% whole cluster and 75% whole berries are left outdoors to naturally cold soak before a wild ferment begins. As the wine goes dry it is gently punched and tasted daily until running by gravity to barrel., (30% new burgundian oak). The wine goes to bottle at 1 year old unracked, unfined and unfiltered

Nigel Greening

Nigel Greening


The wine

The Felton Road, Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2011 has a purple/ruby colour. The nose is black cherry and raspberry with a hint of spice. The palate is medium to full bodied, plenty of complexity and fruit intensity.  Very long and pleasant finish with the tannins well balance by acid. A delicious Pinot!