Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2012, Central Otago, New Zealand

Drunk@home December 2015

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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!

Byron Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Barbara County, USA

Drunk@home November 2015

The winery

Byron, now known as Nielson was originally founded in 1984 and is located in Santa Barbara, California. In 2006 the Byron winery was acquired by the Jackson Family Wine Collection, founded in 1982 by Jess Jackson and still family owned. 

The Nielson Vineyard that surrounds the winery was Santa Barbara’s first commercial vineyard. When planted in 1964 by Uriel Nielson others said it was too cold and inhospitable for grapes, but time has proved the naysayers wrong.

Ken Brown, Byron’s founder, acquired the 432-acre Nielson Vineyard in 1989, five years after he launched the winery. It is located roughly 18 miles east of the Pacific Ocean at 500 to 750 feet above sea level. Chilling winds and thin soils ensure that Byron’s wines possess great intensity, heightened aromatics and firm structure.

Since becoming head winemaker in 2003, Jonathan Nagy has implemented many new methods including red/green fruit drop, intensive sorting, native yeast fermentations and small-lot fermentations.The winery focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

Fermented Grape Tasting Notes

2013 was a very good vintage in Santa Barbara County with an even and warm summer with dry autumn. Many growers described it as a near perfect harvest with large yields with powerful, concentrated reds and bright and flavourful whites

Not a top Californian Pinot Noir at this price point and this is the winery's basic wine. Nielson now offers Byron Clone 667 Pinot Noir and Santa Rita Hills, Swan Clone and Whole Cluster as their premium range.

Good powerful black fruit as you'd expect with a hint of minerality which is a feature of the Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara county. Not a strong nose but well balanced with acidity balancing the signficant fruit forward style. Good value if you like an easy drinking Pinot Style but don't expect a French style. Would be interesting to try their premium Pinot Noir's. 

Jospeh Drouhin, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 2011, Burgundy

Drunk@home December 2015

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The wine

This Joseph Drouhin wine is made from Pinot Noir at the heart of the famous Chambolle-Musigny vineyard, with an East exposure. The name of the village Chambolle is probably derived from the Celtic "cambola", already reputed for its vineyards in Gallo-Roman times and cultivated by the monks in the Middle Ages.  

Drouhin owns several Premier Cru parcels in the appellation and since they are too small, these vineyards (Noirots, Hauts Doix, Borniques, Plantes, Combottes) are harvested and vinified together.  The total area is 1.3 ha. (3.25 acres) with average age of the vines of 32 years.The name given to this wine is therefore Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru (since the components of this "cuvée" are all Premier Crus). The vineyards have been organic since 1990 and more recently use biodynamic cultivation techniques so only authorised products for biological cultivation are used: infusions and macerations of plant materials, sulfur and copper, powdered rock. Natural predators are not eliminated.

Yields are kept low, around 20% less than allowed by the current law. Harvesting is by hand, in small open crates in order to preserve the integrity of the fruit. Maceration and vinification take 2 to 3 weeks using indigenous yeasts
"Pigeage" (punching down of the cap during fermentation): once a day until half of fermentation is done; one pumping over (remontage) per day until the end of the fermentation.

The wine was aged in French Oak barrels (20% in new oak) for 14 to 18 months and the finished bottle can be cellared for 8-25 years.

Fermented Grape tasting notes

Burgundy's 2011 vintage was pretty poor quality rot, storms, hail and changeable temperatures.  Compared with the excellent 2010 vintage, Pinot Noir quality was variable and careful selection by producer is key. 

Fortunately this Jospeh Drouhin, Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru 2011 was very good. The nose was strong with cherry and the forest floor which continued on the palate with plum, black cherry and spice with fine tannins and a nice level of acidity.  Fruit, acidity, tannin were finely balanced and with a light style. Expensive but this was top Burgundy and shows the quality of the Chambolle-Musigny area with its highly fragranced wines. 

William Randell Shiraz 2010, Thorn-Clarke Winery, Barossa, Australia

Drunk November 2015 @ home

The winery

The name Thorn-Clarke derives literally from the relationship between two long time Barossa families. The winery owners are David and Cheryl Clarke (nee Thorn) and their daughter Nicole and son are also involved in the running of the winery. Cheryl’s father Ron Thorn has one of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in Australia on the Thorn family property ‘Clifton’ outside of Angaston which was in existence in 1854.

David Clarke’s family were pioneers in the Barossa as well but most famously in the mining of gold from the Barossa Goldfields. One of his ancestors was James Goddard who was the responsible for opening the Lady Alice gold mine in the Barossa goldfields and which was the largest gold mine in South Australia at the time. It has been David’s love of the wine industry that saw the planting of the Kabininge vineyard outside of Tanunda in 1987. The planting of the Kabininge vineyard represented the start of a deeper involvement by the family in the Barossa wine industry.

The estate has vineyards in Eden Valley and the Barossa. Within Barossa there is the Kabininge vineyard, St. Kitts and Truro.

The 33 hectare Kabininge vineyard is true Barossa Valley floor terroir,  just 270 metres above sea level, and located on dark grey to dark brown carbonaceous soils (known as Bay of Biscay) with 500mm of annual rainfall. The vineyard is predominantly Shiraz, supported by smaller plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

The St. Kitts and Truro vineyards are cooler and with lower rainfall than Kabininge and these northern Barossa vineyards totalling 103ha, are at an elevation of between 380 and 410 metres (480mm rainfall). Their micro-climate restricts yields and the thin, moderately well developed residual soils overlying marble, schist, Truro Volcanics and Heatherdale Shale necessitated a careful vineyard layout matching variety to soil type.These tough conditions make vines work hard and as a result, the flavour profile is intense and acid levels high, providing the resources for long-living red wines and full flavoured whites. Shiraz is particularly well suited to this environment. Shiraz again is the predominant variety with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Nebbiolo and Viognier.

The wine

The William Randell Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are named and created in honour of family ancestor and Australian pioneer, William Richard Randell (1824 - 1911). He emigrated to South Australia in 1837 aged 13 years with his family, only ten months after the Colony of South Australia had been founded. 

The 2010 vintage followed good winter rainfall in 2009 and allowed the vineyards to commence the 2010 season with good soil moisture levels. This soil moisture, combined with moderate weather conditions throughout most of the growing season allowed for good fruit set and canopy development.

Grapes picked: March 2010 at St Kitts vineyard

Following harvest the fruit was crushed into a variety of small fermenters (4 to 6T in capacity). Fermentation was carried out at a warm temperature (25-28°). The ferments were manually pumped over to provide good control of tannin extraction. Each fermenter was treated as a separate parcel of wine and once dry was filled to American oak (40% new). Following malolactic fermentation the wines were racked and returned to the same oak. Parcels remained in barrel for an average of 16 months prior to blending. Only the best barrels from the multiple parcels were used to make the final blend. Once blended the wine was prepared for bottling.

Fermented Grape tasting notes

Deep purple in the glass, the nose and palate have powerful fruit in abundance.  But this Barossa Shiraz is not overpowered by alcohol or fruit, with fine tannins with American Oak adding complexity to the character and a complex finish. This was a very enjoyable Shiraz with plenty of character and a wine I would heartily recommend.


Finca La Anita Malbec 2000, Mendoza, Argentina

Drunk@Churrascaria Vento Haragano, Sao Paolo, Brazil November 2015

Fermented Grape Tasting Notes

This year 2000 Argentinian Malbec from Finca La Anita was very good with the excellent meat. Fine tannins, plum and blackcurrant fruit and a soft texture on the palate with a long finish. Very concentrated overall with a hint of spice. A classic Argentine Malbec and not too expensive!