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Wine of the Week for week ending 14 July 2002
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two Gibbston Valley Pinot Noirs from 2001
Central Otago, New Zealand

When tasting the Gibbston Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2001 and the Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir 2001 in a blind tasting, it was easy to pick out the Reserve - it was altogether more seamless and harmonious in the mouth and was definitely more oak scented on the nose. In a blind tasting, it would definitely be the higher pointed wine of the two. The 'Central Otago' blend, however, was full of brash flavour, full of those Central Otago flavours that had endeared this wine to me in the past. It was hard to choose which wine I liked the best. I really liked them both. This was Central Otago pinot noir at its best. While the 'Reserve 'was so seamless and beautifully integrated with its silky harmonious tannins, I loved the flair of acidity on the end of the Central Otago blend and the plusher velvetier tannins that caressed the tongue.

The wines were consumed, as usual over several days and it was good to see these wines develop. Both, though delicious to drink now, will benefit from careful cellaring. What's more, with their metal screwcaps, they can certainly be aged with confidence.

The Gibbston Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2001 is a fairly opaque wine, deep coloured purple red with purple hues. There's smoky oak at first on nose with a fragrance that reminds me of - wait for it - grapefruit. On the first glass I find flavours of plum, tamarillo, thyme and macerated cherries. It's a very seamless wine. It's heady. On the second glass the chocolate oak and the savoury characters of the wine come through. The wine is savoury, but not earthy. I just love the savouriness of this wine. I can't detect spice but citrus is there is a piquant way. A couple of days later, however, there is definitely spice - so expect spice with a little age.

The Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir 2001 shows it spicy character from the outset. This is again a deeply coloured and deeply savoury flavoured wine with dried herbs, mulled wine spices and musk joining strawberry, tamarillo and the drying flavours of sucking on a cherry stone. It's a little earthy - not overly so. There's some smoky oak, again not overly so. Smooth and velvety slightly furry tannins try to cling to the teeth while good acidity shows its presence on the long lingering brightly flavoured finish. I like the lingering flavours that remind me of citrus slices that have been soaked in mulled wine. Again it's a lovely savoury wine - I love this character in pinot. The conclusion? Simply delicious.

There is just so much going on in these wines that cost NZ$75 and NZ$39 respectively.

The grapes for the Gibbston Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2001 were selected from the best parcels of fruit, which in 2001 were from vineyards in Cromwell and Wanaka. They were picked at an average of 24.8 Brix on the 18th and 28th April. The grapes were the older clones - 5 and 10/5. After maceration and fermentation, which included some wild yeast, the wine was pressed and matured in 60% new and 40% 1-year old French oak for 11 months.

The grapes for the Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir 2001 came from Gibbston, Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra and Bannockburn vineyards and were also picked at an average of 24.8 Brix. There was a combination of clones 3, 13, 10/5 and Dijon clones 113, 114 and 115. After maceration and fermentation, the wine was matured for 11 months in a combination of French oaks.

Both wines have 13.5% alcohol by volume.

Gibbston Valley Pinot is one of the few from the now many Central Otago wineries, that has a heritage. They were one of the first vineyards to grow grapes commercially and with their first commercial grape crush in 1987, they have a heap of vineyard and winemaking experience to draw upon. We decided it would be fun to taste an 'oldie' and a 1989 Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir - with its silvery grey label displaying three mountain peaks - was found.

Once we got over the thin palate and the slightly metallic developed characters in this brick-red coloured wine with strawberry hues, we found flavours of cherries and thyme-like herbs with a touch of earthiness. The cherries were very much like Central Otago black cherries that had been macerated in liqueur for several years. This wine hadn't quite fallen over but was heading on a downhill slide. Still, it was interesting to pick out some of those characters that add so much charm to the Central Otago wines.

We also had a Zinfandel during the week - granted it was older with much higher alcohol (16%). I loved this particular Zin with hamburgers of the fourth of July. Even so, I had to compare the leftover wines. The Zin was a big, chunky and even quite clunky wine - so strong and overpowering while both pinots were simply subtle and seductive.

I thank my lucky stars that I can drink sensational wines like NZ pinot all the time.

For further information about the Gibbston Valley pinots, go to

© Sue Courtney

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