edited by Sue Courtney
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Waipara, New Zealand
The scene was set. Ten of the country's best pinots in a row ready for the taste test. Which would be the Wine of the Week? Mmm, I like number 2. Oh, number 4 has a fantastic nose. Yum, taste number 8. Number 9 is pretty good. And what about number 10? So many potential candidates but the final selection was made on overall balance and flavour and the match of the wine to the food courses that interspersed the evening. While the main course was fairly predictable pinot-friendly roast lamb with herb stuffing and mushroom gravy, it was the starter course of scallops that did it for me. The unlikely combination of fresh pan-fried scallops flamed in brandy - and pinot noir.
And when the wines were revealed I found that the wine that took my fancy as wine of the night, scoring 19 points out of 20, was the Daniel Schuster Omihi Hills Vineyard Selection 2001. The eminence of the wine was confirmed when the 10 wines were retasted the following morning on a clean palate, although I knew what the wines were then.
It's good colour for pinot, as many seem to be these days, dense and dark with violet and ruby hues. The aromas are fresh and a little smoky, reminding me of wild roses and brambly berries that grow in the in the mid summer countryside on the edge of the native bush. (This may sound poetic but this is a feature of places like the Coromandel Peninsula where I've spent many summers). In the mouth it is complex and mouthfilling with interesting funky flavours of musk, tar, allspice, cherries, plums, hints of tamarillo, smoky oak, herbs and lavender. It's ripe and creamy with beautiful balance and a smooth velvety texture. The oak is almost honeyed, the concentration of the flavour is fantastic and there's just a hint of earthiness that adds extra complexity without overpowering. The finish is long and the lingering flavours are ripe.
Why this went with the scallops, I'm not sure. But the combination was superb. It was a joy to taste this wine as I had the privilege of visiting the vineyard in March where I tasted the components separately and as a quickly concocted blend from the barrels. (See this review).
The components were selected from different sites on Daniel Schuster's Omihi Hills vineyard just north of Waipara in the South Island. The geology here is complex and in a small area there are limestone, sandstone and clay soils influencing the vines. The grapes were hand harvested and fermented in small open vats with regular hand plunging until the wine was pressed 22 days later. It spent 16 months in barrel before assemblage in September 2002. The finished wine realises 13.5% alcohol by volume and 1 gram per litre of residual sugar.
I thought that the sample that Danny concocted in the glass that day last March showed the wonderful potential for the finished wine. Now that the components have been blended and bottled, the potential has undoubtably been realised.
Daniel Schuster Omihi Hills Selection Pinot Noir 2001 sells for NZ$60 a bottle plus freight from the winery. The wine is also available is fine wine retailers throughout the country (where I've seen prices ranging from $51.95 to $65) and in several overseas markets. Check out the www.danielschusterwines.com for more information.
© Sue Courtney
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