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Wine of the Week for week ending 16th February 2003
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Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir 1999
Central Otago, New Zealand

Back home after 6 heady days in New Zealand's southern most Pinot Noir wine producing region, I was still on a high from that visit. So what better to do than to open one of the best pinots that the region has ever produced as a wedding anniversary treat. Neil did the rummaging and found one bottle of the Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir from the 1999 vintage. "How about this?" he said waving the bottle at me. I wasn't about to say no. And so we opened it.

After all the dense and dark youthful pinot noirs and barrel samples that I had tried at the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration just a few days before, the Block 5 is showing a colour befitting its age. It had lost that purple edge of youth but still had red garnet hues to its medium transparent denseness.

The winey aroma of redcurrants and old wood was quite captivating as the wine was poured and was even more so as the glass was bought to the nose. A little swirling released a further fragrance of rose petals, herbs and musk.

It tasted like developing pinot should; mellow, sweet and earthy with a soft downy texture, a lovely warm vinous complexity, savoury flavours of rosemary and thyme-like herbs, macerated spiced cherry and redcurrant fruit and a subtle hint of anise lingering on the finish where some liquorice-like flavour emerges too. There's still plenty of acidity in the wine which indicates to me this has plenty of life ahead of it and though the acidity is balanced it gives a lovely piquancy to the finish. The winey sweetness lingers beautifully with the old wood flavour and is incredibly moreish.

It was just sublime in our designer 'Burgundy' glasses and we mused over the wine. I thought 'this is the stuff that inspires people on the other side to want more of New Zealand pinot'. If only all of them were as good as this. Many aspire to be but Felton Road Block 5 is a wine that is placed on a pedestal by many and perhaps it deserves to be.

It didn't take long to prepare the accompaniment that I had wanted to pair with Pinot Noir in the first place. I had a 15cm long piece of tuna that was about 5cm by 5cm in the other dimensions. This was sashimi quality tuna purchased earlier in the day and could have been eaten raw. So simplicity was the key to its preparation. I lightly coated it with olive oil and rolled it tiny leaves of lemon thyme picked out of the garden moments before, then seared the fish on all sides on the BBQ before it was thinly sliced to show its raw red centre within the white cooked rim. It certainly looked restaurant quality impressive.

It was a good match, the lemon thyme in particular proving most successful, but in reality this wine on its own is near perfection and does not need any food. But next time (if there is a next time as I don't have another bottle) I would like to try it with a mushroom and herb risotto.

I think the wine cost about $50, possibly more. It was bought 2 years ago and I doubt it would be found in retail in New Zealand but people who bought and wisely cellared this wine are in for a treat.

Made from fruit grown on a single block on Felton Road's Bannockburn vineyard in the road the winery took it name from, the Block 5 has more oak aging (18 months in total) than the other Felton Road pinots so it definitely rewards cellaring on release. The 1999 vintage, which was released about 2 and a bit years ago, is drinking beautifully right now.

Felton Road wines are available in many export markets. Find out more from the Felton Road website.

© Sue Courtney
9 February 2003

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