Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Sunday, 8 September 2013

The Greening of Central Otago – the tasting

Nigel Greening reflects

Notes from a vertical and horizontal tasting of Felton Road, Central Otago, New Zealand with its owner Nigel Greening at London's Groucho Club in the heart of Soho.

Overview of Felton Road estate:
32 hectares comprising The Elms, Calvert, Cornish Point (12.5ha). Biodynamic since 2006. Not interested in corn horn and calendars. It is a traditional closed gate farm with goats, chickens, vegetables, etc as well as the vineyards.

The Elms Vineyard has 14.5ha planted with Pinot Noir on loess, Chardonnay on alluvial soils and Riesling schist gravels.

Felton Road have recently bought a parcel of the Calvert Vineyard. Another part of the vineyard is being tended by Cloudy Bay, where they will be continuing biodynamic viticulture.

Felton Road has 6ha of vines on own root stocks.

Use biodynamic preps but not the most important aspect.  

With the dry climate of Central Otago it is easy to deliver fruit in very good condition. Wild ferment. Use press wines as need tannins. 12-18 months in barrel.

Bannockburn is the entry level blend of three vineyards.
Wines have been put into screwcap since 2001. Trials with cork alongside continued until until 2004 when they decided that they didn't ever want to see another cork ever again.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Vertical of Bannockburn

Lightly bricky, heady perfume, soft entry, mouth-filling spice, character.

At the time Nigel saw 2007 as a benchmark but now feels they picked too early giving the wine slightly green tannins.

Mid-plum, again a little bricky, colour evolution. A little more volume but again soft spicy charm a little more structure, especially in finish. Richard Bampfield MW "brambly fruit, touch of earthiness".

Nigel: warm, even year. Have to let it be reasonably generous. One of nicest tasting vintages. Moreish.

Mid-plum, more youthful colour, attractive texture. Silky mouth feel but structure more apparent than with 2007.

Nigel: 2009 and 2010 similar vintages but different in character. Prefers 2009 because of its tannin and acid balance.

Light to mid-plum, attractive red fruits especially raspberry, silky seductive texture. Light tannins in finish, less structure than 2009 but length of finish.

Nigel: Quite low crop for warm year. Lacks edginess. Like a rich kid never had any issues. 

Quite youthful colour, texture and richness, mouthfilling, more powerful. Good length and potential to age.

Nigel: very warm spring, early flowering cool, wet summer. Picked quickly. Burgundy struggles with sugar, Otago good phenolic and high sugar but physical ripeness behind tending to give green tannins. Need to pick quickly when physically ripe. Larger picking team, now pick in 10 days flat. Green tannins come from seeds. Stalks not a problem.  

Rich, ripe fruit, lively raspberry fruit. Some freshness in finish.
Nigel: Central Otago not affected by bad weather as Marlborough was in early March. Picked 2 weeks ahead of neighbours. Looking for earliest possible point and picking as quickly as possible.  Seed tannins do not ripen. Ratio of skins to seed tannin crucial.

Cold nights: 15˚C maturation slows down 10˚C dormant. 112 days from flowering to maturity. High UV levels. Burgundy would be at 9500 feet to get same UV levels. Thus grapes have high sugars.

2012 vertical
2012 Calvert Pinot Noir
Attractive red fruits, lively fruit, soft tannins but good structure and length.

2012 Cornish Point Pinot Noir
Quite heady perfume, structure youthful, needs time, freshness in finish. Length potential. Power.

2012 Block 3 Pinot Noir
Mid-plum, more closed, less blended together and harmonious. Power and length, ripe tannins in finish.

2011 Block 5 Pinot Noir
(heavy loess clay)
Lovely ripe, silky fruit, power, impressive, complexity and length. Structure.

Block 3 and 5 very fine and certainly a good step up on the other Felton Road Pinot Noirs. 

Nigel: Blocks have extra three months in barrel. Following a visit by Pierre Vincent (Domaine de la Vougeraie) we may change our winemaking procedure a bit. As vines get older getting more tannin and structure, more infusion in future rather than punching down. Pierre never punches down Musigny. Need to build up enough of a history before experimenting. Now ready to try a few tweaks.

Acid not stable in fermentation in Otago but this is improving as vines get older at Cornish Point.

Pinot Noir production: 30% Single vineyard, 70% Bannockburn.

Calvert like a wife elegant.
Cornish Point – like a mistress – more heady,  more makeup, etc.

Nigel: Chardonnay -- NZs greatest white varietal. NZ makes some sensational Chardonnay.

2012 Bannockburn Chardonnay
Lemony, floral, hint of butter, texture, good acidity, length.

2011 Chardonnay Block 2
Mid lemon, greater complexity on nose, touch of oak, quite rich and full good balance of acidity. Three more months on lees giving greater complexity. High proportion of Mendoza clones. Fine.

Nigel: Similar CO Chardonnays have similar ageing characteristics to Burgundy. Mendoza clone best for New Zealand Chardonnay. 

Nigel: My heart is in the Mosel.

2012 Dry Riesling 4gms of residual sugar
Lime, quite tight, crisp, refreshing.

2012 Bannockburn Riesling
Some residual but starts as same wine as the dry Felton Road. Certainly has vibrancy and more than nods to the Mosel. Quite appley, citric – lime, etc. 64 g of residual sugar – stopped naturally 8.5 alc. 

2012 Riesling Block 1 (Loess soil)
Same figures as Bannockburn. Good balance, slightly less cloying than Bannockburn.

Nigel: more peachy but does have lime too – length, lovely. Off dry likens the balance to that in a gin and tonic.

Nigel considers the wines, while Che looks on

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