Monday, February 20, 2012

A Special Pinot Noir Masterclass: Mountford Estate, Charteris Wines, Louis Latour

This was a special masterclass of quite rare Pinot Noirs. New Zealand wines, made in a Burgundy style, were pitted against Burgundy. The tasting had a perplexing outcome: while it was meant to showcase terroir, it would have been impossible in a blind tasting to accurately assess where the wines were from. The winemakers choices dominated these wines.

The star of this tasting was Mountford Estate from Waipara. CP Lin, the winemaker, Master of Wine, is blind. He therefore had to focus on smell and taste which are highly developed. He studied Burgundy in a lot of detail, and is very forthright and entertaining in his views.

The 2008 Mountford Estate Pinot Noir shows quite a restraint style, elegant, with forest floor flavours dominating. There is a high percentage of stems in this wine, which adds to complexity, but even more to tannin structure. This wine is about finesse, 'power of lightness' as CP calls it. The wine has a long, somewhat silky finish.

Score: 93/++

The 2009 Mountford Estate Pinot Noir  is also savoury and elegant. The warmer year, however, produces a more muscular wine with great length and a very silky finish. This wine will live for 20+ years. My wine of the night.

Score: 96/+++

The 2008 Mountford Estate 'The Gradient' Pinot Noir comes from a very steep section of the vineyard and a lot of slate in the soil, whereas the other vines grow on clay and limestone mix. Again, the bouquet is forest floor, and the colour of the wine is very dark. There is good depth of fruit here, but some meaty characters detract from the fragrant features, a Pinot Noir should demonstrate.

Score: 94/0

All these wines show a lot of minerality, which is 'liquified rock' in CP's language. They are quite unique with a lot of power as well.

The Charteris wines from Central Otago are a bit more mainstream, but still in the savoury corner, with stems being a prominent feature as well.

The 2008 Charteris Pinot Noir is quite vibrant with firm tannins, but lacks some mouthfeel.

Score: 91/0

The 2009 Charteris Pinot Noir is dominated by red cherries. It is fresh, with a good structure and some length.

Score: 92/++

The 2010 Charteris Pinot Noir is obviously very young. It is perhaps finer and more elegant than 2009, tasting of cherries and raspberries, but the finish is not expanding like a top Pinot Noir should. I marginally preferred the 2009.

Score: 92/+

Some Burgundies were shown in comparison. Those at similar price points (they were basic wines) disappointed, mostly because of short finishes. There was one 1er cru, the 2009 Louis Latour Gevrey Chambertin 'Les Cazetiers', which I enjoyed. This wine tasted of black cherries and was quite dark. It had good length as well, but lacked some of the charm top Burgundies display.

Score: 93/+

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