From $21.99, £24.99, ¥3,870, NZ$70.40
Americans who like funky, mature Pinot Noir with more than a hint of Armand Rousseau about them should seize this bargain with both hands. I really don't understand why K&L of San Francisco are selling this delicious four-year-old wine for as little as $21.99.
Mountford Estate Village Pinot Noir 2008 Waipara was the single wine that grabbed my attention at the big generic New Zealand tasting in London last January and I have been waiting until it reached retail distribution in the UK before bringing it to your attention. I was delighted yesterday to discover that Waitrose have added it to their selection of wines on sale online via Waitrose Direct and it will be in their top two stores (Canary Wharf and Belgravia presumably), although there doesn't seem to be any sign of it on the website at the moment.
The remarkable thing about this Village bottling is how unlike most New Zealand Pinots it is and how like a mature village Chambolle in a soft, gentle year such as 1992. It's made by the famous blind winemaker C P Lin (pictured with his faithful companion Winston) who uses determinedly Burgundian techniques such as open fermenters after cold maceration. The winemaking details are in Waitrose's blurb below:
100% Pinot Noir from a stretch of land in the Waipara Valley dubbed the 'Golden Mile'. Made under the careful guidance of blind winemaker C P Lin. The estate is not certified but it is managed following biodynamic principles. Grapes hand-harvested mid-late April 2008 into small picking bins clone by clone. Fruit was chilled for two nights at 4 °C for cold maceration. Destemmed into 1.8-tonne open-top fermenters without crushing and naturally warmed in fermenters to 12°C over three to four days. Inoculated with cultured yeast and fermented for seven to 10 days with three hand-plungings per day. Post-ferment maceration for three to five days, then the free run and press run were separately aged in French oak barrels for 15 months. No fining or filtration so suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Only 650 cases were produced. Alc 14.2%, TA 4.6g/l. Available from Waitrose Wine Direct and 2 branches.
The vines are nearly 20 years old and were grown along biodynamic lines (but without certification) on Kathryn Ryan and Kees Zeestraten's clay over marl with the limestone deposits beloved of burgundy fans in the Burgundy hot spot of northern Canterbury in New Zealand's South Island. C P lost his sight at the age of 13, got a maths degree in Christchurch and then one in winemaking at Lincoln. He is well known for his tasting acuity and memory, and played a major part incidentally in making the exceptional reds of Warrumbungle in an uncharted corner of New South Wales.
I reproduce below my two tasting notes for this wine which are sufficiently consistent, I hope, to give you a good idea of how it tastes.
Jan 2012 - Pale ruby - a defiant colour in NZ! Mushrooms and undergrowth and very different from the NZ norm. So sweet and Rousseau and out of the norm. Transparent and delicious and funky but good funky! Reader, I swallowed. Just a tad bitter on the finish but I forgive this. 17.5 Drink 2010-16
May 2012 - Definitely on the funky side of Pinot Noir with just a hint of cappuccino and a streak of beetroot but it's ALL PLEASURE! And it's not often I write that. Great to see this available from Waitrose. Nervy and delicate and fully mature. Why has it hung around all this time, I wonder? 17 Drink 2010-14
At the January tasting I also tasted the more expensive, more ambitious Mountford, Estate Pinot Noir 2008 which is slightly deeper in colour than the Village bottling. It's sweeter and more focused than the Village - arguably more mainstream in New Zealand with lots of finesse, raciness and more potential for development. I gave it 17 out of 20 and thought its drinking window would probably be 2015-22. The Wine Society are selling this at £35 a bottle and it is quite widely available in the UK and US with stockists including Berry Bros and Slurp.co.uk.