I tasted many succulent Pinots when I was in beautiful Central Otago recently but chose this one as wine of the week as it seemed to me to be particularly good value (thanks to high costs and deliberately low yields, none of them is cheap). My concern was that it would be very difficult for you to track down, for Central Otago like Burgundy is small producer country with only a handful of wineries making more than about 8,000 cases of wine a year.
Imagine my surprise then when I went to my trusty friend www.winesearcher.com, keyed in this wine, and found no fewer than 15 stockists, most of them in either the UK or, especially, the US. In the UK it costs around £17 from the likes of Handford in London W11 and SW7 (where you can pick up a single bottle) and mail order merchants The House of Menzies in Scotland, Oz Wines of London and The New Zealand House of Wine of Haslemere which, as you might imagine, has a particularly good selection of NZ wines in general and Central Otago Pinots in particular. In the US, prices start at well under $30 a bottle. See winesearcher.com for details, and for details of distributors in Sweden, Canada and several Asian countries see www.rockburn.co.nz.
So that’s the boring bit, how to get your hands on it, out of the way. What about the wine? I was terrifically impressed by this 2002. Many Central Otago 2002s are just too ripe and hot, but this one is beautifully balanced – in fact most unusually, I marked the 2002 higher than the 2003 in this case (I shall be publishing full notes on nearly 120 New Zealand 2003 Pinots on purple pages). The nose is both intriguing and pretty and the whole is a gentle, soft caress on the palate rather than a slightly obvious fruit bomb. (The Central Otago 2003s are in general much subtler than the 2002s.) In my experience Central Otago does not produce copies of red burgundy, but it has evolved its confident, own exuberantly fruity style with remarkably quickly. I’m sure a concerted effort to limit yields is a factor here.
I also suspect an ingredient in my appreciation of Rockburn’s Pinot Noir is that they include some fruit from the cooler Gibbston subregion – although the majority of Rockburn’s (typically very young) vines are planted in one of Central Otago’s bigger vineyards, at 33 hectares in the hot, arid, relatively new Lowburn subregion. Rockburn began life as Hay’s Lake and is the brainchild of a heart surgeon who has designed a seriously useful website at www.rockburn.co.nz which gives full details and maps of each vineyard, including details of each clone and when they were planted. The clones in this wine are still New Zealand specialities rather than the Burgundian clones which were planted in 2002 but we can expect to see even more complexity in wines such as this as the vines age. What’s remarkable is how good they are already. The wine was made by the talented Austrian Rudi Bauer of Quartz Reef whose own wines are also admirable and can be found chez Lay & Wheeler in the UK (for less than £15 a bottle) and at various wine merchants around Melbourne in Australia.