The Central Otago has become the place to watch for exciting cool climate Pinot Noir in New Zealand. Several producers have begun producing softer, more elegant and more balanced Pinots. This, however, is a wine that bucks the trend in the Otago.
Atmosphere as Terroir
Since 1997 the number of wine producers has increased sixfold and plantings have more than quintupled. This rapid growth has coincided with an increase in both quality and diversity. Pictures of the Central Otago are some of the most stunning of any wine region in the entire world, which to me makes it all the more interesting that one of the peculiar characteristics of this ‘terroir’ is that it is one of the few wine regions in the world over which there is a considerable hole in the Ozone layer – showing that atmosphere is just as much part of the spirit of place as is the soil. This increased exposure to ozone radiation results in higher ripeness than one might expect. The cool nights of this most southerly wine region in the world keep acidities higher than further north in New Zealand.
Some Winery Background
Established in 1999, Amisfield is one of the early wineries in Central Otago. Situated on glacial soils, this vineyards are also all high altitude. All the grapes here are hand harvested, whole bunch pressed and partial whole bunch fermented. The addition of the stems to fermentation adds a spicyness and intensity that many particularly enjoy in their Pinot. Others are not quite so sure. Personally I enjoy the many approaches to Pinot but do appreciate the flavour density that whole cluster fermentation can bring. I appreciate that Amisfield has a serious commitment to biodiversity and creating a living vineyard, which you can read about on their website if you so desire. But let’s get to what we’re here for: the wine.
Bold but Lacking Balance
This is a bold and expressive Pinot that is quite rich. The heavily fruited wine is cherry, raspberry, cola, chocolate and some subtler oak flavours. With a broad palate that is very flavourful and moderately complex, I think this will likely improve a little with some age, but is delicious now. This is a fruit driven Pinot, however, and it does not have the layering of the absolutely best Pinots in the world, perhaps because the alcohol is at 14%. The alcohol remains a touch out of balance – perhaps an effect of the vintage? Nonetheless, an good example of the Central Otago’s style even if a touch alcoholic.
$55 at Everything Wine, also available at Kits Wine