Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2010

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Burn Cottage is now one of the hottest wines coming out of New Zealand. A joint project of the Sauvage family (owners of Koehler Ruprecht in Pfalz and famed California wine maker Ted Lemon of Littorai), Burn Cottage first planted its vineyards in 2003, with its first wine, the 2009, being released last year.

Burn Cottage began using biodynamics from its inception and was one of the, if not the, first winery to do so in Central Otago. This mantra came from Ted Lemon, who became convinced of the importance of biodynamics after leaving a long career in conventional agriculture.

Burn Cottage has a pretty cool label. I normally don’t care about this sort of detail, but the story behind the label is interesting and indicates Burn Cottage’s dedication to sustainable farming and bio-diversity. From Burn Cottage:

The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily is a fairy tale by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published in 1795 in Friedrich Schiller’s German magazine Die Horen (The Hours). It portrays, in imaginative form, Goethe’s impressions of Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. The story revolves around the crossing and bridging of a river, which represents the divide between the outer life of the senses and the ideal aspirations of the human being.

This is a story about the combining the ‘ideal human being’ in everyone with ‘outer life experiences’, the two working in harmony. If this can be achieved then the human will become complete and fulfill his destiny. This was an inspirational story for Steiner and informs his life’s work, including Bio-dynamics. The practice of Bio-dynamics can be seen as an undertaking of the “ideal human being” working towards a better way with long term solutions to existing problems. Bio-dynamics is a practice of the ‘ideal human’ as this approach is in contrast to the short term economic gain approach of chemical fertilization.

Burn Cottage uses minimal sulfur, indigenous yeasts and avoids practices like racking whenever possible. The 2010 sees 20% whole cluster fermentation.

The Wine

While this wine may seem immediately off-putting if opened now and not allowed to breath, this is a mere product of youth. With air, this reveals itself to be a fascinating, modern yet restrained Pinot that offers both classic Otago black raspberry and cherry fruit along with a leafy earthiness that promises more with age. The tannins are fine, but structured more like a serious Burgundy than the majority of New Zealand Pinot Noirs – in fact, I’d say this is one of the best structured new world Pinots I’ve tasted in the last 12 months. The 2010 is a nicely balanced wine with a fresh Ph (3.64), balanced alcohol (13.7% ABV) and real, not manufactured, structure.

In sum, I think this is one of the most interesting Pinot Noirs coming out of New Zealand right now and I highly recommend it. It will likely only get better as the vines mature. The only problem is getting your hands on it. I believe the current vintage is sold out, but Pinot-philes should consider getting on the list for next year’s.

Excellent to Excellent+
$70 at Marquis Wine Cellars


  1. edward
    March 7, 2012


    I think these are very interesting wines, with beautiful packaging as you say. I have one bottle left, I think, though just at the moment I can’t find it. . . I’m certain that it will blossom, having found this, and the 09 fading beauties. Both momentarily stunning and then more clumsy and hard going. I hope I’m wrong. . .

  2. Shea
    March 7, 2012

    Interesting. I definitely did not find this clumsy over a few hours. I did not leave it until the following day however. I also drank it at about 12-14 degrees celsius and during a cold winter evening. That could make a considerable difference.

  3. Edward
    March 7, 2012


    I should have written I’m not certain they will blossom. . . But I think you worked out my omission. I think I’m just not that impressed with central otago Pinot noir, preferring Martinborough and the offerings from Australia’s yarra valley. It’s good to see your drinking habits remain as eclectic and deep as ever. Cheers.

  4. Shea
    March 7, 2012

    Interesting and I tend to agree, though I have found some Felton road block labelled wines to be good. Ive also found some martinborough pinots quite big in comparison to this wine. I will have to taste this one again in a couple years. I also think the Pyramid home vineyard pinots are good – though that is not otago, but I think NZ is not offering the same quality as Oregon and probably Yarra.

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