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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Private Bin Pinot Noir, 2009 Marlborough - Villa Maria

Pinot Noir's spiritual home is a thin strip of land in the Côte-d'Or where historic inheritance laws under the Dukes of Burgundy have led to ever smaller parcels of land being cultivated by individual winemakers, making it very much a terroir wine.

Pretty much nowhere else in the Old World does serious Pinot Noir, but the New World is giving it a go - with the most notable successes in the US, Chile and New Zealand.

A thin-skinned, cool-climate grape, Pinot seems to do well in places that are cool due to latitude (central Otago, Oregon), maritime influences (parts of California and Marlborough) or altitude (Chile and Argentina, where the vineyards are up to 1,500m above sea level).

The grapes for this Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir come from the Awatere and Wairau Valley sub-regions of Marlborough - a region generally more famous for its ripe, zesty Sauvignon Blanc.

Despite seeing vines arrive only in the early 1970s, Marlborough can lay a serious claim to starting the modern New Zealand wine industry and now represents around 60% of vineyard area in New Zealand; and whilst Sauvignon Blanc is the main varietal, there is also plenty of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Pale in the glass with a typically mushroomy Pinot nose, this wine has not really yet developed yet the complex and subtle aromas of a good Pinot. On the palate there are raspberries and cherries, a soft-yet-mouthfilling texture, some spice and a rich, balanced savouriness.

Marlborough as seen from
the Wellington-Picton ferry.
There's also some tannic buzz from aging in barriques and great length which all suggest this will improve significantly, becoming both more complex and more harmonious with at least a few more years' age.

Like other Villa Maria wines, this feels balanced, restrained and extremely well-made; enjoyable now, it will probably repay a decent amount of cellaring.

Partner with classic Pinot matches, such as light game, plain roast chicken or turkey or even a simple plate of jamon iberico.

£9.99, widely available - provided for review.

Footnote - 30 November 2010

In the interests of seeing how this wine would develop and just how much aging potential it might have, I kept about a third of the bottle back and re-sampled it every couple of days. For the first five or so days, it did not change much at all; by day 8 (as long as I could eke it out for), it had become more harmonious and truffley, with softer tannins - more Pinot-like.

Using my very rough rule of thumb that 1 hour in the decanter equates to 1 day in the bottle (re-sealed) or 1 year's laying down, this suggests that, whilst approachable now, the wine should be cellared for at least five years to show its best and will improve for up to 10.

Trainspotters should note that it is very chilly in Cambridge at the moment with frosts and even some early snow, so for most of the day, our kitchen (where this was stored) is at cellar temperature. The same test in the height of sweltering summer (yes, we do have them occasionally) might well produce very different results.

For a more scientific assessment of temperature and aging (from someone who wears a white coat), see here.


Villa Maria - http://www.villamaria.co.nz/

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