After 12 months in bottle, the 2019 Pinot Noirs are tasting amazing, so it’s time to release them, and of course every new release deserves a post. In brief, 2019 was one of those “Goldilocks” years - it was just right. To give some context in relation to recent (and consequently fresher in the memory) years, the 2019s have the concentration of the cool, very low-cropping 2017s with the ripeness of the wines from one of our warmest years ever, 2018.
The absolute quality of a wine is only half the Valli story. The other half is the wine's ability to tell which sub-region it is from, the story of its home. At a pre-release tasting last weekend we poured the 2018 and 2019 Valli Pinot Noirs blind to a group of over 30 tasters, asking them to put the wines in pairs based on where they thought the grapes were from.
It was very gratifying to see the number of tasters who were able to pair the wines up correctly based on place. It told us three things: our viticulture is precise, our winemaking is respectful of the fruit and of course our tasters have excellent palates.
We are seeing sense of place more clearly as each year passes, and while some vintages like 2019 show that clearer than others, it is in a big part due to vine age. Since they get pruned every winter, vines may look more or less the same above ground each year, but underground there is no such pruning. The roots are free to grow and spread as they please. The older the vines, the bigger the root mass, the more contact they have with their environment and the better they express it. There is very good reason most producers in Burgundy use only grapes from vines 20 years or older in their Grand Cru bottlings.
“If I had a dollar for every time...”
We all know that saying, and for me it would continue “…I was asked which one of our Pinot Noirs is my favourite.” I am not the only winemaker to be asked that question about his or her wines, and it seems we all have a stock standard answer to that question.
We answer with a question of our own “which one of your children is your favourite?” While that does bring understanding, it also leads to stories of how there are favourites and how they change from day-to-day, week to week, year to year, sometimes even minute to minute depending on the children’s behaviour. It is not so different with wine.
With all that in mind, I feel like confessing to a favourite, for this week anyway. That would be the oldest, the one that has reached adulthood, just celebrated its 21st birthday, really knows its place in the world and has brought the most pride: our Gibbston Vineyard. It came home from school yesterday with an award saying it was student of the year. Well not exactly, what we did get though was notification that it has just taken the trophy for best NZ Red Wine at the London International Wine Challenge. This is the third trophy on the international stage for our Gibbston vineyard, quite a feat for a piece of land that not so long ago was home to more rabbits than it now has vines (14,400).
The best way to understand it, and indeed all of our wines is to compare them to their brothers and sisters. You can’t fully understand a family without knowing all its members. You are welcome of course to try only your favourites but if you are wanting or needing to understand our sub-regions further, we can send a “family pack” some of each.
This newsletter started with a reference to a fairy-tale, Goldilocks, so it’s appropriate to finish with one. Hans Christian Anderson didn’t write Goldilocks, however he did write many other fairy stories so will leave you with one of his quotes, although slightly modified.
“Where words fail, wine speaks.”
I hope to see you in Gibbston soon.