Marlborough, New Zealand (Vintus Imports, $21)
New Zealand is the promised land for Pinot Noir in the New World -- or so they say. Personally, I haven't been sure, especially as far as New Zealand's Marlborough region is concerned. But this wine has convinced me that Marlborough has more range and more potential for greatness in Pinot Noir than I have previously given it credit for. Here is a world-class Pinot.
Delta is a vineyard in the south part of Marlborough that in 2000 was purchased by four partners, including London wine importer David Gleave MW and winemaker Matt Thompson. Great Pinot Noir is the goal. Rather than plant in the loamy soils that cover so much of the Marlborough region and are so favorable to Sauvignon Blanc, Thompson sought a low vigor site with clay soils and planted mainly Dijon clones of Pinot Noir there in 2002 and 2003. This 2006 is the third vintage of Delta Pinot Noir.
What makes the 2006 Delta Pinot Noir exceptional to me within the context of Marlborough is its finesse. It is not huge, not dense in texture, not dark in color and it does not give the impression of a wine that's trying too hard. This is a perfumed, lovely Pinot Noir that tastes as if it were just born that way.
Winemaker Thompson mentioned to me that fairly cool 2006 is considered a 'pretty' vintage, and the vintage characteristics undoubtedly are part of what I personally like so much in this wine. In contrast, the fine 2005 is a heftier, spicier Pinot and the impressive 2005 Hatter's Hill Pinot Noir, which comes from Delta's hillside grapes, is fuller-bodied, riper and less evolved than this 2006.
I complimented Matt Thompson on the fact that this 2006 Pinot is not overly high in alcohol -- neither in taste nor in actual content, registering at 13 percent. He credited his open-top fermenters, which enable excess alcohol to blow off. Other winemaking details include the use of whole berries, a five-day pre-fermentation cold soak, and a fairly warm fermentation with hand plunging of the cap. Only forty percent of the wine ages in French oak barrels, and the remainder ages in stainless steel.
When you stick your nose into a glass of this wine, you'll find intense aromas of black cherry and raspberry mingling with savory notes of black olive, as well as vanilla, spice and a slightly raspy note. In your mouth the wine is, above all, flavorful, mingling all those fruity and spicy complexities of the aroma. It is silky in texture but its vibrant acidity renders the silkiness light rather than thick. The wine is alive with flavor and texture, has great length across the palate and has a long, delicately fruity finish.
Marlborough can indeed make impressive Pinot Noir.