Saturday, May 12, 2007

New Zealand Tasting: Otago, O Boy!

I attended the New Zealand Wine Fair at the Puck Building on May 9. Thank God, it's wasn't one of those overwhelming affairs that take up the ground floor ballroom. It was snugly fit into a seventh floor hall, with only four rows of pourers. Nonetheless, there was a lot to get through.

New Zealand affairs can get rather monotonous. You try a Sauvignon Blanc, then another Sauvignon Blanc, then a Pinot Noir, and, oh look!, here's another Sauvignon Blanc. It's gets to the point that if you sniff another tropical nose, you'll run screaming out the door. This tasting broke up that pattern a bit by presenting a strong showing of Pinot Noirs from the Central Otago region on NZ's south island. This area has been touted for its Pinots for a few years, but now seems to be coming strongly into its own, the vines finally developing the age necessary to produce great wine.

I tasted many good Pinot Noirs, but it was the few bottles ready from the recent 2006 vintage that made the biggest impression. This looks to be a landmark year for Otago, and most of the reps I talked to agreed. Full, commanding, with strong fruit and good depth, they're drinking great already. I had an Amisfeld, Felton Road and Carrick which really stood out, the Felton Road in particular.

Otherwise, the Otago table had sample bottles from the 2005 and 2003 vintages. 2005 was pure havoc, weather-wise, in NZ and the wines were variable, though there were good ones that might improve with age. The 2003s were more interesting, offering the opportunity to see what an Otago Pinot tastes like after a few years. A Domaine Jaquiery was particurly complex, and an Akarua was also extremely nice.

I'll blog about the rest of the fair offerings in the next post. In the meantime, look out for those 2006 Otago Pinots. They'll be in stores in the next few months.

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