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Raeburn Fine Wines present Valli Pinot Noir 18/12/2003 TNB

They say that Central Otago, being the southernmost wine-growing area in the world has the potential to produce European-styled wines free from the rather soft fruit that distinguishes most of the New World from the classic areas of France and Italy. In particular, the theory is that this will prove to be a natural home for Pinot Noir, a grape that is already very popular throughout Mew Zealand.

Pinot is of course the most finicky grape and to my mind the only place that has managed to develop an interesting tradition outside of Burgundy is California, particularly the Russian River area - and even that all depends on a handful of producers. It is too early to say whether Central Otago is going to live up to its billing, it will probably take twenty years or more to sort out the false starts and find the terroir and the methods that realise whatever potential there is to the full.

As a start though I am impressed by the wines Grant Taylor is making at Valli, particularly the Gibbston bottling (called "Colleen's Vineyard" until recently). The fruit is very pure and has a high-quality silkiness about it. 2002 was supposed to be a great vintage in the area but for me the ripeness created a slightly sweet impression and I think I preferred the 2001. The older wines (we tasted back to 1998) were good too but you could feel the estate was learning and generally the more recent wines seemed better balanced than the older ones. We tasted the Bannockburn bottling from 2002 and 2001 but these seemed rather softer and New World in style: good, but less to my taste than the Gibbston.

Of course, with Pinots costing around 20 pounds you have to think of the comparison with Burgundy - one can get respectable premier crus for around that sort of price. Well, Valli's wines are better than a lot of middling Burgundies, but to my mind have a little way to go before they challenge the best. Time will tell whether there is the potential here to produce something really special, whether in a Burgundian style or not. But if there is, Grant Taylor will probably do it in a few years.

added to Fine Wine Diary 18/12/2003   Return to top