I asked my chum Mr Prothero to recommend some non-Burgundian Pinot of real quality. He suggested this Carrick ‘Bannockburn Winery’. When I looked through the stockists list I thought, “There is the potential for a very useful series of articles here!”
You see, I love Burgundy – totally and completely. Alas, the bloody stuff it absolutely insanely priced and my carefully gathered collection got stolen from its high security vault. How could I keep drinking lovely, lovely Burgundy?
The wine merchant I scored this number from had a very impressive selection of quite affordable Pinot Noir from places way outside of Burgundy, many of which, I fancied, my lovely readers would like to drink as a break from selling a kidney-priced Burgundy.
So I put in my order for this and followed it up with an email asking them to look at this majestic organ and asking if they would be so kind as to send me a case of 12 of their Pinots of my choosing, I would taste the lot and select 6 and post a note of one every Friday with links and instructions on how to buy it. The final note would come with a link to buy 2 bottles of all 6 wines in a Bugger Burgundy case – high quality, affordable Pinot Noir that was not from Burgundy.
“Great!”, they said, “We’ll do it!”. Then they added a line that I should have interpreted as “Piss off, Strangey!”. They were apparently undergoing a re-organisation of the company over the following month and they would get back to me as soon as it had finished. Yes, I was foolish, I did not see I had failed.
Anyway, the month came and went, and another, with a couple of interrogatory emails from me. Another month, more emails. So now it has clicked and I may as well post the note of the first wine I actually paid for myself, and it is bloody marvellous!
Pinot Noir ‘Bannockburn Winery’ Central Otago 2014, Carrick
Firstly, the estate has made the best decision for sealing this wine: it has a screwcap. I realise there are still some concerns about how wine with screwcaps age. My advice is not to worry about it, they age perfectly well.
Also, be glad you will never open a corked bottle and you will never have to open it with a corkscrew that disintegrates a damp cork. There is no danger of your glass being filled with pongy lumps of rotten tree! Cracking, these screwcaps!
A sniff and… This is a wonderful nose, throbbing with the pulsing complexity and lascivious love that only Pinot Noir can deliver! It is the real thing! Real quality Pinot Noir that you will know you will love and not want to share with too many people, so you get a decent amount of the lovely stuff.
The nose has a delicious melange of fruit, the primary one detectable being the aroma of ripe, plump black cherries. It seems to me that black cherry is regional character for Central Otago Pinot Noir – keep that idea in mind if you are ever blind tasting Pinot when you do not know the origin.
Indeed, it is not just that lovely, lovely black cherry aroma that gives this a sense of place. There is a svelte. soft earthiness present on the nose (that does not make the nose seem dirty, it is squeaky clean) that tells the attentive taster this is not Burgundy; it is very clear that it comes from somewhere else.
As lovers of fine wine, we should be god-damned pleased about this. One of the delights of Pinot Noir (possibly second only to Riesling with regard to the clarity with which it can do this) is that it speaks very clearly of its origins. This nose tells us we have left the Cote d’Or behind in our quest for good times. Since the nose is ravishingly enjoyable we can be glad that we have left the slope of priced-like-gold wines behind.
The nose shows the merest hint of heat from alcohol, but it is not bothersome or over-blown in the slightest (it claims to be 14.5%, I would have guessed it was a shade under that). Indeed, that hint of alcohol gives a polish and attractive warmth to the lovely fruit and mesmeric earthiness you can smell. It is certainly not too boozy.
A big slurp and you are struck by two things: the depth of pleasure that suffuses the palate and the staggering harmony of the wine. I could say this wine was like a de Montille Pommard 1er Cru Rugiens – but it is not. The whole personality of the palate is different because it comes from a completely different terroir and was made, just as the de Montille is, to reflect that terroir. It is just powerfully pleasurable and very harmonious, in a different way to, but much as the de Montille wine tends to be.
That ‘Central Otago’ cherry fruit is flashing its fun bits on the palate, but it steers will clear of doing this in your face. It has restraint and elegance. Carrick Bannockburn Winery 2014 is far less overt than a lot of 2014 red Burgundies I have tasted. It charms, seduces, beguiles – that’s what we want from our Pinot Noir wherever it comes from! The fruit has understated beauty – top marks!
This supple, winsome fruit is intertwined with a very smooth, gently-spoken earthy flavours and the tiniest hint of oaky vanillin. All these flavours intermingle and enhance one another to create a deeply pleasurable impression as you taste that expands to show more and more complex facets on your palate.
The impressive harmony, the sense of great balance, only adds to the initial complexity you taste. As you swirl this around your mouth, gently extracted, svelte tannins (mostly from the grapes but a tiny hint from barrel ageing) and a star-bright, laser-focused acidity give this a structure of sophisticated construction. Everything is at complete ease with itself and everything else in the palate – this is a Pinot Noir for your aesthetic sensitivities and well as your libidinous requirements. The flavours really last and last after you swallow, as you would hope for tasting juice of one you are bound to love.
Ageing will not be a problem. It’s already four years old and you get the suggestion of tertiary flavours; I do like young Pinot so I would be necking a lot of a case over the next few years. However, I am sure it would be deeply lovely, oooohhhh yes, so very lovely at fifteen. Since most of my Burgundy loving friends have a tendency for necrophilia, I will remind them that this has a screwcap and so it could easily be the last bottle you taste that is in good condition when you, like the rest of your wines, are shuffling off your mortal coil to join the choir invisible.
The Editor and I spent a gratifying evening with this and a shoulder of lamb; the whole experience best being summarised as: Cripes! This is just the nuts! Why was not I told before?!?
Sorry for the low-quality pictures of the bottle and label. I appear to have lost the pictures I took and have freely purloined pictures from the merchant’s website. Crap, are they not?
When I use the phrase ‘top marks’, under no circumstances is this to be interpreted as me attaching a quality-indicative number to the wine. That would obviously be a load of bollocks. If I were asked to give this wine a score I would say, “It is jolly lovely Central Otago Pinot Noir, do you not agree?”
A particularly splendid tasting note – makes me want to “score” some myself!
Since trying this I have been on a debit card melting trip around all the decent producers of central Otago, and a few other areas. I cannot comment on them all here, but I want to make one thing absolutely clear, do not buy any Felton Road Pinot. The last one I tried was the muy expensivo Block 3 and I thought it smelled and tasted of vomit. I’m not typing a string of expletives about it because The Editor is looking over my shoulder and if I use any rude words I will not get any lunch!