Friday, 25 September 2009

Reaching Noirvana

When the subject of pinot noir comes up in conversation I’d like to have a dollar for every time I’m told that “It’s a bugger of a thing to grow, and it’s bloody hard to make”, because by now I’d be a seriously wealthy woman. But clearly the love of the grape and the lure of achieving that elusive Pinot Noir-vana outweighs that frustration and keeps many a winemaker coming back for more, vintage after vintage. Most of the winemakers I speak to are happy to have just one, or possibly two pinots in their portfolio – that’s enough thank you very much. But there are some who adore making great pinot so much that one could comfortably describe them as obsessive compulsive. A moniker that doesn’t worry the people at Seresin in Marlborough one bit, in fact they’re so proud of their pinot-mania that they’re in the process of releasing not one, not two, but six individual pinot noirs. “Pinot Noir is the most beautiful grape and potentially the most beautiful wine in the world, I love it. It’s called the heart-break grape for good reason, it is a challenge to make and an even bigger challenge to grow but the quest to make the best possible Pinot Noir is something all of us at Seresin are driven by” says Michael Seresin, owner of Seresin Estate.

The six wines hail from 2007, which was the culmination of new winemaker Clive Dougall and vineyard manager Colin Ross’ first full growing season together. “The ‘Leah’, named for my daughter, is a blend of fruit from our three vineyards; ‘Rachel’, after my mother, is a Pinot made from the best portions available from our Estate each year. From each of our three vineyards we have also produced a single vineyard wine; the ‘Tatou’, ‘Home’ and ‘Raupo Creek’ Pinot Noir illustrate the characteristics of our different sites and soils” explains Seresin.

Put simply pinot noir is a bit like marmite because it polarises people; they either love it or hate it. The flavours are not often clear-cut; they’re mysterious and haunting, savoury, spicy, floral or chocolatey; black tea, black cherry or both? You may find it to be fruity, earthy and fungal all in the same glass. And good pinot isn’t cheap either, why? See paragraph one, sentence one. But I adore it; and as I tasted my way through one excellent wine after another, it became clear that the fruit from 2007 had given Seresin some rather spectacular juice to work with. But it was just one sip of the very last wine that prompted me to put down the glass and sit back in awe. “The unique conditions of the 2007 vintage also allowed us for the first time to make a wine we have called ‘Sun &Moon’” Michael explains, “Cropped at a minimal one bunch per shoot or less, we believe this wine to be our best expression of Pinot Noir. It will only be made when this beautiful heartbreak grape allows us”.
While I write this I want to assure you that I’m of sound mind and body. The nature of my work means I’m in the fortunate position of being able to taste many different wines on a daily basis, so by now I should be hardened, immune if you will, to emotional outbursts where wine tasting’s concerned. I’m also trying really hard not to sound like a complete Womble, but that wine moved me. It was more than the Sun & Moon, it was also the stars. Thank you Michael, thank you Clive, thank you Colin, getting my heart broken never tasted so good.

Sip of the Week

Seresin 2007 Home Pinot Noir $50.00 4 Stars
Upfront cherry and plum aromas with some lush, spicy mulberry flavours combined with ripe fruit, youthful, juicy acidity and lovely comforting warmth. Only 40 cases were made so it’s available only through the Seresin Cellar Door and

Seresin 2007 Raupo Creek Pinot Noir $50.00 41/2 stars
Dark and inky-coloured like old blood and scented with bracken-berries and shitake mushroom. On the palate it is powerfully spicy with an undercurrent of charred oak, mace and mulberry. Moody in its youthful state, but has the breeding to blossom into a hauntingly beautiful adult I’m sure.

Seresin Tatau Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 $50 4 stars
Ripe, fragrant raspberry, dark cherry and black tea aromas lead to distinctly spicy, earthy, brooding flavours on the palate. Smooth, lush and incredibly drinkable, but as there were less than 50 cases produced you’ll need to visit the Seresin Cellar Door and

Seresin 2007 Rachel Pinot Noir $55.00 4½ stars
Lush, forest-floor aromas combined with dark berries and spicy, smoky, earthy notes on the palate. Supple and silky but has some solid grip on the finish. Delicious now, but will reward another 3-4 years in the cellar.

Seresin 2007 Sun & Moon Pinot Noir $120 5 stars
Dark, glossy and exotically scented. It has intensely succulent berry-fruit flavours, and nuances of black tea and pot pourri. Warm, silky and texturally solid; yet it’s also feminine and elegant on the finish. An absolutely stunning pinot that cries out for duck confit; and although it’s pricy, and there’s precious little available and it isn’t released until February 2010, don’t let that stop you from seeking it out, putting your name on the list or doing whatever it is you need to do to get one.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

It's Business Time

How I’m expected to write a column while Flight of the Conchords is on telly I don’t know. So if I suddenly break into “Business Time” please forgive me. I’ve been a bit distracted by weather this past week. Normally I keep track of how the weather is panning around the nations wine regions leading up to harvest, but being based up in Hawkes Bay as I am, the feeling of nail-nibbling dread and impending mouldy doom that’s clouded the region every day for the last fortnight has had me completely consumed.
Today the thought had crossed my mind that I might’ve jinxed Hawkes Bay’s chances of achieving the vintage of the century by writing an article saying that I thought they were going to achieve the vintage of the century if the baking, dry 30-plus degree days continue; and lo, the dampness did cometh.
I guess it’s a bit like when you’re a teenager and you know there’s a party on the weekend, and you even get permission from your parents to go. So you get yourself so excited and wound-up thinking about how great and AWESOME it’s going to be that when the night actually arrives, your mates forget to pick you up so you have to walk and by the time you get there everyone has left for another party, but a girl semi passed out in the kitchen slurs that your boyfriend took off with that slapper who works at Video Ezy before passing you a hipflask of rum which you drink because you’re so heartbroken. An hour later you end up ringing your dad to come pick you up and right in the middle of him saying how disappointed he is that you woke him up at 1am you promptly throw up in the front seat of his Cortina and he grounds you for a month. But the nights that you think “ok, I’ll just go to this shindig and see how it goes” end up being absolutely epic experiences, relived in wistful memories for years to come.
But today winemakers and grapegrowers are upbeat. “The wind we’re having is keeping the rot in check” says Rob Beard of Maimai Creek vineyards in Meeanee, Napier. “But things are looking good, it’s going to be an excellent harvest”. “(the 2009 vintage) is going to sort out the experienced from the not so” says Bob Newton of Newton Forrest Cornerstone Vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels. Hmmm. A hiccup in the weather has the old guard cool and the newcomers worried, but that’s just business. “It’s business” croon the Conchords. “It’s business time. And you know when I’m down to just my socks it`s time for business, that’s why they call it business socks”. Sorry , couldn’t help myself.

Sip This...
Sacred Hill Basket Press Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2008 $20
A new-release red that’s an old favourite with its spicy, savoury aromas and hearty, rib-sticking character. Sourced from fruit grown in Hawkes Bay’s Gimblett Gravels region, it needs to be paired with food to be enjoyed fully and it’s a winner with garlic pepper steak.