Gibbston Valley China Terrace Pinot Noir 2016
Many people comment on how “hard” my job must be, tasting thousands of wines every year and visiting vineyards in some of the most beautiful locations across the world. I can confirm, very “hard”.
In general the wines I am able to taste from some of the most prestigious vineyards, are in fact underwhelming in that they are generally tasted either from the barrel or very early bottling. For example the latest Sassicaia release although one of the best vintages I have tasted in recent years, in reality not a wine to be actually drunk for another decade or possibly more.
Gibbston Valley is a winery we have imported directly from as the sole UK agent now for nearly 10 years. The vineyards were originally planted way back in 1983 with the earliest plantings of Pinot Noir in Central Otago, now synonymous with the varietal. In the early days these NZ Pinots were known for quality, it also for their big jammy and fruity qualities totally at odds with their Burgundy counterparts.
So on opening the Gibbston Valley China Terrace Pinot Noir 2016, wow. The nose is restrained, I would almost say with a Burgundian character. Just deep enough in colour with a delicate light plaque rim in the glass, the similarities continue. It is probably there that the similarities come to an end, and for me not in a negative way. This is a premium wine, it has a screw cap as is usual in NZ even for the top marques. For a 2016 vintage Pinot Noir, the palate has depth, weight, balance, the whole package. Don’t be fooled this wine has ageing potential, but even now as a young wine it tickles the palate beautifully. Unlike earlier vintages from Central Otago, this wine has lost much of the more cumbersome big fruit. It is still juicier than its French equivalents but now has far more gravitas. Oak integration is done to perfection and the wine has a wonderful full mouth feel. All the elements of this wine now have a subtlety of Burgundy without the austerity, dark cherry, hints of cassis overlying a wonderfully delicate redcurrant undertone.
This wine is not trying to be Burgundy, a fact I like. It is of its place and time, and even the more enjoyable for it. Viva Pinot Noir which is quality and drinkable now!