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Tasting Highlights: From New Zealand to the South of France

The Cellarit Wine Blog took a bit of a hiatus over the Easter break due to family and other pressing work commitments. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have time to sample some great wines! Here are a few that recently impressed.

My love affair with New Zealand pinot noir continues. The best that I’ve tasted recently have a bit of age and a hint of that savoury earthiness that I think probably all the best makers of pinot noir strive for. A couple of highlights:

Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2007

Te Kairanga was one of Martinborough’s founding vineyards. Martinborough is at the foot of the South Island where the soils of the ancient river “Martinborough” terraces and the climatic conditions are remarkably similar to Burgundy. In less than thirty years, Martinborough has established an enviable reputation as one of the world’s best places to grow pinot noir, with Ata Rangi and Dry River, for example, attaining world class reputations.

Gary Walsh of The Wine Front scored the Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2007 90 points:  “Has an attractive earthy beetroot character, dry herbs, rose oil and plum/cherry fruit with a good clip of quality oak. It’s fresh and medium bodied with an attractive Chinotto like bitterness and a good finish. It’s a style I like and one I enjoyed drinking – interesting and not too fruity.” (The Wine Front, 31 March 2010). Also affordable!  Vaucluse Cellars, where I bought my bottle, has this wine for a mixed case price of $28 a bottle.

Amisfield Pinot Noir 2007

I tried the Amisfield Pinot Noir 2007 at a friend’s home. They are passionate wine collectors, who obviously know what they’re doing! This wine was superb.  A slightly riper style than the Te Kairanga Runholder but with lively dark fruits and just enough acidity to create a fresh and vibrant palate. The beautifully integrated fine tannins deliver an elegant silky finish with ample length and that hint of savoury earthiness delightfully dances off the glass.

The wine hails from Central Otago, the Southern-most grape-growing region in the world located at latitude 45º south and Martinborough’s rival for the crown as the top producer of New Zealand pinot noir.

Cigalus Rouge 2009  and Cigalus Blanc 2009

At the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s “A Taste of French Terroirs,” I really enjoyed the wines of Gérard Bertrand. Gérard Bertrand, a former French rugby star, is now one of the leading wine producers in the South of France. He owns a number of vineyards and labels in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, making a broad array of wines at various price points.

Two of my favourites were the Cigalus Blanc 2009 and the Cigalus Rouge 2009. These fresh, lively but refined and complex wines are from the biodynamic estate Domaine Cigalus near Villemajou in Corbières. Since the 1990s the Languedoc-Roussillon, France’s biggest wine producing area, has experienced somewhat of a renaissance as a quality producer. It is now widely regarded as one of France’s most exciting regions with a reputation for great value.

Here the Vin de Pays wines are not governed by the strict Appellation Contrôlée rules regarding the use of grape varieties. A wide range of local grapes and an appropriate selection of international varieties are permitted. The Cigalus Blanc, for example, is a blend of 75% chardonnay, 20% viognier and 5% sauvignon. The Cigalus Rouge is 50% cabernet sauvignon and 50% merlot. Both wines are served in Air France’s Business Class.

Jamie Goode of the Wineanorak, one of Britain’s most respected wine writers, is a fan of the brand: “What do they taste like? In short, they are close to flawless, combining modern, fruit forward flavours with enough regional character to make them stand out from the crowd. I tried through the range twice in the space of a six months, and came away impressed both times. You get the impression that if France had more wine companies like this, they wouldn’t have too much to fear from new world competition.” (Jamie Goode, The Wines of Gérard Bertrand, Wineanorak)

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