Tag: Felton Road

Sep 09 2012

Felton Road: Why it’s rated one of the world’s best!

Posted on September 09, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

I recently read an article in Decanter by Blair Walter, the Chief Winemaker at Felton Road in Central Otago for the past 16 years, which got me thinking about the qualities that top wineries in the world have in common. Under Walter’s guidance, Felton Road’s reputation as one of New Zealand’s top producers of pinot noir has gone from strength to strength. (Welcome to my office by Blair Walter, Decanter, June 2011)

In the article Walter talked about how in his first two years at Felton Road he experimented with wild yeast and natural malolactic fermentation, and chose to bottle his pinot unfiltered. Today, most of these minimal intervention winemaking techniques are best practice for the world’s top wineries. Recognising the importance of paying meticulous attention to every aspect of vineyard management, the world’s great wineries want to let their exceptional fruit speak for itself. Walter described his approach by saying, “Less is more when it comes to making fine, and especially authentic, wine. You have to really believe in the quality of the site and the interesting aspects of the climate.”

At Felton Road the vines are biodynamically grown on sites that were originally chosen in 1992 by Felton Road founder Stuart Elms after considerable research into the best spots in Central Otago to grow pinot noir. The semi-arid north facing slopes of the original Elms Vineyard, for example, are surrounded by mountains, and the vineyards are positioned to minimise the risk of frost damage and maximise exposure to the morning sun.

The Elms Vineyard is only 14.4 hectares, but it’s broken up into 13 blocks of varying soil types, and it’s the slightly different soil profiles that give Felton Road’s two most famous pinot noir bottlings, the Block 3 and Block 5 Pinot Noir, their distinctive … Read the rest

Sep 09 2012

New Zealand Pinot Noir: What Sets it Apart?

Posted on September 09, 2012 | By merrill@cellarit.com

I was intrigued to read Lettie Teague’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled What Happened to New Zealand Pinot Noir? Fortunately, the article was not about a decline in the quality of New Zealand pinot noir, but rather a lament about its disappearance from the shelves of many American wine stores. Teague cited a few reasons that I’m sure would also ring a bell with Australian wineries: not enough distributors, an unfavourable exchange rate and poor brand recognition. (WSJ, 1 September 2012)

Teague also shared Felton Road‘s head winemaker Blair Walter’s comment that “The USA is about the only place where New Zealand Pinot competes directly with the other New World Pinots.” He noted that in other markets New Zealand pinot noir is second only to Burgundy since most U.S. pinot makers don’t export their wines.

Teague interviewed an Oregon wine buyer, Mike Dietrich, who happens to love New Zealand pinot noir and has managed to put together a reasonable selection for the Fred Meyer store in Tualatin, Oregon. He believes that New Zealand and Oregon pinot noir have a lot in common: “Oregon and New Zealand Pinots are less about fruit and more about earth and minerals,” he told Teague. “There’s an earthy complexity to the wines—they’re not just fruit-forward like California Pinots.”

While Teague was less than impressed with lower price point New Zealand pinot noir (around $20 a bottle), she believes that the higher priced wines express a uniquely New Zealand point of view: “The Pinots from producers such as Ata Rangi, Felton Road, Craggy Range and Greywacke were quite good. Some, particularly the Felton Road and Ata Rangi, were truly impressive, marked by dense, dark fruit, firm minerality and a pleasing savory quality. But as Mr. Dietrich had noted, ‘fruit-forward/ they were … Read the rest