2013 Felton Road pinot noirs

Felton Road is the leading winery of New Zealand’s Central Otago region, producing not only outrageously grand pinot noir but also sublime chardonnay and rieslings both dry and semi-dry.

Made by Blair Walter (pictured below), the Felton Road pinots consistently achieve depth of colour, flavour and structure unmatched in New Zealand. They manage to combine the concentration and power of grand cru Burgundy with elegance, so that they seldom taste out of balance or lacking in pinosity (while some other full-bodied pinots can seem ‘dry-red-ish’, or lacking pinot character). They age superbly and despite their intensity and gravitas, seldom lack charm in their youth. That said, it’s fair comment that those who prefer more delicate pinots may find these a bit too much of a good thing. Not me.

The 2013 pinot noirs are of stunning quality. I tasted the Felton Road Bannockburn (the entry-level wine, which is as good as most wineries’ reserves – tasting), Calvert (tasting) and Cornish Point (tasting) single-vineyard wines and the Block 3 (tasting), which at $110 is priced above the previous two which are $82. (The only wine above these is Block 5, which is still in the barrels.) The Block 3 is very powerfully structured and although I haven’t seen any figures, I suspect it has a higher total extract than probably any southern hemisphere pinot. Yet the wine is balanced and charming. No doubt it will live for at least 15 years and probably 20.

That said, the Calvert was the most detailed and charming wine on the day, and I find Calvert is often the one that I most want to drink at this early stage of its life. Blair Walter mentioned that Felton Road purchased 50% of the vineyard last year; the other 50% was bought by Cloudy Bay. Until then, the vineyard supplied grapes to a number of wineries.

Until recently, it was a subject of fascination for Enzed pinotphiles to compare three different pinots vinified from Calvert grapes: Felton Road, Craggy Range (previous tastings) and Pyramid Valley. Since 2012, though, the last two are having to look elsewhere for grapes. Good news for Felton Road, though. 

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