Noteworthy New Zealanders

Felton Road (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

At the risk of treading on my esteemed colleague Bob Campbell MW’s toes, I recently posted 20 tasting notes for Felton Road wines and five more for a less famous South Island Kiwi producer, Ostler. There is a lot to be excited about.

Felton Road has been a very bright blip on the radar for 20 years. Founding winemaker Blair Walter celebrated his 20th vintage this year.

To celebrate, he opened a swag of pinots and chardonnays, with a mini-vertical of pinots stretching back to 1997. The wines from the late ‘90s and early noughties (mainly Block 3 and Block 5) were generally very good, but I think the more recent vintages are going to be substantially better when they reach a similar stage of maturity. Progress is to be expected.

The 2015s were really impressive, as were the new release ‘16s, while the 2012s are showing extremely well. It’s an outstanding vintage and Blair’s favourite to date.

There was a mini-vertical of Cornish Point pinots, 2012-15, and the 2015 is a beauty, the best I’ve seen from that vineyard.

Don’t overlook the Felton Road whites: the 2016 Bannockburn Chardonnay (the basic Felton chardy) is a lovely wine – and the rieslings are the region’s undersung heroes.

Jim Jerram of Ostler also dropped in. Ostler is a tiny producer in North Otago, the Waitaki Valley, to be precise. This is a quite different region to Central Otago, with less than 100ha of vines in total, and the climate is more marginal, but when it fires it really fires. The soils are limestone-based.

The 2015 Audrey’s Pinot Gris is simply delicious, while the 2015 Caroline’s Pinot Noir is lovely in a fine-boned, ethereal style.

But watch out for the 2016 Caroline’s in a year’s time: it is a stunner. Deep, concentrated and very intense, it is a great wine which will only benefit from another year in the bottle before release. It’s not a Central Otago-style blockbuster, but fruit-driven, elegant and poised.

The Ostler winemaker is the capable and experienced Jeff Sinnot, ex-Isabel Estate, ex-Amisfield, who is Jim Jerram’s brother-in-law. This is a producer to watch.

*The Sydney agent for Ostler Wines is Vranken Pommery

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