Pinot noir gets the goat
Nanny Goat is a Central Otago winery specialising in pinot noir. Its name derives from the fact that much of the country is rough, dry, mountainous and desolate – seemingly suitable only for goats. Apparently, the brand’s owner, Aussie John Valmorbida, was climbing up to a hilltop restaurant near Queenstown when the goat idea struck him. It is rather appropriate.
Nanny Goat’s winemaker, Alan Peters-Oswald, staged a comparative tasting in Sydney recently, where he pitted three of his own pinots against wines from various other countries. It’s a pity two of the three Aussies were not up to the job: it’s easy to make one’s own wines look good by serving them alongside sub-standard wines, although I’m sure that wasn’t the intention.
The 2017 Ochota Barrels Impeccable Disorder (AUD $83) was thin and green, with a cloudy appearance and far too much green stalky character. Ashton Hills Piccadilly 2016 (AUD $35), which is not from the estate but from growers’ vineyards, was pale, vegetal and very eucalyptus-minty. At least its price wasn’t off the charts. The one good Aussie was Timo Mayer’s 2016 Dr Mayer (AUD $55), which also had lots of whole-bunch character but was lovely and aromatic, with some Campari-like herbiness and an intense, elegant palate.
All of the Aussies contrasted with the Central Otago wines, of which there were seven out of the 15 served. This should be no surprise: Central pinots have trademark dark colour, full body and powerful structure. They are impressive wines and will trump lighter, finer, more ethereal styles every time in blind tastings.
That said, some overdo it. I’ve often found Quartz Reef wines excessively big and tannic, lacking subtlety and rather dry-red-like. While it’s tempting to suggest age is needed, I have yet to see older examples that have rewarded cellar-time. The 2014 Quartz Reef Bendigo (AUD $100) was huge, but admittedly damn good.
Mt Difficulty Roaring Meg 2016 was delicious and terrific value for money. (AUD $30)
Felton Road Bannockburn 2016 was good, although there were some sweaty and smoky reductive hints that may have needed more breathing. (AUD $65)
Burn Cottage Moonlight Race 2015 was lovely: fleshy, rich and a little closed but promising more if allowed time. (AUD $65)
The Nanny Goat trio really were outstanding. The entry-level 2016 Nanny Goat (AUD $33) was delicious: deep in dark cherry fruit with smoky tinges and fairly firm tannins for its station. With food, it would be spot-on. The 2016 Super Nanny (AUD $50) showed another level of concentration, with lots of spicy, smoky, black-cherry aromas and a powerful, firmly structured palate, which needs more time to reach its best. It delivers plenty of joy now, however.
Finally, Peters-Oswald served his new dabble: the 2016 Basket Case. This is a lush, decadent wine made with 100% whole-bunch ferment (but not tasting or smelling unbalanced in that respect), hand-sorted and fermented in two 500-litre puncheons with the heads taken out of them, foot-crushed and hand and foot plunged daily at the peak of ferment. Then gently basket-pressed. It’s a wonderful wine, but alas only 498 bottles were made. The good news is that he’s made another one in 2017. (AUD $75)
The Burgundies and American wines are a postscript. We tasted two grand cru Burgundies, both 2013 Clos de la Roche, one from Domaine Dujac (AUD $460), the other Domaine Armand Rousseau (AUD $670), and both were magnificent – fully living up to expectations, as they should at those prices.
And two wines from California – La Crema Monterey 2015 (great value at AUD $55) and Littorai Les Larmes 2016 (AUD $130) from Anderson Valley, were both gold-ribbon wines in my opinion, the La Crema vying with the Nanny Goat Basket Case for the best value of the tasting.
Ah, great pinot noir. What can you do, but sigh.