Felton Road Cornish Point vertical

Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir vertical (Photo: Bob Campbell MW)

Each year wine collector and local surgeon, Ian Civil, digs into his cellar to assemble a 10-year vertical tasting for around 20 wine enthusiast friends. This year, he generously opened twenty bottles of Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir from 2007 to 2016.

The wines showed well. Even the older wines in the group showed pronounced fruit and floral flavours with seductively silken textures.Cornish Point is a peninsula in Bannockburn jutting out into Lake Dunstan. It’s nearly surrounded by water, which regulates the temperature and greatly reduces the risk of frost. The existing vineyard land was purchased by the present Felton Road owner, Nigel Greening, before he’d bought Felton Road. Nigel planted the site in 2000, with the first vintage in 2003.

Nigel produced a Cornish Point label for four years until 2006 but was careful to keep it quite separate from Felton Road by selling the wines in different markets. Felton Road winemaker, Blair Walter commented,

“Also, as Nigel had purchased the land and was planning a brand Cornish Point prior to purchasing Felton Road, I think he was emotionally committed to a Cornish Point wine brand. In 2007, a smaller high-quality vintage, we bottled the first Felton Road Cornish Point with the balance of the fruit going into the Bannockburn Pinot Noir.”

“Interestingly, in the USA, the Cornish Point usually outscores the Block 3 and Block 5. It tends to be more lusciously-fruited with a warmer, bigger mouthfeel than our other pinot noirs. Hence why it probably appeals more to the US palate. The 2015 was rated by Wine Spectator with the tagline ‘Best ever New Zealand pinot noir’ and outscored the other wines by a couple of points.”

Can you guess which New Zealand former prime minister’s ancestor was the first white person to be born in the Cromwell area at Cornish Point?

The answer is Helen Clark, whose great-grandmother Mary Marsh was born (with twin sister Jean) there in 1863.

We tasted the wines in pairs from oldest to youngest, voting for a favourite in each pair and finally for a top wine overall.

The wines showed well. Even the older wines in the group showed pronounced fruit and floral flavours with seductively silken textures. The 2007 Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir was one of my favourites when it was first released, and nearly ten years later the wine was still delicious. I’d be tempted to drink it now if I had any but, on the other hand, the first vintage of a new label is always rather collectable.

The 2012 Felton Road Cornish Point Pinot Noir was rated top wine by a comfortable majority. The wine got my top vote for its to-die-for texture and plump fruit flavours that contrast tantalisingly with emerging savoury bottle development. At around six years of age the wine is drinking well but still shows potential for further bottle development.

After the tasting, I asked Blair to name his favourite Cornish Point vintage. “2012 and 2015” was his response.

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