There are accepted ways to vinify the red Bordeaux varieties, as there are to make wine from Pinot Noir, and never the two meet. Or can they? The Bordeaux varieties can handle extensive maceration with pumping over, as tannin structure goes well with the bold and intense flavours, whereas Pinot Noir needs to be handled more carefully so as not to mask the fragrance of the variety. So with the latter, more modest plunging is the answer.
When the Dry River Martinborough winemaking team came in to lend a hand and their ways to the making of the Kidnapper Cliffs wines at Te Awa Farm in Hawke’s Bay, now that they were under the same ownership, it was decided by Neil McCallum to apply Pinot Noir winemaking to the Bordeaux varieties. It was a bit hush-hush at first, but word got out. And of course there was the expected criticism, that the wines would not have the structure to show well or age.
However, on tasting the super-premium Kidnapper Cliffs wines, there was no shortage of colour, aroma or structure. The textures were more refined. Isn’t that what winemakers of claret want – refined structure? Well, these wines had it. I fell in love with the 2009 Kidnapper Cliffs Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon late in 2010. Black as black and with ripe cassis aromas, along with all the detail and exoticism you’d ever want. Plus great finesse of grip and structure. The wine wowed me, and no doubt many others, but the die-hards disagreed. I named Kidnapper Cliffs my first-ever ‘Winery of the Year’. It was a controversial choice.
Our friend the I-Spy Man was in town and dinner was served. Out came a bottle of this wine. Still black-red with a touch of garnet. Beautifully soft, and pure in varietal aroma, with the most subtle layering of secondary development. And same on palate, quite lush and hedonistic. Just enough underlying extraction to hold all the fruit, wood and development flavours all together with harmony. The balance was such that it would keep another 6+ years easily. The I-Spy Man was impressed. SWMBO was also taken by its beauty, as was I again.
I understand some more winemakers are employing Burgundy vinification techniques with Bordeaux red varieties now. I can only smile with Neil McCallum.