Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Path of 20 Plus

20 years of age is the new 21.  For people, it marks the coming of age, and the right to adulthood and maturity, and all the trappings that come with it, as well as the responsibilities.  With wine, reaching 20 years of age is something special too.  Some wines are designed to age that long to reach maturity – Vintage Port in point.  Others last that amount of time and can be all the better for it, such as fine Riesling and Bordeaux reds.  But generally, (there’s always plenty of exceptions to the rule) reaching the two decade mark, especially for New World and New Zealand wines in particular is somewhat unusual.
So The Roader and The Ruddy Man both brought to dinner 1998 vintage Pinot Noirs from Central Otago.  By all rights these would have been passed their best.  I remember one wine writer writing off the 2002 Central Otago Pinot Noirs as being too old at 5 years of age.  He was proved wrong by a long shot!  But 1998 is really two decades of age, and most people recommend Central Otago Pinot Noir to show well at 5-6 years, maybe 10 or so.  These two were still very alive but had taken different paths of development, and would seem to continue to do so past the 20 year mark. 
The 1998 Felton Road ‘Block 3’ Central Otago Pinot Noir was a revelation for the way it had maintained its varietal integrity.  Bottles of the ‘regular’ have shown brett, but not this wine.  Still very much in the red fruit spectrum, with reasonably subtle savoury herb notes from the clone 10/5, but no ugliness of vegetals.  Still with red floral fragrance, this had soft textures, but plenty of freshness in the mouth from the acidity.  A little secondary interest unfolds, but at the end of the day, or should I say end of two decades, it was definable Pinot Noir, and very good at it too.  The wine served alongside was the 1998 Quartz Reef Central Otago Pinot Noir.  This was just as alive and interesting as was the Felton Road.  But it had become very densely pack and concentrated, as if it had been reduced as in cooking, rather than referring to sulphides!  It was almost essence of Pinot Noir, liqueur-like without the stickiness, essence-like without being impossible to savour.  Liquorice, spices and balsamic notes.  Very fine tannin backbone, and sufficient acidity to prevent any cloying, as well as providing good vibrancy.  Delicious stuff in another realm, away from Pinot Noir, but fabulous red wine!  It was amazing how after two decades, the paths taken very so vey different, but yielded delicious drinking.

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