Kiwi Superstars – World-beating wines from Rippon & Felton Road

by David Porter
Rippon’s Nick Mills surveys his vines running down to the impossibly beautiful Lake Wanaka

Rippon’s Nick Mills surveys his vines running down to the impossibly beautiful Lake Wanaka

Rippon and Felton Road are without question the two leading vineyards in New Zealand’s undisputed Pinot Noir capital – Central Otago. Both are making elegant, intense Pinots with beautiful finesse.  The wines are finely textured with fresh, bright flavours, rather than the ‘fruit bombs’ that are so widely available from others in this part of the world.

Nick Mills returned to the beautiful Rippon Vineyards on the shores of Lake Wanaka after several years away from the farm, firstly as part of New Zealand’s extreme skiing team – and then working with some of Burgundy’s leading players. These experiences ignited his enthusiasm for biodynamics which is now reflected in all aspects of his work. Decisions made in the vineyard and winery are all part of a long-term plan to preserve this beautiful landscape for generations to come.  Full consideration is given to maintaining and enhancing the health of the micro-flora of the soils, vines & wines.

Around 40 tonnes of fungal dominant compost are made on the estate every year using only the property’s organic waste matter, nothing unnatural or from further afield enters the eco-system. The respect for their environment can clearly be sensed when drinking these beautifully intense wines that simply sing with purity and are so attractive to drink.  As Nick says he is simply ‘trying to deliver a piece of this beautiful landscape into every glass.’  These are Pinots for lovers of fine wines, integrity and intensity to the fore.

The Wines

2013 Rippon Sauvignon Blanc – £14.75 (case price)

What sets Rippon Sauvignon apart from the ever increasing number of NZ examples is the fabulous balance of ripeness, texture and minerality. 40% of the blend was fermented in old French barrels, not for the oak, but for the form of the vessel itself. Hints of bramble leaf, gooseberry and lime on the nose, very bright fruit flavours on the palate with lean and lively white currant, with a note of sweetness followed by a long, dry, mineral finish. So much more complex and edgy than most.

2010 Rippon Riesling – £16.95 (case price)

The fruit is from Rippon’s mature vines, whose root hairs have invaded the schist rock below. Lurking towards the end of the first mouthful is substantial phenolic power and it soon starts to take charge of the wine… and give it its sense of place. You will never again say that you don’t like Riesling!

2011 Rippon Pinot Noir Mature Vine – £31.50 (case price)

“If you think you already know Central Otago pinot, you may well have to think again. On a recent visit, I was struck by how different the styles were. Many producers now use natural yeasts, which accentuate the differences between wines such as Rippon’s dark, powerful Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2011, which needs at least two to three years to reveal its character, and could age for many more”. 

Fiona Beckett, The Guardian, www.matchingfoodandwine.com

2011 Rippon Emma’s Block Pinot Noir Mature Vine – £44.75 (case price)

“Medium ruby-purple in colour, the 2011 Emma’s Block Pinot Noir reveals quite an earthy, savoury nose to begin then gives way to an aromatic core of kirsch, cranberries and mulberries with underlying cedar and cinnamon stick hints. Medium-bodied and tightly knit in the mouth, it presents a good amount of earth-laced fruit layers with a medium level of chewy tannins and lively acid before finishing with very good length”. Drink it 2014 to 2020+ 91+ Lisa Perrotti-Brown, www.eRobertParker.com

We are also delighted to offer, at very special introductory prices, a small quantity of the new 2014 releases from Felton Road.

Felton Road’s owner Nigel Greening describes 2014 as a style of vintage he really likes, ‘charm’ and ‘poise’ rather than ‘mass’ or ‘impressiveness’. Winemaker Blair Walter attributes the high quality and individuality of their wines to the distinct Central Otago soils and climate, the north-facing hillside vineyard sites and meticulous care taken of the vines, with an emphasis on an understanding of each unique location. It has been totally organic and bio-dynamic across their three Bannockburn vineyards since 2005.

2014 FELTON ROAD Bannockburn Chardonnay – £24.75 (case price)

Special Opening offer case price – £225/12 DP ex VAT

Delicious fresh Chardonnay – ‘Texture not fatness’, says Nigel, there us no lees stirring to fatten it up, and only 8% new oak, it is made in a convincingly Burgundian style and bottled unfined and unfiltered, trying to keep the chalkiness and texture. Immensely attractive, pure and lithe and long.

‘A very rich nose with plenty of nectarine, grapefruit, yellow peach and an assertive pure fruit edge. There is a strong comparison to Chablis in style here, think Droin or Raveneau, smooth lees, flinty and stony. The palate has a smooth, creamy texture, flavors of peach, nectarine and preserved lemon; a smooth, polished and stony texture, all nicely integrated, edges into more tropical fruits to close. Great wine, long and composed. Drink now. 94 points.’ Nick Stock, www.jamessuckling.com

2014 FELTON ROAD Bannockburn Pinot Noir – £30.95 (case price)

Special Opening offer case price – £300/12 DP ex VAT – £270/12 IB

Nigel Greening describes 2014 as a style of vintage he really likes, ‘charm’ and poise rather than mass or impressiveness. This constitutes his ‘village’ level wine in Burgundian terms, and it is lively and bright, fresh tangily juicy and pure – a lovely Felton Road to drink now and over the next 5 or so years.

‘A handy array of bright red berries, orange citrus rind, then toasty mocha oak spice, some darker red plum and mouth-wateringly sweet fruit aromas on offer. Very bright, just-ripe fruits, liquorice and cinnamon, this smells vibrant and full of life. The palate has a soft, supple and creamy core with a glossy, fluffy mid-palate; tannins fan out even and long, smooth, velvety and quite plush, gently musky. Good balance and approachability, concentrated and pure. Drink now. 94 points.’ Nick Stock, www.jamessuckling.com

2014 FELTON ROAD Cornish Point Pinot Noir  £36.95 (case price)

Special Opening offer case price – £174/6 DP ex VAT – £159/6 IB

A more scented style from calcareous loess (like Block 3). Pure and delicate in its precision.

‘A very bright red cherry nose, super pure, very floral and also showing a gentle herbal thread too. Some leafy elements, gentle herbs and an underlying more savory earth and spice note too. The palate’s supple, smooth, very light, even and glossy; an easy-going wine that has a polished surface, smooth and bright, red cherry and some darker plum notes here too. Drink now. 94 points.’ Nick Stock, www.jamessuckling.com

2014 FELTON ROAD Calvert Pinot Noir – £36.95 (case price)

Special Opening offer case price – £174/6 DP ex VAT – £159/6 IB

Fruit from the Calvert vineyards makes a naturally taut and dry style, needing a little time to round out, but it also has real class and intensity and terrific length.

2014 FELTON ROAD Block 3 Pinot Noir – £47.95 (case price)

Special Opening offer case price – £220/6 DP ex VAT – £205/6 IB

‘A bolder wine that has a little more new oak, some swirling herbs and spices, very complex and concentrated wine here. Bright red cherries, slightly tarry almost, more savory and cryptic with less emphasis on the red fruits. There’s a darker cherry thread of fruit, the spices are more evident, the tannins are more legible and they deliver a more succulent, more firmly defined finish. Great depth, balance and smoothly polished texture. Innate balance, effortless and detailed. Very composed. Drink now. 96 points.’ Nick Stock, www.jamessuckling.com

2014 FELTON ROAD Block 5 Pinot Noir – £47.95 (case price)

Special Opening offer case price – £220/6 DP ex VAT – £205/6 IB

Block 5 is on clay and so quite a big, round and structured wine. Finer than it used to be – Nigel feels this is down to vine age – but broad and mouth-filling with a good heft of fruit. At the Central Otago tasting in London it, like all the other Felton Road Pinots, impressed particularly for its calmly supple feel and purity in the length.

These world class wines are a great addition to the cellar, always in hiogh demand, this offer is valid while stocks last.

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