Find wines and prices




Notes from New Zealand, 2011

text and photgraphs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on New Zealand 2011.


The Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration is a Pinot-fest for all, celebrating not only the local wines, but Pinot from across New Zealand and around the world. The most special relationship is, inevitably, with Burgundy. Each year a French contingent arrives in Queenstown to join in the fun and in 2011 the 'twinning' was cemented further by the signing of an agreement to from a Central Otago/Burgundy Exchange Programme which will see young winemakers from each region work vintages with their counterparts overseas.

But the main business of this tasting, chaired by Rippon Vineyards' Nick Mills, was a tasting of six premier cru Burgundies from the same vintage, paired because they come from vineyard sites that lie very close together, but which have different appellations. I was invited to speak on the panel conducting the tasting, along with New Zealand Pinot author and specialist John Saker and two Burgundian winemakers: Sophie Confuron of Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron who has a long association with the Pinot Celebration, and Sylvain Pitiot. Sylvain was the main speaker before the tasting began, and an extraordinarily well qualified one.

burgundy panel The panel from left to right: John Saker, Tom Cannavan, Sophie Confuron, Sylvain Pitiot and Nick Mills.

The tasting was entitled "Natural geography or the cartographer's pen - which delivers a more accurate delimitation of space?" In fact this was an exploration of the Burgundian 'Climat', a strictly defined geographical vine-growing plot with recognised and long established properties that distinguish it from its neighbours. And why was Sylvain Pitiot the perfect speaker? Well he is both the man in charge of the famous Grand Cru Clos du Tart, and he is, along with Pierre Poupon, the scholar and cartographer who drew the definitive and by now iconic maps of Burgundy that hang on many oenophiles walls. Sylvain's fascinating talk covered the how, why and when of how the lines between Burgundies villages and vineyards were created, and some specific facets of geography and geology that influenced these boundaries, and the land on either side of them. He talked of rivers, slopes, churchyards and old roads that defined the area of the maps, and which in turn defined areas that would become some of the best climats of Burgundy. But of course the vines that had been planted there and the wines they made also influenced the precise lines where the original cartographers drew the boundaries.

I'm not sure that the talk and subsequent tastings proved or disproved any particular theories, but it was just a terrific event with Sylvain's talk and the tasting both riveting, and encouraging the audience to think about issues of history, culture and geography in relation to the wines.

the wines

Comtes Armand, Domaines des Epeneaux Volnay 1er Cru Les Frémiets 2007
Lovely delicacy to the fragrance here, a sense of kirsch-like brightness and floral character. Delicious palate, the texture silky and quite voluptuous, the tannins melding with some coffeeish oak and smokiness, in a sultry, delicious wine. 93/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Domaine de Courcel, Pommard 1er Cru Les Fremiers 2007
From an adjoining vineyard site, that trips over the appellation boundary into Pommard. More closed that the Comtes Armand, with much more earthy and vegetal aromatics. Less silky-sweet on the palate too, the fruit earthier, the structure more apparent, the finish arguably even a little austere. 91/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Domaine de Montille, Pommard 1er Cru Les Rugiens 2007
Ripe, much more aromatic again with a great concentration of aroma. It is vegetal too, with a truffle character and solid red fruit. The palate has a really decisive core of tannin but lovely length and a certain clarity of purpose as it powers through to the finish. 93/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Domaine Lecheneaut, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Les Pruliers 2007
Fine, ripe and plush coffee and berry-scented nose that is fragrant and appealing, with a blackcurrant and spice component. On the palate this is firm and quite imposing, the tannins powerful and the acidity notable. An attractive wine, if a little unyielding at this stage. 91/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Aux Boudots 2007
A very elegant first impression here compared to the Lecheneaut, with a beautifully soft, briar and cappuccino warmth. The palate has deliciously juicy and sweet fruit, with a real luminosity, the long, sweetly-fruited palate showing fine tannins and a bright but integrated acidity. Very long, very focused and refined. 95/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Domaine Jean Grivot, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Chaumes 2007
A rather dull nose (particularly coming after the Confuron wine), with a little briar and undergrowth character but all quite subdued. The palate has a nice juicy fruit energy, but although not as tough in the finish as the Lecheneaut, still rather austere. 90/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

return to New Zealand 2011