Ripe dark cherry, redcurrant and chocolate notes precede savory notes of wild thyme, briar and earth. Supple mouthfilling tannins give depth to the palate, while the freshness and red-berry acidity retain lovely length, focus and balance.
Burn Cottage is a 28-hectare vineyard, farm, and estate in the foothills of the Pisa range in Central Otago, New Zealand. The vineyard is owned by husband and wife Marquis & Dianne Sauvage, who purchased the unplanted property in 2002. It had been grazed by sheep for as long as can currently be remembered. There were, and are, no immediate vineyard neighbors. The site is quite coveted in the region, for it is sheltered from both northerly and southerly winds by large hills and forms a beautiful, protected bowl much like a modern amphitheater. It is a phenomenal site for Pinot Noir; with warm summers and cold winters, there is plenty of sunshine with particularly long warm days through the growing season and cool nights that help achieve ripeness while retaining good acidity.
Marquis Sauvage sought out Ted Lemon, owner and winemaker of Littorai in Sebastopol, CA, to plant their new vineyard. Ted proposed that Burn Cottage would be biodynamically farmed from inception, and that is the path that has been followed with great commitment and enthusiasm. From there, a great partnership was formed, thanks to the potential of the land as well as Ted’s deep connections to New Zealand, and to Central Otago in particular. Ted is head winemaker and vineyard manager, and as Marquis calls him, “the guiding hand on the tiller at Burn Cottage.”
Like Ted’s property at Littorai, Burn Cottage is a fully functional farm, with 10 hectares under vine and the rest of the land devoted to cattle, chickens, beehives, olive groves, and other native species of New Zealand plants, bushes, and trees. They also produce their own compost and grow many of the preparations needed for Biodynamic farming. At Burn Cottage, they believe that biodiversity is the cornerstone of healthy farming – and that great wines are not made from fruit but are born of the soils which nurture the vines and then made with a minimum of intervention.
Whilst Ted Lemon from Littorai was originally hands on in the establishment and development of Burn Cottage, he has since taken a back seat and the winemaking mantle has been handed to Claire Mulholland who has worked alongside Ted at Burn Cottage since 2008. Claire is Central Otago local who following university worked in the pioneering vineyards of the region such as Rippon, Chard Farm and Gibbston Valley. Ensuing vintages abroad were focussed on building up an international picture of Pinot Noir, working in Australia, Oregon and France, including Burgundy’s Cote de Nuit at Domaine De L’Arlot and Domaine Dujac. Significant New Zealand winegrowing experience included roles as head winemaker at Martinborough Vineyard and Amisfield, before joining Burn Cottage Vineyard in 2008. Claire is supported by the Shane Livingstone one of New Zealand’s leading biodynamic viticulturists. Shane joined Burn Cottage vineyard in 2014, bringing years of local Pinot Noir experience along with winery and viticulture background from several other New Zealand wine regions, and vintages abroad. He oversees the vineyard, team, and biodynamic programme, guiding the property forward.
Home to the globe’s most southerly vineyards, which are cultivated below the 45th parallel, Central Otago is a true one-of-a-kind wine growing region, but not only because of its extreme location.
Central Otago is more dependent on one single variety than any other region in New Zealand—and it isn’t Sauvignon blanc. They don’t even make Sauvignon blanc there.
Pinot Noir claims nearly 75% of the region’s vineyards with Pinot Gris coming in a far second place and Riesling behind it. This is also New Zealand’s only wine region with a continental climate, giving it more diurnal and seasonal temperature shifts than any other.
The subregion of Bannockburn has enjoyed the most success historically but the area’s exceptional growth has moved to the promising regions of Cromwell/Bendigo and Alexandra districts. Central Otago is known for its fruity and full-bodied Pinot noir. With the freedom to experiment here, growers and winemakers are easily exhibiting the area’s great potential.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”