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Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2011
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The property was purchased 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 was much 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 amphitheatre.
Husband and wife Marquis Sauvage and Dianne Sauvage were on a return trip from the Mornington Peninsula in Australia and had decided to visit several regions in New Zealand. For some time the family had contemplated starting their own winery. Dianne and Marquis were struck by the extraordinary beauty of Central Otago and became even more impressed after tasting through the region's wines, particularly Felton Road and Gibbston Valley. They decided that they had found the place they were looking for. Marquis continued the property search with a real estate broker and came across the Burn Cottage site. As Marquis likes to say, he had visited enough great vineyards around the world and this one had the right look. Unbeknownst to the Sauvages, several prominent, local wineries and winemakers were interested in the site and had had their eyes upon it for some time.
The property became available in January of 2002 and the Sauvages were able to purchase it at auction.
The Sauvages contacted Ted Lemon owner and winemaker of Littorai Wines in Sebastopol, CA to seek his involvement in the project. The Sauvages were unaware at the time that Ted already had deep connections to New Zealand and particularly to Central Otago. Ted and Marquis traveled to New Zealand to see the property and Ted was sold on the idea upon the spot.
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.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.