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Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2011
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
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.
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 finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Villages or Cru level wines.