Two Paddocks The Last Chance Pinot Noir 2012
The Last Chance is a beautifully sited small terrace perched in bright clear air above the Earnscleugh Valley, carefully planted with well-tended Burgundian clone pinot noir. It nestles amongst a small cluster of the World's most southerly vineyards and takes its name from the watercourse that runs through its heart, hand dug by gold miners in the 1860s, The Last Chance.
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Established in 1993 by itinerant actor Sam Neill, initially the sole aim was to share ethereal pinot noir moments with loved ones. Sam is now the only producer to own land in the three main valleys of Central Otago - Gibbston, Bannockburn (Cromwell Basin) and Alexandra. All vineyards are certified organic. Two Paddocks Estate Pinot Noir is an assemblage of the four vineyards and is a barrel selection comprised of the older blocks. Tiny volumes of single vineyard wines, The Proprietor's Reserves, are also produced. The First Paddock Vineyard is in Gibbston, The Fusilier Vineyard is in Bannockburn and The Last Chance and The Red Bank Vineyards are in Alexandra. *Central Otago is the Southern-most viticultural area in the Antipodes - eg. it sits on the 45th Parallel below Tasmania. Two Paddocks aims to produce understated gentle savoury expressions of their extreme Southern cool climate schist rock origins. Two Paddocks vineyards and wines are certified organic and revolve around a holistic sustainable farming model wherebye all waste from the winery is returned to the vineyards and converted to compost, to be fed back on to the land. The over-riding philosophy is to never take out of the soil more than is being given back. This robust soil biomass will create vibrant healthy vines that produce the very best expressions of their Central Otago terroir. All the crew in the vineyard are full time employees of Two Paddocks, except for the height of summer when extra help is required for all the labour intensive work that organic farming practices demand eg. green thinning and hand harvesting. Nurturing the vines and creating a balanced crop load is important in Central Otago's sometimes marginal cool climate so the cropping levels are very low at 5 Tonne per hectare maximum. Harvest is usually early April and the fruit is sorted in the vineyard then given a 5-7 day cold maceration to extract colour and aroma. The ferments have a high proportion of total whole cluster - 25% for the Estate Two Paddocks and 50-70% for the Proprietor's Reserves. An indigenous fermentation then begins spontaneously with no added commercial yeasts added and the ferment is only plunged once a day for the most gentle of extractions. Fermentation temperatures typically reach 30-32 degrees celsius and post fernent the wine is given another 5-7 days on skins depending on the year - so total time on skins is approximately 25-30 days. The wine is then given 11 months maturation in medium toast French barriques - 20% new oak and the balance in one - five year old barrels. At bottling the wine is sometimes given a light egg white fining, depending on the year, and a course filtration. Screwcaps are used because of historical adverse affects that cork has had on quality and Two Paddocks want the consumer to receive the very best Two Paddocks wine that is possible - just as the winemaker and The Prop intended.
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, not Pinot noir. 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 Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.