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2011 Doctors Flat, Pinot Noir, Central Otago
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Doctors Flat Vineyard is a single 3-hectare site in Bannockburn in the wine region of Central Otago. The soil is deep gold-bearing gravels laid down by receding glaciers some 480,000 years ago. The Doctors Flat name is taken from an 1890 map of the Bannockburn Mining District that shows the Deep Lead & Doctors Flat Mining Co. held a claim on this site. The vineyard stands at 300m, higher and a bit cooler than most Bannockburn vineyard sites which allows the fruit to ripen slowly and retain its freshness and vivacity.
The vineyard is farmed organically, and the winemaker, and founder of the property in 2002, Steve Davies has had extensive experience in wineries in Bordeaux (Ch. Senejac), California (Newton Vineyards and Saintsbury) and N. Zealand (Akarua), interspersed with a series of off-season harvests in Oregon and Burgundy. However he has done enough of the larger company/working for other people stuff and now devotes his time to Doctor’s Flat, a small project which he can manage on his own.
The Doctors Flat wine is made in traditional fashion, vinified in small open tanks (1 to 4 tonne), a portion of whole bunch fruit, hand plunge and then left for a week or more on skins post ferment. The wine is is transferred to French oak barrels to mature for a period of 12 months and then racked clean into a small tank for a few more months to amalgamate and settle. The result is well-integrated wine, that's bottled with no fining or filtration in the second spring.
It took a long and thorough search to find Doctors Flat Vineyard in 2002, an elevated site on deep, ancient glacial gravels in Bannockburn. The 3-hectare vineyard sits at about 100m above Lake Dunstan. It is cooler than most Bannockburn vineyards, with an increased risk of poor crop levels, but in return the fruit gains in flavour, identity and balance.
The three hectares of Pinot Noir were planted with three Dijon clones (114, 115 and 777) on VSP trellis. Steve has developed Doctors Flat Vineyard from the outset, with labour-intensive organic farming in order to maximising fruit quality. The focus now is to build soil health, through organic farming. In the cellar Steve relies on a simple format of small open tanks, close attention, and minimal intervention to produce worthy wine that reflects its place of origin.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
Central Otago is the most southerly wine region in the world and is responsible for five-point-five percent of a href=/region-3-new-zealand>New Zealand's vines (1,253 hectares in 2006). Central Otago was first identified as a site of serious Pinot potential in 1895 by Italian viticulturalist Romeo Bragato, drafted in by the government to treat the Phylloxera louse, subsequently recommending grafted rootstocks as a remedy in 1901. It had been thought to be worth even more during the Gold Rush days of the 1860s, before being turned over to merino sheep and later fruit orchards until the 1970s. In 1976, Gibbston Valley's alluvial gravel soils were the first to be planted in the area.
It's a measure of the success of the Central Otago ‘brand’, and the appeal of its full-bodied Pinot Noirs, that the region has experienced a 350 percent increase in the vines planted there, and a 125 percent increase in the number of new wineries over the same period (up to 89, or 16 percent of the country's total); as per b>Marlborough's relationship with a href=/grape-sb-sauvignon-blanc>Sauvignon Blanc, b>Pinot Noir now represents approximately 75 percent of the Central Otago vineyards. That the region's capital, Queenstown, annually plays host to the country's Pinot Noir forum is further proof of the region's significance. More controversially, the recent rush to secure vineyards within this now fashionable viticultural zone has led to a rash of criticism over the quality of some of the newcomers.
Located at the foot of South Island, the region may be on the 45th parallel south, but its site among the Bannockburn Hills of the Southern Alps (at approximately 200 metres above sea level) ensures a continental climate, if one dogged by frosts and marked by significant swings in temperature (up to 40 degrees Celsius at times). Soil profiles vary between the deep silt loams of the Bannockburn sub-region, while the wider Cromwell Basin displays both sandy loam over calcium deposits as well as alluvial loess over schist. Vinification typically involves French-oak barrel ageing of between 10 to 18 months.
Stylistically, the Gibbston Valley wines (such as those of Peregrine Wines) show a sweet, soft red raspberry and strawberry fruitiness, while the warmer Bannockburn/Loburn areas produce more powerful, tannic styles with black cherry and thyme notes b>Felton Road's range is a prime example. Fine Riesling is also produced amongst the schistous soils.