Lisa Perrotti-Brown, eRobertParker.com #209 Oct 2013
About this WINE
Emma Rippon, daughter of a chief cashier of the Bank of England, was born in England at the start of the 1800s. She married Frederick James Sargood, a draper and in 1850 they moved to the new colony of Victoria, Australia to set up a small merchant business.
Much later, one of their grand-sons, Percy Sargood, came out to Dunedin (then New Zealand’s largest port and capital city), to advance the family business, Sargood, Son & Ewen into New Zealand and 1912 he bought Wanaka Station, then a large run, flanking much of the western side of the Upper Clutha Basin.
Percy’s own grand son, Rolfe Sargood Mills grew up between Dunedin and Wanaka and always dreamed of one day moving back on to the family farm. Many years later this, and many more of his dreams besides, would become reality.
In 1974, Lois and the late Rolfe Mills moved back to the family farm in Wanaka. Acting largely on a hunch born in the schist slopes of the Douro Valley many years earlier, they planted a few short rows of experimental vines on a small steep bank above their house. Despite the mostly negative opinions of the viticultural experts of the time, the climate data that Rolfe collected was encouragement enough for them to plant their first commercial vineyard block in 1982. The growing belief they had in the site’s potential to produce fine wine was soon to be realised.
Rolfe Mills was one of the pioneers of the Central Otago viticultural region, choosing an outstandingly beautiful site on the edge of Lake Wanaka. Rippon has really come of age in the hands of his son, Nick Mills, former Olympic skier, and vigneron with top class Burgundian experience at JJ Confuron and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
There were many years of monitoring weather patterns, sugar levels and different grape varieties that could be suitable to the area. Through many years of empirical and scientific observation, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer & Sauvignon Blanc quickly came to the fore as the varieties which are most suited to the Rippon site. We also enjoy working with Gamay and Osteiner, from which we make lighter style summer wines.
Some of the varieties which we have worked with, but have been replaced are Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Muller Thurgau, Breidecker, Chardonnay...The total area under vines is now 15 hectares with the majority of plantings in Pinot Noir and Riesling.
For the last few years Nick has been turning out some of New Zealand’s finest pinots from his biodynamically farmed vineyards which are among the longest established in the region. Those used for the Mature Vine bottling date back to 1986-1994.
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.
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.