I first came across Lowburn Ferry on my first visit to Central Otago in 2005, but since they have new distribution in the UK via Daniel Lambert Wines, and have picked up a gold medal in the International Wine Challenge for their 2012 Pinot, it was a good time to become reacquainted.Lowburn Ferry owners Jean and Roger Gibson planted their first grapes in 2000 on terraces that had used for sheep grazing since the first European settlers brought irrigation to the site over 150 years ago. Roger and his wife Jean manage the vines – all Pinot Noir – sustainably, with low yields. Their academic backgrounds in horticulture, soil science and ecology mean their approach is “both practical and scientific.” The glacial terraces are a distinctive feature of the Lowburn Ferry landscape, and their soils are of particular importance to viticulturist Roger, who is seeking to express the terroir that he believes sets his vineyard apart. He says, “At Lowburn Ferry vineyard, the cultural history of the soils since the gold rush days has built up the organic matter and soil life. From vines growing in deep organic and loess soils, the wines from Lowburn Ferry are the product of hard hand labour in an environment where fantastic success or complete failure can balance on a knife edge.”
Lowburn Ferry, Home Block Pinot Noir 2012, New Zealand
There’s a solidity to this Central Otago Pinot from the word go, but it is not without finesse. Harvested between the 15th and 19th of April, destemmed, cold-soaked and fermented in stainless steel, it was then matured for 13 months in French oak barriques, around 30% of which was new. Vanilla, a wisp of smoke and then sweet ripe plum and cherry compote give a fleshy, smooth aromatic impression. On the palate spice and a fair thwack of tannin give this immediate edge, the quite thick fruit quality coming through on the mid-palate, underpinned by meaty tones, before a finish that has some edge from the spice, tannin and good acidity. It’s a fairly chunky wine with 14% alcohol, and I do prefer a little more light and shade in my Pinot, but it’s a lovely example of the more solid style with at least eight years ageing potential. 91-92/100. Around £32.00, see all stockists on wine-searcher.
Lowburn Ferry, Home Block Pinot Noir 2011, New Zealand
Though it has the same 14% alcohol, the colour seems a little less dense. That may just be a product of the extra year in bottle, but I note it was harvested between the 7th and 12th of April, so a full week earlier, and spent 10 months in oak as opposed to the 2012’s 13 months. There’s more game and truffle, more autumnal, softer aromas, spices and hints of sappy briar. In the mouth I prefer the softer spiced cherry character too (for current drinking at least), with no shortage of sweet fruit, but a smooth tannin underpinning, tobacco and spice, and balanced acidity. There’s every chance the 2012 will be just as good – or is just as good depending on your stylistic preference – but I really did enjoy this more feminine 2011 that is drinking so well. 93/100. Around £29.00, see all stockists on wine-searcher.