(2023) As always, A2 is that bit more approachable in its youth, and indeed this is 100% approachable - and delicious. The melange of cherry, spicy tobacco and undertow of game and truffle is inviting. The palate opens with sweet, juicy fruit, but that hint of olive and briar sappiness adds an edge of clarity. The tannins and acids combine effortlessly for a supple, crisp finish.
(2023) From a Pinot Noir focused (obsessed?) estate I have followed for several vintages, this is a concentrated and powerful, yet balanced expression. The nose has balsamic-drizzled cherry and even strawberry notes, just lovely fragrance with florals, herbs and spices all in the mix. The palate shows delightfully ripe and sweet red and black berry fruits, nicely etched by its acidity and a herbal edge, and the support of some oak and firm but ripe tannins underpinning the finish. A very good vintage of this wine, and undoubtedly a wine with 10 years cellaring potential.
(2022) From a parcel of vines grown on their own roots, and planted in 1994. The wine is organically certified and fermented using wild yeast, with nine months ageing in French oak barrels, 20% new. A nice transparency on the rim of this ruby wine, and once again as we have moved south, meatiness and savoury depth here, but once again, there's that floral and herbal Pinot lift again. In the mouth it is another smooth devil, chocolate and spice, but such a lovely core of sweet, ripe, plush fruit. Terrific smoothness to the tannins and lovely balance to the acids. A terrific drinking wine this.
(2022) Part of the fruit is from the Lowburn Ferry property purchased by Smith & Sheth. It was planted in 2000 on loess over deep silts, with lime deposits, and is in organic conversion. The second comes from an organic vineyard in the Bannockburn sub region. Fermented with natural vineyard yeasts in open-top fermenters with 15% whole bunch and aged 12 months in French oak barrels, 25% new. The wine is suffused with gentle earthy notes, a little herb or hessian character adding nuance and savouriness. The palate is sweet and svelte, but given great clarity by refined, taut structure.
(2022) One of the best-known biodynamic certified estates in New Zealand, Felton Road's Calvert vineyard bottling comes from heavy silt soils. 25% of the blend was whole-bunch fermented, and the wine spent 16 months in barrel (30% new French oak). There is a certain wild, untamed nature to this wine, the nose lifted with wild berries and garrigue, but a sense of woodland and mushroom too. There's something firm in the aromatic picture - something vegetal perhaps, in the beetroot spectrum. On the palate much more straighforward in a way, with plenty of red and black berry fruits, firm at the core, with sweet and ripe tannins and acidity to balance. Oak is discreet, in a wine that has some genuine plushness, but always a bit of wiry but polished gravitas too.
(2022) Around 65% Able clone in this vintage, more than in other years, as one block - Block F - suffered in the cool summer and did not produce the quality of fruit required. Aromatic like the A2, more cinammon and clove notes here perhaps, but a similar bowl of exotic spices, flowers and bold and succulent red fruits. There is maybe an extra layer of depth here - not exactly depth but a dark compote character, creamy and almost like a spiced plum pudding. Once again, there is a base of espresso and that hessian quality that is savoury. Very firm fruit on the palate, edged by liquorice and a depth of dark plum skins giving grip that the charming A2 doesn't quite possess. This is a structured Pinot, built for ageing I'd say, with a more rugged overall character, but the balance of taut tannins, acid and that brooding depth of fruit all in place. Price quoted below is per bottle equivalent when buying a case of 6 or 12.
(2022) Whole bunches were upped from 25% to 35% for this vintage, with around 7% or 8% new oak. Beautiful pale and transluscent garnet to crimson in colour, and what a fantastically aromatic wine this is, pomegranate and a whole pot-pourri of spices and wild flowers, touches of rhubarb and beetroot earthiness. A core of succulent red fruit comes through, while the oak adds just a little coffee edge. The palate has weight and succulence to spare, a stripe of lean tannin and dry, pithy grapefruit acidity give this energy and length. Lots of spice, lots of espresso flitting around the edges, a hessian dryness to finish in a delicious and fascinating Pinot with a truly intriguing perfume, possibly enhanced by those whole bunches in the ferment. Price and stockist is for the previous vintage at time of review.
(2021) From a producer of Central Otago dedicated to Pinot Noir, this is rather beautiful: delicate in colour and fragrance, there's so much floral, raspberry and redcurrant elegance, a fine orange and bright, tart cherry skin tang of acidity shimmering on the palate against some subtle cream and exotic, smoky spice. Imported by Mentzendorff & Co., it's another refined and delightful Pinot from the schist soils of Akitu's higher altitude vineyards.
(2021) From a vineyard in Lowburn, originally the Lowburn Ferry estate which Smith & Sheth have also purchased. Vineyards planted over the past 20 years, this is 10% whole bunch pressed, fermented in a combination of oak and stainless steel and matured in barrel for 10 months (around 25% new oak). Not a densely-coloured wine, but with a darker hue aromatically than the North Canterbury Pinot, plum and chocolate, but very elegantly done again, red liquorice and a touch of vanilla suggest fruit sweetness. More red fruit-driven on the palate, and again a keen axis of souring acid and tannin to give it an edge, the sweet mid-palate fruit becomes quite grippy and earthy in the finish.
(2021) A blend of fruit from Gibbston Valley and Lowburn, this is a darker, more dense crimson with a fairly subdued nose, again a little meatiness, charriness and deep-set fruit, hints of more lifted fruit and florals way in the background, but they are there. On teh palate really juicy and vibrant fruit, a real twist of endive bittersweetness that sits very nicely against the fleshy cherry and red plum fruit. Tannins are fine, that acid is keen and elongates the finish very nicely. Well balanced and long.