A taste of Valli Pinot Noir
Central Otago may be a relatively small wine region when it comes the number of vines planted there but it has a big name and high quality reputation - and for good reason, as winemaker Jen Parr showed a lucky group of 20 at our Valli tasting this month.
The tasting was held upstairs in our tasting room and we traversed a wide range of wines from dry Pinot Gris and orange wine (also made from Pinot Gris) through to the four sub-region Valli Pinot Noirs and finishing up with two outstandingly succulent Rieslings - dry and sweet.
It's a funny place, Central Otago. A beautiful place, too.
The funny thing is that it's the world's southernmost wine region and 80% of the region's grapes and wine production are devoted to red grapes and wines, but the proof of the Pinot is in the bottle and all of these wines tasted lived up to their reputation.
Valli founder and owner Grant Taylor owns vineyards in Gibbston and Waitaki, leases a vineyard in Bannockburn and has a Bendigo vineyard exclusively farmed for his wines.
There is usually more Gibbston PInot Noir made each year but in 2017 this region was down by approximately 40%, due to cool weather and a challenging season, however, the quality is up due to intense concentration of flavour.
History and winemaking
Winemaker Grant Taylor started making Valli wines in 1998 from Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir grapes.
The winery produces between 3000 and 4,500 cases of Pinot Noir each year, with smaller quantities of the Pinot Gris, orange Pinot Gris and Riesling.
All Valli wines have about 11 to 12 months of barrel age and all are bottled unfined and unfiltered.
2017 Valli Pinot Gris $31.99
Light in colour and body with peachy aromatics and crispness from the high acidity driving this wine to an edgy freshness from the first taste to the last lingering, succulent sip.
Serve it chilled, as you would a Riesling.
2016 Valli The Real McCoy Pinot Gris $44.99
Orange wine made by skin fermenting Pinot Gris, pressed in a basket press, aged in old Pinot barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Now making 200 cases.
2017 Valli Pinot Noir Gibbston $69.99
A wine from a very cool vintage particularly at flowering and production was 40% to 50% down on volume throughout the whole region. This wine is medium ruby in colour with powerful aromas and flavours of red fruit, juicy acidity, fine silky tannins and a lingering finish.
2017 Valli Pinot Noir Bannockburn $69.99
Made with grapes from a three hectare vineyard planted on its own roots (rather than grafted) in Bannockburn, which is generally picked from 10 April onwards. This wine has a higher proportion of whole bunches than Gibbston Valley. It has a ruby colour, dark fruit and smoky aromas which highlight the robust flavours of one of Central Otago's warmer sub regions.
2017 Valli Pinot Noir Bendigo $69.99
This wine is made from Valli's highest altitude vineyard at about 400 metres above sea level. The vines were planted in 2005 and the vineyard has low fertility and tends to be frost free. It has high sunshine hours and provides grapes with thicker skins, so it's a more tannic wine - making this Pinot Noir distinctive in the range. This wine is dry and full bodied with powerful tannins, dark fruit and a long finish.
2017 Valli Pinot Noir Waitaki $69.99
Waitaki was planted in the 2000s and is a challenging, cool climate region with altitude around 200 metres of sea level and high limestone content in the soils.
Flowering at harvest is challenging in the cool maritime climate of the Waitaki Valley, which leads to small yields with bunches of 50 to 70 grams and only 1000 to 2000 tonnes per hectare. Very small.
This wine has elegance in spades. Dry, medium bodied and floral in aroma, it's silky, succulent and lingering in taste.
2018 Valli Waitaki Riesling $31.99
This wine is dry in taste thanks to high acidity from the cool Waitaki Valley climate. It has just over 14 grams of residual sugar and 12% ABV. The style varies widely in Valli Riesling, as do botrytis and residual sugar, due to vintage variation. It is fermented at cool temperatures to preserve fruit forward flavours. It's filtered to ensure residual sugar and malic acid are removed since they can cause refermentation in bottle.
2015 Valli Waitaki Late Harvest Riesling $49.99 (750ml)
This sweet but refreshingly balanced Riesling from Waitaki Valley has a surprisingly high residual sugar of 85 grams per litre and a smidgeon of botrytis, which comes through in the mouthfeel; it's youthful wine with high acidity adding freshness and a long finish.