The magic word is typicity
Virtual reality, tele-transportation and avatars are all ways to escape physical and spatial limits and become immersed in new and often wonderful experiences. This escapism is of particular relevance when so many of us are spending our May Day holiday in home lockdown.
All I have to do is open a bottle of wine and my senses of taste and smell along with my wanderlust spirit are magically transported to a beautifully picturesque place. I'm experiencing the deliciousness wine escapism. I invite all readers to join me on this soul and palate pleasing sensorial adventure.
Word spell-check doesn't recognize the word typicity, but if you're a professional wine judge you must intimately know and value this concept. Typicite in French, tipicita in Italian and typicity in English are all terms used in the wine world to describe wines that accurately reflect a particular place or more specifically terroir, grape variety or style of wine. In general, the importance of typicity has been greater in the Old World where being a good wine is not enough; a wine should also accurately reflect its traditions and origins.
In a more fantastical way, experiencing typicity in wines allows wine aficionados to gain pleasure by being magically transported to a uniquely beautiful and delicious place. This vino-virtual sensorial travel is not so surprisingly all the more rewarding when confined in the spatial and emotional limits of lockdown. One red variety exudes typicity and as such is one of the most easily identifiable wines in the world.
Pinot Noir may well be the progenitor of the Pinot family of grapes that includes Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Teinturier and others. All have identical or nearly identical DNA profiles but the true antecedent grape continues to be a vexing and contentious issue.
What we do know is that grapes of the Pinot family were mentioned in Roman documents dating back to AD 1 and over the centuries the Romans, Medieval monks and more contemporary winemakers have continually honed their skills in cultivating this most troublesome of grapes. Pinot Noir is quite prone to mutation with well over 50 officially documented and recognized clones in France and scores of undocumented clones elsewhere.
Different Pinot clones all have their unique qualities and the slightest variances in soil, climate and winemaking also have profound effects on the style and quality of the resulting wine. Why would any winemaker want to deal with the trials and tribulations of this recalcitrant grape? Because, when everything goes right; the grape results in some of the world's greatest wines.
Burgundy may be spiritual home of Pinot Noir but a growing number of precocious New World producers are starting to uncover the secrets of making excellent Pinots. Two preeminent New World regions for Pinot Noir cultivation are Oregon and New Zealand. The latter is the subject of my fantasy travel this week.
Pinot Noir is now New Zealand's second most planted variety after the ubiquitous Sauvignon Blanc. While New Zealand sports a variance of climates; in general, a combination of ample sun, cool and dry weather and porous soils make many regions in New Zealand ideal for cultivating Pinot Noir. This is particularly true of an agrestal region on the southern tip of South Island.
The first vines were planted in Central Otago during a mid-19th century gold rush, but commercial winemaking of any scale only started in the 1980s. In addition to winemaking, the rugged natural beauty of the region has attracted more than just winemakers. The Hobbits and Lord of the Rings movies filmed many scenes in the jagged mountains and dramatic valleys of the region.
Central Otago is a wild and wonderful place and only the most industrious and fearless of winemakers dare brave the great diurnal temperature variations and frequent wild weather of this elevated continental climate.
The extremes that nature throws at Pinot Noir vines results in small grapes with super concentrated juice and relatively thick skins. In the hands of skilled winemakers this results in some of the most exuberant, concentrated and tannic Pinot Noir wines to be found anywhere. Central Otago Pinot Noir wines tend to deeply colored with dark berries and plum flavors with spicy notes.
Pinot Noir is king in Central Otago, but thirsty drinkers can also enjoy highly aromatic and textured Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer white wines as well as stylish Pinot Noir and Chardonnay based sparklers.
In Shanghai, you can find several excellent Pinots from Central Otago. Boutique winery Prophet's Rock makes some of the most elegant and complex examples including their exceptional Cuvee Aux Antipodes Central Otago Pinot Noir. Another fine producer is Rippon, an estate managed by Joe and Nick Mills who collectively have experience making wines at some of Burgundy's most famous Domaines including Romanee-Conti, Nicolas Potel, Albert Mann and Aubert de Villaine.
Additional top Central Otago producers are Felton Road, Mt Difficulty, Tiki, Forrest, Gibbston Valley and Craggy Range. All will generously afford you a quintessentially intense and richly vibrant, fruity and tannic Central Otago Pinot drinking experience.
For a region of weather extremes, Central Otago over the past decade plus has had a fortuitous run of good-to-great vintages with only the mediocre 2011 vintage an outlier. In deference to their robust and hearty nature, I recommend allowing at least 45 minutes to an hour for breathing and serving the wines no higher than 15-16 degrees Celsius.
Let's all make this otherwise depressing May Day holiday a little less trying, stressful and confining by experiencing the exotic qualities of a Central Otago Pinot Noir. In one sip your spirits and senses will be magically transported to a new and magical place of resplendent natural beauty. Virtual travel never tasted so good!
Where to buy
Prophet's Rock Cuvee Aux Antipodes Central Otago Pinot Noir
Anteroom, 1222 Changle Rd, 6248-8985
Rippon Mature Vine Central Otago Pinot Noir
Rippon Emma's Block Central Otago Pinot Noir
Rippon Tinker's Field Central Otago Pinot Noir
Pudao Wines, 375 Wukang Rd, 6090-7075
Felton Road Calvert Central Otago Pinot Noir
Felton Road Block 5 Central Otago Pinot Noir
Mt. Difficulty Roaring Meg Central Otago Pinot Noir