These are notes from a tasting that spanned three decades of Rippon Vineyards Pinot Noir.
1990 — This was the second commercial vintage of Pinot Noir, made from vines planted in 1982. A very warm vintage, with an early harvest. Medium colour, with an evolved rim. Quite a soft vegetal red fruit nose. A silky palate, with ripe red fruit, depth and texture with a good balance. A touch of fruitcake on the finish and a dry finish. Extraordinarily lively for a wine that is 30 years old, proving that New Zealand Pinot Noir can age.
1991 — A slightly cooler vintage. Medium colour. Some velvety vegetal notes on the nose. A very perfumed palate, ripe and rounded; mature and silky. A lovely glass of wine.
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1992 — Again, a slightly cooler vintage. Quite a deep young colour. Intense ripe red fruit on both nose and palate. A firm streak of fine tannin to balance the fruit, and still quite youthful.
1993 — Another cooler year. Quite a deep colour, ageing slightly on the rim. Quite a firm dry nose with red fruit, and on the palate some depth, with a vegetal note balancing some red fruit. Quite a dry finish.
1995 — The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1994 had a serious impact on subsequent vintages. A very cool year, but the wine does not taste unripe. Quite a light colour. Very vegetal nose, with some silky red fruit. Elegant fruit on the palate, silky and ripe, with a balancing streak of tannin.
1998 — Quite a light colour. A firm dry note on the nose, with a streak of hay. Ripe fruit on the palate, quite rounded and ripe, with more depth and texture that the nose would indicate.
A new decade at Rippon vineyards
2000 — From now on vine age starts to have an impact. Quite a deep colour. A smooth silky nose. A touch raisiny on the palate, but with some soft tannins. A warm finish.
2003 — Nick’s first vintage. He compared it to 2001 in Burgundy, neither a warm nor a cool vintage. Medium colour, beginning to evolve. Quite an elegant dry raspberry nose. And on the palate, some fresh vegetal and raspberry fruit, with some texture. Medium weight, with a fresh finish.
2005 — A small yield thanks to a cool, windy December during flowering. Medium colour, evolving a little. Quite a firm dry nose, and also on the palate. Firm raspberry fruit, with a note of acidity as well as tannin. Quite tight knit, with a fresh finish.
2006 — This was a warm year. Medium colour, with a dry vegetal note on the nose. The palate was quite rounded, with some texture and dry raspberry notes. Quite fleshy, and still very youthful, with good length and depth.
2007 — The smallest yield in the last decade thanks to spring frosts and a windy December, but an excellent ripening season. Quite a deep colour. A firm nose, with fresh dry raspberry fruit. Good acidity. Some elegant texture and a refreshing finish. Very classic. One of my favourite wines in the tasting.
2008 Mature Vines — A hot summer giving a good yield and healthy grapes. The first vintage of this cuvée, from the original vines. Medium colour. Quite a firm dry raspberry fruit on the nose. The palate is still very youthful, with fresh tannins, and dry raspberry fruit. Firm and textured, with ageing potential.
2009 Mature Vine — Medium colour. Quite fresh and ripe, and again on the palate fresh, ripe fruit with some balancing acidity and tannin. A warm note on the finish. Good depth.
2009 Emma’s Block — Medium colour. Elegantly perfumed nose. Medium weight, with rounded ripe fruit. Elegant and fragrant.
2009 Tinker’s Field — Quite fresh intense fruit on the nose and palate. Rounded raspberries; elegant with depth. Lovely texture and concentration, with a long firm finish.
2010 Mature Vine — A warm summer. Good colour. Rounded concentrated nose, and on the palate, lovely texture with concentration, ripe fruit and structure. Smooth tannins and great length. A broader wine than either Emma’s Block or Tinker’s Field.
2010 Emma’s Block — Quite deep colour. Rounded nose, and on the palate great texture with ripe fruit and balancing tannins. Ripe, concentrated and youthful with a tight knit finish.
2010 Tinker’s Field — Deep colour. Ripe perfumed fruit and on the palate, more structured, with firm tight knit red fruit. A youthful concentrated finish. And a great finale to a historic tasting, which amply demonstrates how suitable Central Otago is for the production of that most temperamental of grape varieties, Pinot Noir. Rolfe Mills had the vision to realise the potential of grape growing in countryside that had been dedicated to sheep farming, and his son Nick has the passion to continue to stretch the boundaries of Pinot Noir.
Top photo: Rippon Vineyards. Credit: Briar Hardy-Hesson