Wednesday Wines – Episode 67 – A Tale of Two Pinots

Episode 67 – 7th July 2021

A Tale of Two Pinots

From opposite ends of the earth here are two elite and drinking Pinot Noirs that are both at the top of their respective games.   Celebrating the Pinot Noir grape in all of its glory, these are amazing examples of their kind.

NV Bollinger, PN VZ16, Champagne, France (£80.00, www.thefinestbubble.com, www.thechampagnecompany.com; £87.50 www.harveynichols.com; £79.95, www.masterofmalt.com, www.thewhiskyexchange.com).

While I didn’t quite understand the inaugural release of the Bollinger PN Collection wines (PN VZ15 was released last year), this year’s Pinot Noir Verzenay 2016 is thoroughly delightful and it also makes perfect sense on the palate, too.  I felt that the 2015-based wine was a little too clumsy and sweet-fruited whereas this suave, swaggering 2016-based wine is every inch a Bollinger creation but it adds just a little je ne sais quoi to the experience, too.   Managing to balance typical Bollinger lustiness and décolletage with a forward-drinking air is indeed a challenge, but this wine surpasses this conundrum with ease.  Designed as a Champagne to hit the ground running, there is no need to cellar PN VZ16 because it already shows all of its hand.  While fruit from Verzenay makes up the lion’s share of this blend, Pinot from Avenay and Tauxières also feature adding complexity and verve.  Reserve wines going back to 2006 add mystery but they do not slow this wine down on the palate.  Ripe and juicy with considerable charm and resonance, this is a Pinot that holds back from some of the more muscular elements found in LGA and RD preferring to focus on flesh and succulence and it works a treat.  I often find that when I pop the cork on a bottle of Bollinger that there is a nagging feeling that it needs a little more time.  Even fresh bottles of NV Bolly benefit greatly from an extra year or two of ageing!  But, PN VZ16 is an immensely classy RTD with enviable and unmissable Bolly DNA and that is enough initials for any wine write-up, so I will leave you with my score.  18/20 (Drink now – 2024)

2019 Craggy Range, Aroha Pinot Noir, Te Muna, Martinborough, North Island, New Zealand (£540.00 in bond per 12 bottles, www.farrvintners.com). 

While 2019 Sophia (£540ib x 12 bottles; 18/20) is certainly the most expressive new vintage of this MCFCS I have seen of late with a more relaxed feel throughout and a dry, firm, but not muscular finish and 2019 Le Sol (£540ib x 12 bottles; 19+/20) is typically deep-fruited and exotic with a sensual Vougeot-like texture under Syrah pepper and spice, the pick of the new Craggy 2019s is Aroha.  This is the finest New Zealand Pinot I have tasted in years and it is utterly stunning from start to finish.  With 63% whole bunch and 36% new French oak for 14 months, the anti-fruit elements found here perfectly balance the mesmeric fruit.  The nose is epic and this allure continues for minutes on the palate.  Fresh, ripe and pristine on the finish, you can drink this wine today, but I have no doubt it will hold well for 5-8 years.  I have fallen somewhat out of love with New Zealand Pinot over the last few years because I have not seen a continued and collective finessing of the top wines and yet Craggy has bucked this trend with a spectacular creation from the idyllic Te Muna sub-region of Martinborough.  It turns out that I have fallen in love with a wine whose name, Aroha, translates as ‘love’.  In value terms, this wine is quite simply unmissable.  If it was sneaked into my 2019 Burgundy Report ‘blind’, which I published earlier this year, it would have been one of the very finest wines of the collection.  Now if that is not serious progress then nothing is.  19/20 (Drink now – 2029)