Nothing bare about these Bald Hills

I love the names of some of our wines named after geographic features and this label, Bald Hills, is one of them. Bald Hill itself, or the only one I can find on the NZ topographic map is a mound just to the east of Middlemarch in Otago. I probably have a pic of it somewhere and many cyclists on the Otago Rail Trail probably do too because Middlemarch is where the railway from Dunedin ends. It the start (or end) of the cycle trail, depending on which way you head.

The Bald Hills Vineyard in Central Otago is near Bannockburn, across the river (or lake) from Cromwell and it is where the grapes for these two wines were grown. It’s an exciting area and many well known wines come from around here – like Felton Road’s Cornish Point, Akarua and Carrick to name a few.

baldhills pinotsThe Bald Hills label itself seems to me to fly under the radar here in New Zealand, despite the rave reviews from some of my wine writing colleagues, and the awards it has picked up overseas – and I’m not surprised about those awards after tasting these two single vineyard wines.

Bald Hills Single Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 has a deep ruby with intensity and depth. The beguiling fragrance of sweet, ripe, concentrated cherry fruit has a polished sliver of savoury oak and the appeal of the bouquet carries through to the palate that’s velvety smooth to start but firms up on the finish with a crushed velvet grip. The red fruits shine through the concentrated savoury backbone with a touch of chocolate and anise. I thought this was beautiful, but then I tasted the 2009 and realise this needs just a little more time.

Perhaps the oak regime has something to do with it – there is 50% new French whereas the 2009 has just 35%. Interesting clonal selection too, the old 10/5 and the newer B115. In the 2010 the B115 is more dominant, however.

Bald Hills Single Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 is dark red coloured with a ruby glow and the bouquet of this lighter smelling wine emanates fruit in the strawberry and cherry spectrum with hints of rose petal and vanilla, and an underlying earthiness too. Spicy in the palate with much deeper, richer fruit than the bouquet suggests, it’s a concentrated wine with cherries, dark fruits, violets and a lovely infusion of thyme with hints of anise and a layer of creamy black forest chocolate as the flavours linger. The tannins are silky but provide structure to the finish. There is no doubt this is Pinot – it has the fruit, the savouriness, the smokiness and the creaminess. I think it is just divine.

Both wines state 14% alcohol and are listed on the Bald Hills website with a price tag of $52 a bottle. They sport screwcaps of course.

The 2010 has an International Wine Challenge Trophy while the 2009 won the Trophy for Best Pinot Noir at the Sydney International Wine Competition 2012, which was judged at the end of 2011.

We matched the wine to rack of lamb – I like to buy it with the skin on then score it and season it and render the fat out (skin side down) in the frying pan, pour the fat off, turn the racks over and finish off in the oven. The skin becomes caramelised and crispy. I would usually use thyme – which would have been ideal for these wines, but mine has keeled over and died in the cold weather, so rosemary was a fitting substitute.

I had previously tasted another wine by Bald Hills, the 3 Acres 2010, about a year ago. This seems to me to be more of an upfront, easy, approachable wine with both savoury and floral characters, supple tannins, red fruits and the spice profile like that you would put in mulled wine.

When I dialled up the Bald Hills website,, just before I found the vineyard is for sale – it was listed in January but I see Blair and Estelle Hunt are still listed as the owners and Estelle is still blogging on their website in June. But it seems that this is waiting to be snapped up by young, astute, wannabe Pinot Noir producers.


Nothing bare about these Bald Hills — 1 Comment

  1. Very thorough and yet personal review of our wines thankyou Sue. We love that you taste them with food ( rack of lamb – delicious done your way!)and we enjoy your informal but thoughtful style of writing.
    Yes, Bald Hills is for sale. We think we have established an enduring fine base from which a new owner can build and grow the label!