Cellared Rippon Pinot for the Christmas Feast

When I think about what wines to serve with the Christmas Feast, Pinot Noir is always on the list.

Recently I tasted a trio of cellar-aged Pinots from Rippon Vineyard in Lake Wanaka, and I’m thinking if you have any of these in your cellar you may want some heads-up to what they are like. Sadly the older one faded away on the finish, but keep in mind the saying, “There are no great wines, only great bottles.” So I suggest if you have any of these wines in your cellar, pull one out and treat yourself on Christmas Day.

Rippon Lake Wanaka Pinot Noir 2005 has a rich aroma of concentrated cherry fruit with a hint of chocolate infusing the oak, a sweet / savoury impression and thyme. Full-bodied with mouthfilling red and blue fruits and firm grainy tannins, a red berry character permeates through the savoury, ‘sweet earth’ background to provide lift and brightness to the finish, which sadly seems to be thinning and give the impression it is starting to dry out. This particular bottle seems to be at or just past its peak – especially in the context of this trio. But if you are accompanying with Turkey and Cranberry Sauce and all the trimmings, you probably won’t even notice. 12.8% alc. $48 on release.

Rippon Lake Wanaka Pinot Noir 2006 has richness to the medium dark red hue. Milk chocolate abounds on the bouquet with sweet smoky oak, dark cherry and blackberry fruit with that ‘difficult to describe’ savouriness too – perhaps what some of the winemakers call ‘pinosity’. Full-bodied, mouthfilling and succulent with velvety smooth tannins, this is a profoundly savoury and complex wine with a red fruit brightness and something intriguingly dark and mysterious in the background. The long lingering finish is spicy with the much-liked ‘peacock’s tail’ flare and my favourite anise like characters coming through. Top class wine that will be very long lived – it still has underlying structure and grip. The match of the day to the food we tasted the wines with. 13% alc. $52 on release.

Rippon Lake Wanaka Pinot Noir 2007 has a lovely deep sensuous savouriness to the bouquet that emanates briar rose, ripe cherries, and creamy oak – later I summed it up in one word – ‘dreamy’. In the mouth the tannins are fine with a slightly suede edge. It tastes so earthy and savoury with dark smoky oak and a welling up of bittersweet red fruits from within. Fruit is in the lighter red spectrum – I think of macerated strawberries – and there’s a creaminess and fruit sweetness to the lingering finish where the florals from the bouquet now blossom too. I love how this wine expands so deliciously in the mouth and the long dry finish lingers beguilingly. It seems even more powerful with the food. 13% alc. $55 on release.

It was hard to choose a favourite from the 2006 and 2007 – so close, but for some reason the 2006 had the edge. And the food match confirmed this. We had a fillet steak tail (it’s cheaper) and the mushrooms were cooked with spring onions, leeks, bacon, thyme and cream with a tiny splash of one of these wines. Divine.

I don’t have a pic of the bottles but check out this pic taken in April 2006, in the midst of harvest when the grapes for the 2006 wine had just been picked. Perhaps that is what endeared me to the 2006, the memory of tasting those grapes not long after they had gone into the fermentation vat.

Rippon Vineyard April 2006

Always a wonderful place to visit so if you are in Wanaka this summer take time out to discover the interesting range of Rippon wines, from the fruity summer-styled Osteiner to the opulent, powerful Pinot Noirs. Check out the opening hours on www.rippon.co.nz.

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