“Remarkable site that the fruit is grown on here. Verdant, buzzy with Bambi-like scenes of animals and flowers and insects and stuff. Biodynamic farming, loads of care, a selected place to grow great grapes. Good ingredients. Clever winemaker, Claire Mullholland, and in the mix the wonderful consultant in Ted Lemon from Littorai, California.”
Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
Mike Bennie’s observation, which served to preface his review of the “lovely” 2015 release, is spot-on in pinpointing the unique charm of the Burn Cottage vineyard. It’s a magical place, with a merry riot of nature on what is, beneath, an incisively masterminded series of plantings laid down to conjure up soulful, enchanting Pinot Noir. Even the blueprint of the vineyard – what could seem more dry and factual? – is instead like the score for a symphony. Each parcel of the deceptively steep-sloping amphitheatre has its own chorus of slants, soils and clones.
Those celestial patterns were largely laid down by Californian guru of terroir, Ted Lemon, who insisted from the outset that biodynamics were the only way to go. “That vision Ted had in putting it together is pretty amazing. It was quite challenging at the time, to plant that many different clones within blocks and to manage them all so well through the season,” says Central Otago-born winemaker Claire Mulholland. “It does hold challenges but it’s all adding up to that special mark of the site, of the wine.”
The chemistry between the intercontinental colleagues is producing ever more complex, compelling concoctions. For her part, Claire has at the forefront of her mind a duty to be as true to the fruit and vineyard as possible. That means being ever thoughtful, attentive and gentle, in the field and the cellar. “I’m not trying to put a big winemaker mark on it; instead I listen to the fruit, listen to the season. I know these sorts of things are said quite a lot but it’s really key with Pinot Noir. So, with extraction, with oak, with picking times, all of those things. I always favoured picking earlier if I could; it’s just something I felt is right for the fruit and the vibrancy of it.”
What the site gives is by now well documented. Burn Cottage Pinot Noir has become known for its pretty scent and purity, its texture, energy and earthiness.
Elsewhere, you might worry that the combined intelligence of these co-authors would lead to wines that are overthought and overwrought. Not at Burn Cottage. On this humming hillside, it’s all about listening, feeling and tasting. It’s a sensual experience every time, tracing the intricacies of the season, and watching it all unfurl in the glass and the cellar.
2016 Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir RRP $93
Composition by block and clone:
Block 1 – 23%. 115, 114, 777, 5, Abel
Block 2 – 19%. 10/5, MV6, 115, Abel
Block 4 – 10%. 777, 943, Abel
Block 5s – 4%. Abel
Block 6 – 11%. 667, 115
Block 7 – 23%. 667, 114, 777, Abel
Block 8 – 8%. 667, 10/5, MV6
Block 10 – 2%. 828
Plant density: 5000 vines/Ha
Harvest dates: 18th March to 11th April
Average Brix at harvest: 22.3
Average time in fermenter: 19 days
Whole cluster percentage: 23%
New oak percentage: 24%
Cooperages: Damy and Mercurey
Technical detail: pH 3.78; TA 4g/L; alcohol 13.5%
A cool winter, and there were instances of frost fighting in the early parts of the season. Also with cold nights. Flowering was relatively quick, and it was quite windy through this period so the resulting bunches were quite open. Wind presented a challenge at other times throughout the season also, however overall there were mild, favourable temperatures which prevailed through to late January. Temperatures rose at the start of February and the remaining season was warm and dry. The ripening of the crop progressed well and we picked from the second half of March.
Enticing layers of floral, berry and spice notes complement earthy aromatics of wet stone and black tea. With time in the glass, deeper savoury notes and richness from the whole cluster use emerge. This vintage has shown wonderful finesse from the outset, with silky texture and an attractive seamlessness throughout. Focused and very elegant, the wine has fine persistent tannins extending the harmonious finish. Cellaring for up to 7-10 years
2015 Burn Cottage Moonlight Race Pinot Noir RRP $68
This is a blend of fruit from three vineyards. Some 35% came from both the Burn Cottage and Northburn vineyards, and the remaining 30% was sourced from the Mark II site. The fruit, of which 22% went in as whole clusters, spent an average of 19 days in the fermenter, followed by maturation in French oak (25% new) from Mercurey and Damy cooperages.
Wonderful perfume. Smells cherry-like, savoury, faint dusty spice, touch of clove, earthiness, undergrowth. Really a whole lot going on. Texture is firm, tight, subtle and cool in fruit flavours, long. Long. It’s elegant yet shows off savouriness, tannins are shapely and succulent. It’s restrained, needs time, but offers so much for serious pinot lovers. Yep. 94 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
First released in the 2014 vintage Moonlight Race is a blend of grapes from Burn Cottage Vineyard (35%), Northburn Vineyard (35%) and Mark II vineyard, with a mix of clones in each. 22.5% whole cluster. Similar in style to the regular Burn Cottage label but with more sweet fruit and a sappy influence adding complexity to berry, oak and floral flavours. A subtle and beguiling wine with finely pitched structure that allows access now while assuring a promising future. 96 points. Bob Campbell MW, The Real Review
Fragrant and distinctive bouquet with a mix of floral, earth and fruit messages, noticeable but not overdone oak, fine toasty layer with some kitchen spice attributes on the palate – dry, spicy, floral, fruity, mineral, dry, moderate tannins and plenty of acidity, lengthy and individualistic expression and finish. A lovely wine that can be cellared if desired; best drinking 2018 through 2024. 94 points. Cameron Douglas MS
This regional blend of a suite of parcels has an attractive red and dark cherry fruit core, with well-placed spicy oak, pleasingly grainy youthful tannins and a long fresh finish that is accented by concentrated cherry fruit flavors. Drink now. 93 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com