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Tasting Reviews

A Decade of Dog Point


The Sutherland and Healy families have been at the sharp end of the Marlborough and New Zealand wine scene since the late 1970s. Ivan Sutherland and James Healy met at Cloudy Bay Vineyards in the 1990s, joining Kevin Judd in developing the style of the wines there that have helped make Marlborough one of the world’s most exciting wine growing regions. The pair left Cloudy Bay to form Dog Point in February 2004 with wines from the 2002 vintage. Their aim was to continue the work in developing and crafting Marlborough wines that go beyond straightforward beverage Sauvignon Blanc, to wines that offer the serious wine consumer real interest and excitement. They have achieved this over the last ten years, and now Dog Point wines are some of the most highly regarded and sophisticated in Marlborough.

The Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc is at the more complex end of the variety’s expression without going to full-on winemaker inputs. It relies on its fruit for its character, but the breadth, range and layers of flavours are on another level compared to the vast majority of other Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs. The ‘Section 94’ is Sauvignon Blanc in an alternative style, with strong and positive winemaking art that still respects the fruit. Many see it as their version of Cloudy Bay ‘Te Koko’, and while it shares the same alternative Sauvignon Blanc category, it is a very different wine, and one in its own right. The Dog Point Chardonnay is arguably one of New Zealand’s top Chardonnays, quite contemporary in style with great complexity. And the Dog Point Pinot Noir is rapidly joining the status of the other wines, showing the potential of Marlborough’s Southern Valleys as a district for outstanding Pinot Noir.

Ivan Sutherland

The Dog Point Vineyards and Winery
The Dog Point wine style and quality is based on vineyard source. Dog Point has access to approx. 235 ha of vines from three main sites and some satellite vineyards. The vineyards are under the care of Nigel Sowman, viticulturist from the very start of Dog Point. He has guided the Dog Point vineyards to BioGro organic certification, the process beginning in 2009, with 210 ha certified for the 2015 vintage.

The primary site is the home ‘Dog Point Estate’ vineyard where the Brancott joins Omaka. The 100 ha, with vines generally around 15 y.o. is devoted to 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir is a 50% component for the finished wine. The site is the source for the Chardonnay wine, which is two thirds Mendoza and one-third clone 95, with other clones planted in support. The ‘Section 94’ Sauvignon fruit is from here too, some of the vines planted in 1979. The ‘Settlement’ vineyard in Omaka is approx. 30 ha, and has been owned by Dog Point for 10 years. Planted equally to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, on clay soils, the fruit has just been incorporated into the Dog Point label, now the vines have decent maturity. Fruit here also goes to Greywacke, Giesen and Corofin. The 30 ha ‘Yarrum’ vineyard in the Ben Morven hills is owned by the Sutherland and Carter (SOHO) families, and the vines have benefitted from 15 years of ownership. Only six other Marlborough wineries are supplied outside Dog Point.

The first two Dog Point vintages were initially processed with pressing at Cloudy Bay, the barrelled wine taken by Ivan and James in the back of their truck to the temperature-controlled tin shed, which was the first development of the winery. The Dog Point wines have been made fully at the finished winery since the 2004 vintage. Nowadays, around 1,200 tonnes of fruit are processed annually. Approximately 60% of the fruit vinified is for Dog Point, and 40% for close friends Kevin and Kimberley Judd of Greywacke. The winery is a purely functional one, and not open for visiting.

James Healy

Tasting a Decade of Dog Point
Celebrating 10 years of Dog Point wines, made totally at their own winery, the Sutherland and Healy families have run a programme of offering all the bottlings they have made, in tastings with wine media and trade. The programme began in Australia, before moving to New Zealand, and then off-shore to their key export markets. I was privileged to be invited to attend the ‘Decade of Dog Point’ tasting in Marlborough. Here are my notes on the wines tasted, the 2014 – 2004 Sauvignon Blanc, and 2013 – 2004 ‘Section 94’, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I can say it was a truly exciting, educational and fascinating tasting.

Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – 2004
The fruit for the wine is grown in 8 vineyard sites, in the Lower Brancott, Renwick, Fairhall, Omaka and Rapaura sub-regions, and is exclusively clone UCD 1, cropped at an average of 50 hl//ha, the fruit WBP and fermented in tank with 20% by indigenous yeasts. The wine is aged 2 – 3 months on lees. The use of natural ferment began in 2006, with 5%, increasing to the current amount. From 2008, there was an increase in light solids in the ferments.

The wines showed remarkable freshness with no undue colouring or development into the strong asparagus and green bean spectrum. A progression was seen, with flinty lees complexities predominant in the young wines, this moving to the grassy spectrum, with bean influence, then minerals and toast appearing. All of these characteristics were supporting and never dominating. Although the wines displayed vintage variation, the consistency of style and quality was a strong feature, indicating the similar parameters of picking and vinification.

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Bright, very pale straw with green hues. The nose is aromatic and lifted, with fresh and firm greengage and stonefruit aromas complexed by flinty elements, tropical fruit nuances unfolding. Elegant and tight on palate, fresh and refined green stonefruits, tightly bound with flinty lees, quite racy with sinewy acidity, great linearity and length. 13.5% alc., 2.9 g/L RS. 18.5/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Pale straw colour. The nose is soft, broad and voluminous, with excellent depth and presence. An amalgam of green stonefruits, spices and complex flinty reduction. A lovely sweetness and richness of fruit features on palate, this has good body, weight and phenolic textures and backbone. There is power and drive, alongside excellent acid liveliness. The fruit sweetness is enhanced by the acidity on finish. This combines power with complexity. 13.5% alc., 2.6 g/L RS. 19.0+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Bright, pale straw colour. The bouquet is soft and gentle with an attractive harmony, stonefruits revealing subtle grassy and green bean nuances, the beginnings of secondary development. Sweet and lusciously fruited on palate, a little bitter-green bean line, with a grassy note too. Beautiful linearity driven by racy acidity, this has enormous vitality. Cooler fruit expression here with a touch of development. 13.5% alc., 3.3 g/L RS. 18.5/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Bright pale straw colour. The nose is soft and densely packed with an array of aromatics, the green stonefruits predominant, but revealing grass, green bean and savoury secondary notes. Soft, gentle and refined on palate, suggesting fatness, the flavours somewhat restrained. This has a rich mouthfeel, and has a soft stylishness. Finish a little lighter. Flinty nuances emerge with aeration. Showing some development and softening now. 13.5% alc., 3.3 g/L RS. 18.5-/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Bright straw-yellow colour. This has a shy nose, growing in depth to show an amalgam of stonefruits and minerals, revealing a green bean component, the fruit showing richness. This has a concentrated core with complex flavours of green stonefruits, greengages and nectarines, intermixed with herbs and spices. The mouthfeel has vibrancy and vitality with brightness and energy. A wine with good liveliness and freshness, and plenty of fruit depth. 13.5% alc., 3.2 g/L RS. 18.5+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Straw-yellow colour with some light golden hues, even. The bouquet is soft, full and broad, mellowing and integrating, with a harmonious amalgam of secondary green bean and asparagus elements. Still bright flavoured with some sweet stonefruit richness at the core, the mouthfeel is broadening and softening, the textures and acidity rounding out. There is depth still, with drive. This has a warm generosity to the character. 13.5% alc., 4.9 g/L RS. 18.0+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Straw-yellow colour with light golden hues. This has a broad, even and harmoniously presented nose with developed secondary aromas of savoury stonefruits and minerals to the fore, the green bean elements in the background. The palate has acid cut and a little bite and raciness, the fruit in the coolers spectrum with grassy flavours. Yet there is good power and drive, some phenolics carrying the finish. A cooler expression with some grip, but also power. 13.0% alc., 48. g/L RS. 18.0-/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Straw-yellow colour, youthful appearance. The aromatics are soft, with herbs, stonefruits and minerals, showing good lift, but quite delicate and fine. Some bean-like secondary nuances unfold. Secondary green bean flavours prevail on palate. This is soft and smooth flowing, with attractive lacy acidity lending crispness and cut. Still very bright, elegant and showing finesse. Soft and elegant and quite restrained. 13.5% alc., 2.6 g/L RS. 17.5+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Bright straw-yellow colour, remarkably fresh in appearance. The bouquet has good power, depth and concentration, with a harmoniously melded array of aromas of dark herbs, beans, savoury stonefruits and minerals, and complexing tertiary toastiness. The complexity and completeness echoed on palate, spicy in secondary and tertiary interest, beautifully concentrated with power, drive, liveliness, concentration and length. Lovely complexity plus, still fresh, with spices and herbs. 13.5% alc., 6.0 g/L RS. 19.0+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Bright straw-yellow colour. This is soft, broad and even on bouquet with mellow, ripe yellow capsicum notes, beginning to flatten out. Soft and gentle on palate, the flavours of white and yellow stonefruits, along with herbs and capsicums, softened and level, now quite loose and open. There is still some residual acid bite and grip, with good length. Fully mature and softened out. 13.0% alc., 3.0 g/L RS. 17.5-/20

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Light straw-yellow, fresh looking. Cooler spectrum green and cut grass on nose, still with plenty of depth and presence, the herbaceous aromatics quite lively. Soft textured on palate, fleshy and componentry full mature and integrated. Broad and filling with green bean and capsicum flavours, but there is still a line of acid providing sufficient cut, and drying phenolics on finish. Mellowed out and beginning to dry. 13.5% alc., 5.0 g/L RS. 17.0/20

Dog Point 'Home' Vineyard, Brancott

‘Section 94’ Sauvignon Blanc 2013 - 2004
Named after the legal name for the block of land as originally surveyed in the late 1800’s. The wine is made from a single block within the ‘Dog Point’ vineyard, the fruit cropped at 50 hl/ha, hand-picked, WBP straight to barrel with full solids, indigenous yeast fermented in seasoned French oak barrels. The wine spends 18 months in oak, and given occasional batonnage, with no MLF.

One of the concerns harboured was how this would turn out compared with Cloudy Bay ‘Te Koko’, which does include MLF. The wines are very different, but comparisons were and still are inevitable. I see in ‘Section 94’ a tighter fruit focus and the distinct flint and mineral complexities as being the primary input, whereas ‘Te Koko’ has a broader feel and array of character.

Against the ‘regular’ Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc, the ‘Section 94’ is more dense and weighty, and the oak and lees combination is more evident. The flinty lees work is especially noticeable in the younger wines. The oaking is prominent in the vintages around 2009; is this a transitional period where fruit is shyer, allowing the oak to be manifest? As one progresses to the older wines, the fruit becomes more apparent. The technical figures show a slightly higher residual sugar, over 5 g/L, in the 2006 and 2007, though this was not noticed. The latest vintages are drier again, being less than 2 g/L.

As a group, there is greater variability than the regular Sauvignon Blanc. Clearly the timing and degree of intervention and winemaker input has a greater say in the wines’ expressions. There are riskier actions involved in the making of the ‘Section 94’, but by taking them, there is far greater interest as a result.

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Pale straw colour, even. The nose exudes richness allied to elegance, with layers of spicy green stonefruits interwoven with subtle oak and minerally detail, the flintiness quite subdued. Elegantly presented on palate with tight and concentrated flavours of citrus fruits and spicy green stonefruit. The layers of interest and detail as on nose. Excellent acidity and lifted herbs unfolding, this has real power and drive. Clearly much more interest to emerge, but already with great fruit and depth. % alc., and RS TBA, 18 months in older French oak. 19.0+/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Bright straw-yellow colour. This has a soft and gentle nose of ripe yellow stonefruits, somewhat shy in expression. On palate quite gentle in expression, but revealing a deep core with concentrated flavours of green stonefruits, spicy oak and herbs. The acidity is ripe and enhances the fruit sweetness and richness, unfolding more detail and subtle flinty interest in the glass, the flavours carrying through to a very long, lingering finish. Elegance with hidden power and concentration. 13.5% alc., 1.7g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 18.5/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Bright, light straw-yellow colour. This has a very concentrated, powerful and intense nose of spicy green stonefruits infused with a mass of flinty reduction. This is densely packed and still very firm and taut. The palate speaks tightness, concentration and power, featuring gunflint, minerals and reduction. Is the complexity too much? Great acid drive and tension, real linearity, with fine, granular textures from the fruit extraction. This has a very long finish. Great flinty complexity and youthfully tight. Is the solids component overdone? Not for me. This will age another 4-5 years easily. 14.0% alc., 1.5 g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 19.5-/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Light straw-yellow colour with a little gold. The nose is soft and broad, quite even and mellow, a tad shy, but with depth, showing yellow capsicums with oak and spice interest. Broad on palate with soft layers of complexing flavours of yellow stonefruits, spicy herbs and capsicums, and subtle flint notes. The mouthfeel is soft, rounded and mellow, but with an underlying line of acidity. Gentle, mellow and yellow. Drinking well. 14.0% alc., 1.6 g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 18.0/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Bright light golden-hued yellow colour. This has a more ‘traditional’ bouquet of oak-influenced Sauvignon Blanc, the aromatics of fresh green stonefruits broad and voluminous with prominent toasty notes. Soft-textured, rich and densely concentrated, this has power and the palate drives positively, the oaking a feature, maybe a little too toasty now. Still with good acid vitality, the mouthfeel is beginning to round out. Complexing flint notes emerge and meld with the oak. The power defines this wine in the final analysis. Beginning to drink well now. 13.5% alc., 3.2 g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 19.0-/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Even straw-yellow colour with slight golden hues. The bouquet is softly presented and very full, the nutty, creamy barrel-ferment showing prominently along with a touch of vanilla. The fruit aromas are in the background. On palate this is broad and mouthfilling with secondary flavours of yellow stonefruits and yellow capsicums with some toasty oak interest. This is gentle, rich and full, quite mellow, tapering off a little on finish. The wine has developed with harmony, and drinks well now. 14.0% alc., 3.4 g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 18.0/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Light yellow colour. The nose is soft, restrained and well-integrated with ripe capsicum fruit and subtle secondary nuances showing. The aromatics are light and together. Somewhat less dimension and detail on palate, but still with a core of stonefruits, spices and herbs, revealing grassier notes in the glass. This has good line, drive and energy, but is beginning to show some drying on the back palate and finish. Still in good condition, drink now. 13.5% alc., 5.6 g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 17.5/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Light golden straw colour, quite even. This has a soft, full nose, broad and voluminous with dense and concentrated aromas of yellow stonefruits, greengages and nectarines, the bouquet round with some secondary nuance behind the fruit. Rich, blossoming flavours of spicy stonfruits, herbs and lifted oak complexities fill the mouth, but this has a tight core at the heart. The wine has liveliness and good acidity. Layers of herbs, toast and sweet lantana unfold, along with flinty detail. This is a wine in full flourish and at a peak. Lovely richness here. 13.5% alc., 5.9 g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 18.5+/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Even, pale gold colour. The bouquet is soft and broad with yellow stonefruits and dried fruits with some oak elements. In the mouth, very soft, smooth and harmonious, the yellow stonefruits mellow and gentle in aromatic expression. This is becoming straightforward now, but still with residual sweetness, becoming somewhat flatter through the palate to the finish. Sure this is fading, but the degree of vinosity is surprising. Marks for that alone. 13.5% alc., 3.3 g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 17.0-/20

Dog Point ‘Section 94’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Bright, light golden colour. This is light and mature on bouquet with an amalgam of citrus fruit with grassy notes, along with lifted esters and a trace of nutty oak and oxidation. Softly concentrated on palate, this has a dense core of cooler, grassy, herbaceous fruit with high acid cut. Certainly secondary on palate with bean and yellow friuts, drying a little and the beginnings of bitterness. 13.0% alc., 2.3 g/L RS, 18 months in older French oak. 16.5+/20

Nigel Sowman - Dog Point Viticulturist

Chardonnay 2013 – 2004
The fruit is sourced from the home ‘Dog Point’ vineyard and the wine is based on two clones, approx. two-thirds Mendoza and on-third clone 95 in the blend, the fruit cropped at 30 hl/ha. The fruit is hand-picked, WBP and the juice is transferred directly to barrel for indigenous yeast fermentation with high solids. Initially, around 25% of the oak was new, and the toasting heavy. From 2008, the new oak component is 15%. The wine undergoes MLF and batonnage, the amount of which has been reduced, as with the new oak usage. The wine is matured 18 months in barrel.

The style of the Chardonnay is contemporary rather than traditional, with the gunflint sulphide reduction expression now a feature, along with the barrel-ferment and wild yeast input, rather than the more mono-dimensional bold and brassy toasty oak input on citrussy fruit. The consistency of the Chardonnay is it’s calling-card, making it the signature wine of Dog Point. Part of the consistency is due to the Chardonnay variety being picked earlier in the growing season, thus less affected by the inevitable deteriorating autumn weather.

The younger wines certainly put the flinty and mineral aspects first, the 2011 admittedly ‘overdone’, according to James and Ivan, but this wine is slowing coming to a very presentable state. I saw the barrel-ferment creaminess prominent in the 2010 and 2009, and from 2006 back, the nutty secondary and tertiary development was prevalent. The vintage variations were evened out to some degree by the consistent inputs, yet the progression from age came through. This delivered as the highlight flight and ‘favoured’ variety.

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2013
Bright, light golden-hued yellow colour. The nose is elegant and fine, with tightly concentrated stonefruit flavours melded with stylish gunflint and mineral aromatics. This is pure and focussed. On palate very elegant and finely presented. Taut and a little lean from youth, lovely purity and intensity with a balanced amalgam of stonefruits, flint, minerals, the oaking spot-on with suggestions of toast. Lacy acidity for vitality and finesse. An elegant wine with all the potential to develop well. % alc. and RS TBA, 18 months in 15% new French oak. 18.5+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2012
Full light golden colour. The nose is very full and voluminous with a gentle density of white stonefruits and citrus fruits complexed by gunflint lees and minerally reduction, the aromatics balanced and interwoven with harmony. Concentrated and tightly bound on palate, this has intensity of flavour, the fruit and complexing oak and flinty inputs in balance and integrated. The palate has drive and great acid cut, lending freshness and finesse. This will develop well with its elegance, intensity, power and cut. 14.0% alc. and 0.6 g//L RS, 18 months in 15% new French oak. 19.0-/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2011
Full, light golden colour with straw-yellow hues. This has a very concentrated and powerful nose with intense reductive flinty sulphide aromas, quite complete and in balance with strong underlying stonefruits, nuts, minerals and oak. The palate has richness, power and concentration. The palate presence and depth is sensational, as is the drive. The fruit extraction has the base for the complexing inputs, and along with it is phenolic texture and fresh, youthful acidity. A standout wine with the potential to show greater interest and layers of detail. 14.0% alc. and 0.8 g/L RS, 18 months in 15% new French oak. 19.5/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2010
Full, even, light golden-hued straw. The bouquet is very elegant, refined and with excellent proportion and intensity, showing contemporary gunflint and white stonefruits, along with white florals and nuts. The palate has a tight, concentrated core, the flavours opening up to fill the mouth with richness and unctuousness. This has a creamy flow, the flavours increasing in detail. Some phenolic textures emerge and carry the wine to a long finish with good underlying power. Excellent balance, proportion and power here, with just ideal sulphide interest. 14.0% alc. and 1.0 g/L RS, 18 months in 15% new French oak. 19.0+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2009
Light golden straw-yellow colour. The bouquet show well-integrated aromas of ripe yellow stonefruits interwoven with subtle flint and mineral notes and sweet oak vanilla and toastiness. Rich and lush on palate, the fruit is sweet and up-front, quite creamy in texture and flow. The drive is restrained, but there is mouthfilling presence. This has concentration and layers of flinty interest, melded with toasty oak that grows in the glass. This has developed richness and creaminess, and come together beautifully. 14.0 % alc. and 1.9 g/L RS, 18 months in 15% new French oak. 19.0-/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2008
Light golden yellow colour with straw hues. This has a harmoniously rich nose with aromas of rioe citrus and stonefruits, just hinting at secondary development, showing barrel-ferment cream and nutty notes, and oak vanilla and toasty elements. Smooth and seamless on palate, complex secondary fruit flavours are appearing, with yellow stonefruits, a layer of gunflint, and nuts, all melding evenly. The acidity is soft and the mouthfeel is gentle in flow. This has come together and approaching its plateau. 14.5% alc. and 1.7 g/L RS, 18 months in 15% new French oak. 18.5/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2007
Bright, light golden-yellow colour. The bouquet is light, shy and soft in expression, with ripe citrus and tropical fruits, creamy oak and vanilla showing. Mature aromas, but with fruit interest. Broad on palate, soft in texture with good depth of ripe and darker, secondary citrus fruit flavours, along with cream and subtle, integrated oak. An unctuous texture throughout the palate line. Nothing more to be gained, and drinking well. 14.0% alc. and 1.7 g/L RS, 18 months in 25% new French oak 18.0+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Bright, light golden straw colour. This is soft, voluminous and fully developed, with an amalgam of savoury ripe citrus fruits, creamy vanilla, and a little nutty oxidation hinted. Layers of secondary detail unfold. Quite complex with waves of savoury fruit and flinty lees work still, along with nutty oak. The mouthfeel is creamy, and guided by a fine phenolic line. This has good power and drive. Growing in texture and dryness on the finish, with a touch of bitter fruit. This may have been a lesser bottle, as other tasters served from another bottle reported this as outstanding. 14.0% alc. and 1.3 g/L RS, 18 months in 25% new French oak. 18.0/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2005
Bright, light golden-yellow colour. This has a full and even nose, well-integrated and broad in expression, with ripe citrus fruits melded with plenty of creamy and vanilla barrel elements. Secondary aromas pervade with savoury, nutty waves. Full-bodied and sweet-fruited, some residual sugar (?), this is very broad and mouthfilling, with excellent depth and density. Soft textures and quite unctuous. Layers of complexing flint and nuts, fully mature now, the finish still showing sweetness. This will remain on this plateau for a few years yet. 14.0% alc. and 4.8 g/L RS, 18 months in 25% new French oak. 18..0+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2004
Light golden straw colour. The bouquet is soft and elegant, with savoury stonefruits, cream, butter, oak and nutty notes, the aromatics gentle and even. This has good presence, the mouthfeel soft and mellow, the flavours quiet in expression, and now fully integrated. Beginning to flatten, the acidity behind the breadth, but still offering a touch of vitality. The flows gently to a light, nutty and citrussy nuanced finish. Very gentle and integrated, and flattening out, but still with vestiges of freshness. 14.0% alc. and 2.6 g/L RS, 18 months in 25% new French oak. 17.5/20

Settlement Vineyard, Omaka

Pinot Noir 2013 – 2004
The Pinot Noir is based on 6 clones, 60% Dijon clones 777, 667 and 115, with 25% Pommard clone 5, 10% Abel and 5% 10/5, planted on the clay soils around the winery of the ‘Dog Point’ vineyard. From the 2013 vintage, grapes from the ‘Yarrum’ and ‘Settlement’ vineyards have been included as the vines have become of age. The fruit is hand-picked and hand-sorted before indigenous yeast fermentation in small, open-topped tanks, each batch including a small portion of whole bunches. The wine spends between 21-28 days on skins, including time during a cold soak prior. The wine finishes its fermentation in barrel where it spends 18 months maturation. From 2004 to 2010, the new oak component was 50%, after which it was reduced to 40%. Oak toasting levels have been reduced. The Dijon clone has been gradually increasing since 2006 and the whole bunch component from 2010 to its present 10% proportion.

The Dog Point Pinot Noir has been a classic example of the evolution of Marlborough Pinot Noir grown on the clay soils of the Southern Valley. There seems to be an unwritten feeling that this is the lesser wine of the Dog Point portfolio, something I don’t see. I’ve seen a gradual change to slightly more elegant wines, with the componentry becoming a little more harmonious, and the most subtle degrees of interest being introduced. The consistency is more apparent that the differences drastic, showing that Ivan and James began at a very high standard, and any changes have been fine tuning. Probably the most influential changes will come from increasing vine age and the incorporation of fruit from the newer ‘Yarrum’ and ‘Settlement’ sites. Is this fruit brighter and in other dimensions?

Going from youngest to oldest, certainly the latest releases are the most fragrant and aromatic. Then I see florals progress to savoury fruits, then to complexing dried herb, undergrowth and earthy notes, then back to sweeter notes, some riper characters in the oldest wines. Is the fruit being picked at an earlier stage on the ripening curve, or is it the new fruit coming on stream that is lending the elegance in the newer wines?

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 
Deep purple-red colour. This has a fragrant, floral nose, tightly bound and elegant, with fresh dark raspberries, herbs, spice notes and violets. Tightly concentrated on palate and fine in structure and proportion, the fruit is sweet and juicy, red berries and dark cherries, violet florals and lifted herb nuances and hints of oak toast still to integrate. The palate is underlined by fresh, lacy acidity providing cut. This is very fine-grained, elegant and showcases the pure aromatics of youth. % alc. TBA, the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 18.5+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012
Dark red colour with purple hues. The nose is rich with deep aromas of ripe dark cherry and berry fruit, along with nuances of dark plums, spices and herbs, unfolding gentle red perfumes, the initial shyness blossoming with aeration. The fruit is sweetly succulent and juicy, but is balanced by plenty of extraction. This has power with the flesh and grip, the brightness and vibrancy of the fruit emerging as the feature. This is rich, and firmly structured, and still very youthful, and has the potential to develop very well. 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 19.0+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011
Medium-deep, purple-hued ruby colour. The nose is elegant and refined, with very finely expressed dark red cherry fruit with fragrant violet florals and nuances of fresh dark herbs. The mouthfeel is very supple and elegant in proportion, the fruit is sweet and lush, and balanced by moderately extracted, fine-grained tannin. The acidity is discreet, and the wine is one of beauty. This has a fine linearity, carrying through to a long finish. 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 18.5+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010
Dark ruby-red colour. The nose is full and bold with rich, ripe aromas of dark raspberries with a layering of dark plums and complex secondary nuances of dried herbs and undergrowth. Fulsome and powerful in structure, the fruit is plush and dense, still showing plenty of freshness and youth with only the beginnings of development. Violet florals and sweetness is prevalent. The tannin extraction is very refined and satiny in flow, but the structure is significant. This is opulent and has the tannin structure to see it age well. 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 19.0/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009
Dark ruby-red with light garnet hues on rim. The bouquet is full and dense and powerfully concentrated with ripe dark berry fruits entwined with secondary bramble and earthy complexities. Full-bodied and flavoured, lusciously sweet and savoury berry, cherry and plum fruit flavours are intermixed with undergrowth and bramble interest. The palate has structure, size and grip, carrying the wine to a long finish. This is fulsome and robust, and has stepped fully into the secondary phase. 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak 18.5/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008
Very dark, deep ruby-red, still youthful in appearance. The bouquet is tight, firmly bound and shy, with aromatic dark fruits and floral fragrances unfolding. Full and even in presentation, the palate blossoms in volume showing red berry fruits, plums with savoury secondary interest. The fruit has supple tannins and soft acidity, and the wine is well-balanced, with moderate depth. A more elegant, even wine that is drinking well now. 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 18.0+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 
Dark, deep ruby-red colour, still youthful in appearance. This is elegantly presented with lively and fresh aromatics, showing red fruits harmoniously intermixed with brambly secondary interest, the bouquet with a soft, but concentrated core. Soft textured and plush in mouthfeel, the flavours are an amalgam of dark plums and undergrowth. This is seamless in flow and fully integrated, the tannins showing some resolution. Elegant and integrated, this is drinking beautifully. 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 18.5-/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Ruby-red with garnet hues. The bouquet is full in volume and densely concentrated with ripe aromas of dark red berry fruits unfolding waves of complex secondary savoury detail. This has plenty of energy and vitality. Beautifully rich with a fine-textured palate that unveils sweetly ripe red berry and plum fruits intermixed with dried herbs, undergrowth, mushrooms and earth, this has tension and liveliness. The acidity is fresh and the tannins very fine-grained. While already complex and layered, this retains proportion and the potential keep well. 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 18.5+/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005
Very dark-hearted red with garnet. The nose is full and bold with ripe aromas of sweet and savoury red berry fruits along with cooked plums entwined with earth and game meat nuances. Very full on palate, soft, plush, juicy flavours of plums and dark berryfruits are interwoven with secondary mushroom, bramble and game flavours. This is well into the secondary phase. The palate features strong structure, grip and extract, which carries the wine. 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 18.0-/20

Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004
Even ruby-red colour with garnet hues, moderately deep. The bouquet is elegant with delicate, cool fragrances of red cherries, florals and perfumes, along with dried herb and earthy secondary notes. Elegant on palate, quite slender, but with a good core, this has red fruits with herbs and suggestions of stalk alongside florals. The extraction is modest and fine-textured with the acidity a feature, enlivening the mouthfeel. This has a racy, slim finish with dried herbal notes. A cooler more elegant wine still holding up. 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new and seasoned French oak. 17.5/20

Yarrum Vineyard, Ben Morven

An Eye to the Future
A Decade of Dog Point was a fascinating study of the evolution of four exciting and leading Marlborough wine styles as well as the personal development of the Sutherland and Healy families. As stated at the beginning of this article, Ivan and James have been at the heart of New Zealand wine since the 1970s, so the Dog Point journey represents the most recent stage.

The families have been fully involved with the growth, Margaret Sutherland and Wendy Healy playing the most significant roles in the business, though much of the public attention is on Ivan and James. They have an eye to the future, with the Sutherland’s three children Anna, Kirsty and Matt involved in specialist roles in the business. Also part of the younger generation taking a greater hand are viticulturist Nigel Sowman, with Dog Point from the beginning, winemaker Murray Cook who joined the company recently, and administrator Andrea Craig. It appears the issue of succession is well in hand for Dog Point to grow into the next decade.

The very hospitable Anna Sutherland

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