Tasting Reviews

A Visit to Valli Vineyards

During my first trip to Central Otago since 2014, it was essential to visit Valli Vineyards, my ‘Winery of the Year’ in 2016. Grant Taylor began the label with a 1998 Gibbston-fruited Pinot Noir, and went on to create a range of superb Otago sub-regionally expressive Pinot Noirs that no-one has equalled. He now bottles Pinot Noirs from Gibbston, Bannockburn, Waitaki Valley, Bendigo, and from the ‘Burn Cottage’ vineyard in Lowburn. Tasting the wines is a lesson in exploring Otago regionality and terroir. Also apparent in all the wines is the Valli house style of rich fruit, significant whole cluster input, proper tannin structure, real presence and complexity. The Valli Vineyards wines consistently achieve this style and quality, as well as demonstrating regional personality throughout the various vintages to date.

The quantities of the Valli Vineyards Pinot Noirs range from approx. 200 dozen for the ‘Burn Cottage’ bottling to around 900 dozen of the Gibbston wine. There is a projection to slightly increase the output of some of them. At the beginning of 2015, Grant was joined by the talented Jen Parr, formerly of Terra Sancta and Olssen’s. The combination of Grant’s experience, expertise and intuition, and Jen’s enthusiasm, sense of style and eye for detail make for a formidable team. A year later, in time for the 2016 vintage, Valli Vineyards moved its winemaking base from the former Gary Andrus’ site in the Gibbston Valley to larger premises in Ree Street, Cromwell, which has a 150 tonne capacity and new barrel hall. I had to see all this for myself. www.valliwine.com

Grant Taylor & Jen Parr - Valli Vineyards

A Tasting of Valli Vineyards Wines
The atmosphere at culture at Valli Vineyards is deceptively relaxed. Behind the easy-going and fun-loving veneer is a current of seriousness and sophistication. Visiting is fun for sure, but expect the unexpected, and the unexpected is usually something special. On arrival, we were presented with a mystery white wine. It was a beautifully elegant wine, of which I describe more about below. Then Grant and Jen presented their 2015 regional Pinot Noir bottlings. This was followed by an older bottling of Pinot Noir and a fresh medium Riesling, the latter two from the Waitaki Valley, a region that Grant is particularly enamoured with. Breaking news was that Grant had just purchased an established vineyard there. Following are my brief notes on the wines tasted. I did have scored the wines, but these should be accepted with the proviso that I was concentrating on their character and style, rather than assessing quality.

The Blind White
As mentioned above, this was served blind on arrival at the Valli Vineyards winery.

Valli Waitaki North Otago Chardonnay 2015
This was served blind on arrival. Pale straw colour, the nose was redolent of subtle citrus fruit with subtle mineral, creamy barrel-ferment and nutty oak aromas, expressed with freshness and finesse. Beautifully juxtaposing finesse with underlying power, this appeared delicate, then revealed layer upon layer of citrus and stonefruits, mealy nuances, integrated spicy and nutty oak, with creamy barrel-ferment textures alongside fine, bracing acidity. This could have been superb Grand Cru Chablis or a very fine Corton-Charlemagne if it wasn’t for the slightly ‘sweet’ New World’ fruitiness. A treat to taste (and drink). Only 100 cases made. Not yet released. 20.0/20 Mar 2017 RRP $TBC

The 2015 Pinot Noirs
I have not reviewed these wines as yet, but have tasted some individually, on one of Jen Parr’s visits to Wellington, and at Pinot Noir 2017. So it was good to see them all at once allowing the regional characteristics to show more clearly. There will be ‘Feature Reviews’ soon, so keep an eye out for them!

Valli ‘Gibbston Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015
Dark, deep ruby-red colour. The nose is fine and deep, with classical Gibbston aromas of fresh dark red berry fruits laced with fresh and dark herbs and a subtle, savoury stalk perfume that is both whole cluster and a cooler place. Rich, bright and lively on palate, this is tightly bound with a concentrated core, unfolding waves of savoury red berry fruits, herbs, and stalk notes in the most positive complexing sense. The fruit is underlined by a fine, firm structured line and the mouthfeel lively and vibrant from the fresh acidity. The depth and layering of flavour is the highlight. 19.0/20 Mar 2017

Valli ‘Bannockburn Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 
Deepish ruby-red with a good heart. This has a full, broad and softly presented nose, very even with warm red berry fruits. This grows in density and has a rounded core, with lovely intensity, revealing some whole cluster stalk nuances. On palate this is deceptively accessible, very harmonious and together, but there is plenty of depth and structure. The tannins are very fine-grained, and the acidity integrated. This has the typical Bannockburn ripeness and substance. Avery consumer-friendly wine. 18.5+/20 Mar 2017 RRP $65.00

Valli ‘Bendigo Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 
Dark, deep ruby-red colour. The nose is firm and tightly bound with penetrating aromas of ripe black berry and cherry fruits, with whole bunch dark herb notes. This has freshness and is clearly youthful with much to unfold. On palate very tightly bound with a firm-fruited heart of black fruits, herbs and minerals, maybe liquorice notes. Very fine-grained, flowery tannins, and excellent fruit vibrancy and acid vitality. This is ageworthy. 19.0-/20 Mar 2017 RRP $65.00

Valli ‘Burn Cottage Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 
From Lowburn, and in an interesting exchange project where Burn Cottage gets Grant’s Gibbston Valley fruit. Light ruby-red colour, a little paler on edge. This is soft on the nose but ha a full array of red berry fruits and red florals, with a deep core. Quite complete and rounded, the rich fruit providing density. Soft, rounded, lusciously succulent and sweet red-fruits prevailing with red floral aromatics. Underneath, there is plenty of structure and grip, and also elevated acidity adding brightness and mouthwatering energy. This unveils savoury whole bunch complexities in the glass. 19.0-/20 Mar 2017 RRP $65.00

Valli ‘Waitaki Vineyard’ North Otago Pinot Noir 2015
This vintage gave smaller bunches, so 20% whole cluster employed. Light ruby red, the palest of the five 2015s. This has a delicate and shy nose, more piquant, piercing and detailed with red fruits, subtle herbs and mineral notes The fruit is flavour-ripe, and has a concentrated core. Very refined, quite elegant, with a herb-tinge to the red fruit, a wine with delicacy and matching fine-grained tannins. The acidity shows in freshness, cut and vitality. Lovely energy and linearity. 18.5+/20 Mar 2017 RRP $65.00

A Waitaki Valley Focus
We finished with two Waitaki Valley wines, an older Pinot Noir to connect the previous group of wines and a refreshing mediumish Riesling. As mentioned above, Grant is a supporter of the Waitaki Valley region, with his many contacts with growers, making a number of wines under contract. His commitment is now furthered with owning a vineyard in the district.

Valli ‘Waitaki Vineyard’ North Otago Pinot Noir 2010 
Dark red colour with a deep heart, and some garnet on the rim. This is elegantly proportioned on bouquet but with real concentration and a firm core of dark-red berry fruits along with savoury secondary complexities, unfolding dried herbs and game notes. Rich and ripe on palate with densely packed, firm heart of dark-red fruits entwined with dark and dried herbs, and mouthwatering mineral elements. Very well balanced by the acidity, not searing, but energising, and fine-grained, tannin extraction just beginning to resolve. The structure builds but the wine is not dried out in any degree. This is maturing with balance and dignity. Library stock. 19.0+/20 Mar 2017 RRP $N/A

Valli Waitaki North Otago Riesling 2016 
This is 13.0% alc, 18 g/L RS with a TA approx. 7 g/L and pH 3.15. Bright, very pale straw colour. This has a very tightly bound nose with exotic tangerine and jasmine notes to the lime and minerally fruit. Medium-dry to taste, the palate exemplifies elegance with very fine, seamless textures and linearity. The flavours of limes, exotic jasmine florals, tangerines flow seamlessly. This feels very taut and seemed a low pH wine, so was surprised it was a little over 3.0 (still low), as it appears pretty ageworthy. Delicious as a finale to the tasting. To be released soon. 19.0/20 Mar 2017 RRP $30.00

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