Pinot Noir outside Burgundy has never been more diverse, exciting and rich in expression. Rippon, from New Zealand’s Central Otago region, crafts structured, tense, ethereal and decadent pinots to rival the finest of the Cote d’Or. The estate’s DNA is to be found in all the 2018 release Pinots and 2020 Gamay, with the biggest differences between them found in their weight, structure, texture, shape and length. Flavours are incredibly complex with flowers, black, blue, red and hedge fruits, spice, cocoa and sweet herbs like mint, sage and Bergamot.
The 2018 vintage was difficult. Rippon’s yields were down 60 per cent, so only tiny quantities have arrived in Australia. Rippon is a unique site, isolated from the rest of Central Otago, so the prevailing vintage conditions can be quite different. The site straddles Lake Wanaka, and the water not only has a cooling effect, but tends to temper weather extremes. That being said, summer was hot and dry and the resulting wines display an array of sweeter darker fruits and abundant florals indicating the heat of the vintage. And yet the wines are bright, cool, tense, mineral and precise with deep structures and detailed, layered flavours. It is nothing short of remarkable that despite the tiny yields and extreme weather, the 2018 Pinots are as elegant and tense as ever.
Easily our favourite Gamay of 2021, taking deliciousness to a whole new level. Vibrant and so alive with dark pastille fruits, lavender, violet, chocolate, Morello cherry and fruitcake spice. Round and voluminous with a chalky/powdery mouthfeel and a mash of raspberry, blackberry, blueberry to bring it all home. Quite unbelievable and utterly captivating.
Always the least structured of the line up, but it’s entirely serious and delicious. No evidence of oak and the overall impression is one of vibrancy. Red and dark fruits, bright and very precise, perhaps the most linear of the Pinot Noir’s. There’s some chalky minerality and fine, slightly firm tannins. Mouthwatering acidity really drives the finish and it’s impossible not to reach for another sip.
The emblematic wine of the estate, coming off all the vineyards. Complex; there’s just so many flavours here, too many to put down. Clove, aniseed, plum, pastille, black fruits, raspberry and nutmeg. The fruit is so sweet and expressive, but without any heaviness. Voluminous, round and as close to generous as Rippon gets. Incredible width, coating every part of the palate. Very fine powdery tannins infused on the finish. If there is a better pinot at this price anywhere, I have not tasted it.
It’s hard to express, but smells tighter, with some more noticeable oak. Plum, Daphne, creme de cassis, raspberry and brown spice. The structure is more evident than in the Mature Vine and is cooler, cosseted and slightly less expressive. Very long, so persistent with those trademark velvety/chalk tannins that become more firm and morph into lavender wood. Built and detailed with layers of flavour and texture that seem threaded, and then pull apart. Remarkable and very long-lived.
Dark and brooding. Cassis, blackberry, mulberry, plum, cocoa and sage. Focused and deep, with a core of flavour needing a few years yet to unfurl. The tannins are the most complex and are unique. This was also evident with the 2017 vintage and I have never encountered them elsewhere. Firm and tense, with a squeeze that gathers power and breadth towards the close, indeed the finish lasted minutes. Minutes. Infused with Bergamot that fades to tobacco as the squeeze is put on. Unbelievable, and for us, the finest pinot noir to come out of New Zealand.