$ 58 - Pisa, Central Otago
I first heard of Burn Cottage from viticulturist Bart Arnst during vintage in 2010 (I think). Bart, along with Chris Darling own The Darling Wines and in is demand as a viticulturist consultant, especially in relation to his work with bio-dynamics and organics. He had worked as a consultant to Burn Cottage and toward the end of one day he pulled out a bottle of 2008 Cash Burn, the first wine made from the vineyard. It was called Cash Burn as only 250 cases were made and those few cases incredibly expensive to produce. I can't really remember the wine now, but I do remember it was fantastic. This is the first wine from Burn Cottage I have tasted since then.
Burn Cottage was established by the fantastic, larger than life Marquis Sauvage (pronounced Marcus Savage) who looks more like a roadie to a heavy metal band than one of the wine world's heavy hitters. He began his career in wine as owner of a wine bar in Colorado and eventually made his name as importer and distributor of some of the worlds most exciting wines into the USA. His family also owns another wine estate in Germany.
Sauvage then recruited one of California's most highly regarded winemakers, Ted Lemon, who also owns Littorati Wines in Sonoma and has extensive experience in Burgundy, training there and having worked with many of the finest winemakers in Burgundy and having the distinction of being the first American winemaker ever hired to manage a Burgundian estate at Guy Rulot. If you are interested in reading more about Lemon, read this Decanter article. In 2010 Sauvage and Lemon also recruited one of NZ's finest winemakers, Claire Mulholland, with experience at Martinborough Vineyards and Amisfield on board as General Manager.
Despite only being their fourth vintage Burn Cottage has made waves in the industry with the wines getting consistently excellent reviews from all corners of the wine writing world and a lot of support from the trade and customers. One wine buyer I know has told me they sell out of each allocation within weeks (there are not too many NZ wines that can claim that any more). I had originally intended to write about this wine in an article for Eat Magazine about the next wave of cult producers but this was pushed back a little (more, very exciting news on this soon) and I really just wanted to pop the cork and see what this wine that many people I respect greatly have been raving about. I can't say that I wasn't a little worried that this may be a case of the marquis has no clothes.
I know this post has read like a puff piece so far but that wasn't my intention. However, the point of this website is that I put what is in the glass in context with who made it and where it comes from.
Despite my fears about this wine, what is in the glass certainly speaks for itself. It is Central Otago Pinot Noir, but not as I have ever experienced it before. Describing Pinot as Burgundian has become somewhat of a cliche, so much that one of my favourite wine writers, the hilarious Ron Washam aka Hosemaster of Wine wrote of people using the term, "When you hear a wine enthusiast say that a particular wine is 'Burgundian', usually a Pinot Noir, what he means is that he is completely unfamiliar with Burgundy, and, thus, hasn’t the slightest inkling what Pinot Noir is all about, or what the fucking hell he’s talking about."
This wine is tough to describe. It has amazing concentration an the understated power of nobility, acidity like an aquiline nose but also, light, beauty and softness.
Maybe I am being profoundly silly but indulge me.
The wine has a multiplicity of integrated flavours that weave in and out of each other, pausing so that I am just about to put a word to the flavour before it pulls away leaving me aching for more but no less beguiled by what has replaced it.
On day two the hallmark black cherry of Central Otago Pinot has become more obvious but it is still hard to pin down individual flavours or components. In any event, for me to even try and do so would be an injustice to the spirit of the wine.
The wine has an amazing silky texture and is oh-so-drinkable. It has length and finesse. This post has length but little finesse so I may as well stop here.
I lied. This was a puff piece.
In two words: Moving. Beguiling.