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Pinot Noir Conference first day

We arrived to Wellington on the 27th of January, the 'windy Wellington' as the Kiwis call it, despite of that, the weather is gorgeous, they say we are very lucky with the weather, it is around 25 degrees Celsius during the day and around 16 degrees Celsius during the night.

Arrive into the hotel, check in all good, later the same afternoon we have registered for the conference at the Wellington Town Hall. The whole venue is set on the Wellington waterfront, absolutely spectacular location! The pinot noir conference kicks off with two speeches at the Town Hall from 9am. First speaker is Matt Kramer ( 35 years experience as a wine writer and a continuous contributor to Wine Spectator), his topic is: "Can Atheist Make good Pinot Noir?"

The answer at the end is NO. He point out the fact-and this is his belief- that 700/800 years ago the Cistersian Monks at Burgundy have planted Pinot Noir and vines to hear and express the voice of GOD, that's how the single vineyards and different regions-which are were cultivated by monks-born. He also pints out, New Zealand has created some of the world's best Pinot Noir but never have reached the heights of Burgundy. The reason is-in his point of view-all the wine-maker have the technical knowledge and aspects to create wines which are '2 plus 2 equal 4, but to be truly exceptional 2 plus 2 should be equal to 5". Interesting points for sure.

Matt Kramer has been followed by Sam Neill on stage (Sam Neill is a Pinot Noir grower and producer in Central Otago, also a famous actor), he delivers a hilarious speech, calling all the Pinot Noir producers 'bastards" because they have fallen outside of the 'old house'(in this case Burgundy) and no one really wants them. He accidentally put 'bastard' and John Key( Prime Minister of New Zealand) in the same content, same sentence. At this stage he is using 'bastard' as a good word, after a short trip into English grammar and synonyms, so I assume it is not a bad thing after all...

The morning speeches is followed by a short coffee/tea break and from 10.30 you dive into one of the 3 regions to taste and explore. My first region was Marlborough, there were a short introduction to the region from various wine-makers and then you taste the 2010 vintage. I have to pinpoint that it is a very exhausting job to got through 36 producers' Pinot Noir, no kidding, most of the wines are very young, astringent with harsh, aggressive tannins and high acids. 

Few of them are approachable now, such as Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir, can be drunk young, but would benefit from some aging. Quite rounded, nice primarily fruit, exceptional balance and persistent structure... The set up of the conference is brilliant, you go from booth to booth and taste the different wines talk to the wine makers and at the end you should have deeper understanding of the sub regions and the climates for those sub regions and how these factors are effecting the wines.

During lunch, which were consisted local, mostly organic products from the 3 regions (Central Otago, Marlborough, Martinbourough with Nelson and Canterbury)-Lisa Perotti Brown MW delivered a speech, expressing the importance of marketing and asking the questions, where New Zealand Pinot Noir fits in to the world market and how your consumer perceive NZ Pinots. How much they would pay for it and for what occasion they would buy it? Very valid points in today's world of wine. After lunch you headed back your regional venue, where were you at the morning and anticipate in a conversation/ session of the issues of that region, give feedback of the wines, your discuss your tasting notes. This sessions are ran by a moderator/MC-usually a well know figure, such as wine maker or critic- and a couple of panel members-also wine makers- to create a constructive symposium. At the end you can go back and taste the same producers but older vintages. Which I did. This is an easier job, the wines are more mature, showing beautifully, easier to access and understand. Villa Maria Single Vineyard Southern Clays Pinot Noir 2007 is tasted along side with the Taylor's Pass single vineyard Pinot Noir 2007, were one of the most exceptionally balanced in the room, which I tasted, Taylor's Pass were offering a lingering mouth feel where everything wherein place: darkish redish fruits were coming along on the palate with sweet tannins and substantial acidity. Long persistent, pleasant finish. The Southern Clays on the other hand had a subtle minerality from it's clay soil, accompanied by great structure and balance.

Both wines were stunning. Of course other wines were really outstanding as well, just don't have enough space to write about all of them...

The day ended with a good dinner and a good, long, hard earned sleep.

To be continued...


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