Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. That’s how you might feel when first venturing into the territory of this New Zealand Pinot Noir from the land of Central Otago. Like Dorothy being transported to the bright technicolor world of Oz with her terrier Toto, you know when tasting this extraordinary Pinot that you are no longer in familiar territory—be it the Pinot Noir of California, Oregon or Burgundy. Central Otago’s version of this most mercurial and shape-shifting red wine is unlike any other.
Let’s start with the extravagant assortment of notes detected in the 2010 TERRA SANCTA Slapjack Block Pinot Noir: tamarind, red currant, young dark cherry, blueberry, lavender, Assam tea and hint of prune—and on the finish, red pepper flakes, black pepper and cardamom spice and wild thyme (this is very specific to the outgrowths of the Bannockburn terra firma where the vines responsible for this Pinot reside). There is a strong minerality to the wine, resulting from schist gravel in the soil from original glaciers that formed the land. Acidity on full throttle drives the wine forward along a chalky but silky smooth texture. Add up all the elements, and you have a powerful and thrilling Pinot with a wild, vivacious quality.
“Terra sancta” means sacred earth and special dirt in the Kiwi language. It doesn’t take the taste buds long to glean the significance of the term. Anyone wanting to venture to Central Otago NZ Pinot Noir should start here (but only over 150 cases produced!). You won’t be tapping your heels three times to go home anytime soon. Surrender Dorothy. –J.M.
Great Wine: Donelan Two Brothers Pinot Noir