Pinot Gris

The best seat in the house

This section is for brief reviews of wines that I have recently enjoyed drinking. For quick reference I have given a * rating for each wine from one to five stars.

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Misha Wilkinson, of New Zealand Central Otago producer Misha’s Vineyard, advises that the Dress Circle is the best place to sit in the theatre. Wilkinson’s mother was an opera singer so she should know, having virtually been brought up in the theatre. Established in the Central Otago sub-region of Bendigo in 2004 by Misha and her husband, Andy, following a protracted search for the right location, Misha’s Vineyard quickly gained attention for the quality of its early wines. Ingeniously the producer’s first release was labeled ‘The Audition’. Along with a theatrical theme, the Wilkinsons have also incorporated some noteworthy Chinese associations on their labels and packaging to pay homage to the 16 years they spent working and living in Singapore. Gold mining carried out by Chinese immigrants is a prominent feature of Central Otago’s 19th century history. The Wilkinsons were keen to respect this local heritage, thus eight gold coins are featured hanging from the vine branches on the label, denoting the first eight vines, which were each planted with a gold Chinese coin.

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As a region, Central Otago, is strongly associated with high-quality Pinot Noir production. With the majority of the vineyard successfully planted to this capricious variety Misha’s Vineyard makes three – rising up the scale (no pun intended!) are Pinot Noir ‘Impromptu’, ‘The High Note’, and ‘Verismo’. Nonetheless, the region’s cool climate provides an ideal environment for the cultivation of aromatic and semi-aromatic white varieties. The long ripening season allows the slow build up of flavours and enticing aromas, whilst the cool climate ensures the retention of high natural acidity resulting in beautifully balanced wines. Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Pinot Gris is one such example that just seems to get better and better with each new release. Highly experienced winemaker, Olly Masters (formerly of famous New Zealand Pinot Noir producer Ata Rangi) firmly believes in respecting the fruit that has been carefully nurtured in the vineyard. The result is high-quality grapes that, once fermented into wine, really show a strong sense of pedigree. The 2014 Dress Circle Pinot Gris has enticing, delicate ripe pear aromas. Whole bunch pressed, approximately a third of the wine was fermented in old French oak using only natural yeast, adding a wonderful texture to the ripe, concentrated richness of the wine. This mouth-filling, off-dry palate is then tightly harnessed and reigned in by a fabulous citrus core of acidity lifting the wine, giving it plenty of freshness and length.

As the producer prepares to celebrate its 10th vintage, it is certain that it will continue to attract well-deserved attention. The very fact that in 2010, during its infancy, the prestigious UK Decanter magazine named Misha’s Vineyard ‘One of New Zealand’s Top 20 Wine Producers’ bodes extremely well for the future. *****

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