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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - It's a big call, nailing the single wine of 2009 that was most impressionable amongst so many good bottles and an ever-increasing myriad of quality, relatively more approachable wines produced around the globe.
However, Two Paddocks Pinot Noir 2006 from Central Otago, New Zealand, is the wine that stimulated my sensory core, viscera and thoughts most in terms of complexity, quality and sheer enjoyment.
It was my house red for a period. I simply could not get enough of it, drinking the supplier in Singapore dry. I then resorted to hording bottles on my travels to Malaysia.
I recently satisfied my thirst for it at Four Seasons in Hong Kong at the two-star Michelin restaurant Caprice. Caprice's head sommelier agreed with my admiration for the wine, in his words, "This wine is comparable to many red burgundies at several times the price." Quite a statement coming from a Frenchman.
Certainly New Zealand pinot noir is distinguishing itself on the world wine stage and unquestionably the red grape showing the most potential in the cooler areas moreover, stylistically diverse between regions with Central Otago center-stage in familiarity, popularity, individuality and arguably the most stunning wine region to visit on the planet.
Perhaps what I like most about Two Paddocks is it is atypical to what people perceive as New Zealand pinot noir and resonate in its individual character.
While unquestionably antipodean with the attractiveness of brighter berry fruits, texturally soft and inviting viscosity, refreshing acidities and a subtle sweetness; a combination of qualities that I find particularly suited to practically every Asian cuisine - whether spicy or not.
It is, however, noticeably more savory and has that special quality known as "tension," an attribute, Allen Meadow's, the leading authority on Burgundy and American pinot noir describes as the French equivalent of "nervosite," encompassing the nervy, invigorating natural acidity and taut yet fine-grained tannins that balances wines endowed with intense fruit.
The proprietor of Two Paddocks is New Zealand actor Sam Neill, who began with modest ambitions to satisfy the thirst of family and friends however, by his own admission, has now become "outrageously ambitious - we want to produce year after year, the world's best pinot noir."
The Two Paddocks wines are made by the Olympian of Central Otago, Dean Shaw, at Central Otago Wine Company, but make no mistake; Sam Neill is an auteurist agriculturalist and pinot noir producer. He just knows that to achieve perfection you need the help of the right people.
My tasting note on the 2006 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir - a blend of the three paddocks: there's a whiff of tobacco leaf and leather amongst enticing deep scents of black cherries, stewed plum and dried fig with an alluring herbal nuance of wild thyme and lavender.
It is curious how sometimes you can smell the viscosity in some wines, a sort of creamy-lactose milk chocolate sensation, which this wine has. There is also charred woods and black tea; amongst clove and black pepper spice with a wet slate and rusted iron-like minerality.
The palate entry is tart with tamarillo and sharp raspberry, fleshing out to sweeter red cherry and roasted beetroot with a soft and ethereal mid-palate - an easing back in the chair and nosing type of wine with a deceptive lightness - until the "tension" reminds you of the wines liveliness enhanced by a lingering savory herbal-spiciness.
Such intense carry of flavors in a delicate manner is the hallmark of great pinot noir, of which this wine has. It drinks wonderfully now having a couple of years in bottle and will develop nicely over 5 years or more, I suspect holding well up to 2016, maybe longer, given the screwcap closure.
If you cannot find the 2006, be on the lookout for the equally impressive 2007. If you're in Asia, you would be wise to register your interest with the vineyard direct, visit www.twopaddocks.com.
- Curtis Marsh is a Singapore-based independent wine writer and commentator with nearly 30 years experience in the wine industry. The opinions expressed are his own. His website is www.thewanderingpalate.com -
Editing by Miral Fahmy