Canterbury’s very own ‘Flying Winemaker’, C P Lin, self-assuredly strutted his oenological stuff last week at an informal, invitation only garden luncheon, held at the home of Neil and Jill Pattinson, the producers of the Whistling Buoy wines and the owners of Crater Rim Winery Ltd. Among the guests was renowned online raconteur and restaurant critic, Mr Lu, whose quirky, somewhat quixotic contributions on Dineout.co.nz have attracted an avid following in recent times.
With Quail Island and Moepuku Point as backdrops, the table presented a resplendently and colourfully stocked spectacle with platters of beautifully arranged food from Traiteur of Merivale and the hands of Maartyn Loeffen himself.
A range of wines produced by this tiny Lyttelton Harbour winery were available for tasting on this day and CP Lin lost no time in passing judgement. The 2008 Pinot Gris, made from grapes harvested in the Awatere Valley, met with his enthusiastic approval and was deemed a good example of the style, exhibiting this wine’s known fundamental characteristics without being too dry, not too high in alcohol, and showed some pronounced sweetness with detectable hints of phenolics.
The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc received an altogether different response and whilst CP acknowledged its accepted new world wine attributes he incisively went on to point out that on the nose there was a slight hint of body odour & sweaty armpits! On the palate zingy acidity and accurately representative of a Marlborough sauvignon blanc, typical of the style and well made. CP Lin, clearly and unmistakably, is not a fan of this style’s overt animal and vegetable, sweatiness, as he sees it. He was quick to point out, however, that these are not criticisms of this particular wine but of the style in general and the Marlborough product specifically.
Without doubt each of us present was taken by surprise when the 2005 Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown on the Charteris Bay property, elicited the following response from CP, “It really gives me shivers. This is what terroir is all about; this wine reflects the area it comes from and I can smell the local hills, the tussock, the grass, the amazing aroma of a Nor’Wester and a hot summer’s day. This wine is a winner!”
After tasting the 2006 vintage, CP went on to state that these were just about the best New Zealand Pinots he had tasted this year, an outstanding compliment to the labour of love of the Pattinsons in nurturing his vines and the skill of winemaker Grant Wheelan in the vinification process.
The long, luxurious lunch was thus made all the more pleasurable in the knowledge that we were not only in the company of the legendary CP Lin but also enjoying some surprisingly exemplary wines.
It is food for thought to ponder the concept of terroir, something long held as the quintessence of successful French wine, here in New Zealand, where it is clear that we should not underrate or undervalue the importance of territory and the capacity for individual plots of land to offer up their own senses of place, expressed and reflected in the wines. It is conceivable, given that we are still a very young winemaking country, that the Cote du Charteris might just be the first of many more north-facing slopes suited to vitis vinifera that will be developed in the years to come.