I’ve got a little secret to tell – I am not always a big fan of Central Otago Pinot Noir. Pinot is all about delicacy and finesse rather than sheer power and often I find the wines a little bit too big. But that’s just me. It is an incredibly diverse region which has over the years gained legions of passionate fans around the world.
This inaugural vintage of the High Garden Vineyard also comes with a hell of a lot of street credibility. It’s the personal project of Robin Tedder MW and is the highest vineyard in Gibston, Central Otago’s coolest region. It’s planted on a steep north facing slope which was planted twenty years ago with a range of clones and was made by Jen Parr, who is also the acclaimed and award winning winemaker at Valli. Enough said really.
Mid cherry red in colour it opens with beautifully seductive aromas. Powerful sweet dark cherry fruit with prominent young oak are lifted by savoury mushroom consommé, and truffle with a dusting of spice. It’s then dry, finely balanced and quite light weight for Otago thanks to that vineyard altitude, yet still carries a powerful core of fleshy, gamey fruits with bright acidity and mouthcoating tannins. The finish is long and strong, with a classic peacock’s tail gaining more floral and spicy complexity as it lingers till the very end. It’s seriously impressive and an outstanding first release. It might not be cheap, but it is worth every cent, and more.
Andrew Caillard MW
Medium crimson. Beautiful intense black cherry, strawberry and dried roses aromas with underlying roasted chestnut, herb garden notes. Round and supple with abundant black cherry, strawberry, apricot fruits, fine persistent chalky/lacy textures, superb mid-palate viscosity and perfectly integrated vanilla oak. Finishes with a lovely long feathery plume. A brilliant debut wine with lovely complexity, volume and mineral length.
13.5% alc Drink now – 2028+
Andrew Caillard MW. Winner of the Madame Bollinger Medal for excellence in wine tasting 1993. Chair Shanghai Wine 100 Competition and judge at the Japan Wine Challenge. Author of multiple books on wine and a long standing columnist and tasting panellist for Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine.
First release of an exciting new label from grapes grown in the highest vineyard in Gibbston. According to founder and winemaker Robin Tedder MW, it is one of the warmest sites in the coolest subregion of Central Otago. It is a supremely elegant pinot noir with bright cherry, red berry flavours underpinned by subtle fresh herb characters. Only 2, 364 bottles produced in the inaugural vintage.
It’s easy to see why the sub-region of Gibbston is well suited to Pinot Noir with this youthful and vibrant expression. Aromas of wild forest berries, savoury dried herb, rugged hillsides of schist and mineral, tense youthful mouthfeel and complex flavours of site and wine maker’s handling of ripe fruit and minimal intervention. Raspberry and cherry, spices of fruit and barrel, no mistaking the core of minerality, form chalky tannins and acid-line. A wine with power and presence, layers of fruit, oak and savoury mineral qualities. Needs time to settle into its ageing and harmonising cycle, but will reward those who can wait with best drinking from 2023 through 2029+.
Pretty delicate in texture with a certain amount of sweetness, as is the Central Otago wont, but it’s certainly restrained and has an appetising dry finish and a refreshing mineral streak through it. There’s a certain pungency too. Good lift on the finish.
The first 2020 vintage from Gibbston’s loftiest vineyard should boost the sub-region’s reputation.
A carpet of green runs along north-facing terraces above the tumbling Kawarau River, between Queenstown and Cromwell. At Gibbston, the highest and coolest of Central Otago’s wine sub-regions, a rising stream of red wine has flowed since the mid-1980s: floral, frequently slightly herbal pinot noirs, at their finest showing impressive delicacy and length of flavour, with a seductive, silky texture.
At 420-490m above sea level, High Garden is Gibbston’s loftiest vineyard. The first 2020 vintage of High Garden Vineyard Gibbston Pinot Noir ($95), soon to be released, should boost the sub-region’s reputation, with its lovely perfume and gracefulness.
Gibbston is the coolest meso climate of Central Otago, imparting an indelible freshness belying the more robust expressions of Central Otago in general. A moderate alcohol (13.5%) and gentle digestibility, the result. Riffs on sour cherry, rhubarb crumble and persimmon. Succulent strawberry and mountain red fruits are exposed with some air. Pine, nettle, thyme and lemon verbena accents, too. A cool aura. Bright, schistous, tangy and fresh. A whiff of mezcal suggests a dash of the whole bunch. Oodles of energy. Give this 5-8 years in the cellar and you’ll have a poised, measured, finessed and complete Pinot on your hands 95 points
Ned Goodwin MW
Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine Nov 2021
When Robin purchased High Garden Vineyard (highgardenvineyard.com) in the Gibbston Valley, it seemed – in theory – as if he was taking on the most marginal of vineyard sites. Situated between 420m and 490m above sea level, on schist soils, the vines actually benefit from being grown in something like a sun-trap capturing long sunshine hours and radiated heat. Typically yields are very low averaging around 25 hectolitres per hectare, which is Grand Cru territory.
Nonetheless I am thinking about all the lessons Robin told me about investment and return on capital. Maybe he has become a softie or something?
I am sure Rita and Robin had serious misgivings about the timing of their vineyard purchase. Soon after the ink was dried, the pandemic prevented any travel and the 2020 vintage was made in absentia. But these difficult circumstances have been overcome by the support of well-known viticulturist Gary Crabbe and the highly accomplished winemaker Jennifer Parr.
Now that the 2020 High Garden Pinot Noir has been released, it somehow vindicates Robin’s new-found madness. It’s an incredible debut wine with extraordinarily beautiful black cherry, strawberry dried roses aromas, abundant fruits, underlying chestnut notes, lacy textures and superb mid palate viscosity.
Robin is one of the most driven people I know, with an insatiable appetite for knowledge, making a difference and physical exhaustion. Who would have thought his first Central Otago vintage would make such an instant breakthrough? But the journey – shared with Rita – has taken nearly 27 years through thick and thin. While still professing to be a student winemaker, I suspect he will be sleeping much better for having achieved this important and beautiful milestone in wine