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On the Pinot & Duck trail

In celebration of the Pinot & Duck Tasting Trail, Cloudy Bay winemaker Nick Lane talks about pinot noir, decanting, and food and wine matching.

On the Pinot & Duck trail

Duck and Pinot is a perfect match, and this month leading chefs throughout New Zealand have created delicious duck dishes for the Cloudy Bay Pinot & Duck Tasting Trail.

MiNDFOOD caught up with Cloudy Bay winemaker Nick Lane at the launch event and threw him a few questions about pinot noir, and we think you’ll find his answers enlightening.

How easy is it to produce good pinot noir?
The tricky thing about pinot noir is that it is very sensitive to site – where it’s grown, in what soil and what climatic conditions. At Cloudy Bay we initially planted pinot noir in the same places that we planted sauvignon blanc and to be honest it didn’t make very interesting wine. Twenty years ago we realised if we found appropriate soils on appropriate sites within Marlborough we could start to make some very interesting wine. Over the past 20 years Cloudy Bay has amassed a nice collection of vineyards on these very nice soils on the sub region we call the southern valleys and that enables us to source some really nice grapes. At the end of the day making good pinot noir is about really, really good grapes. Where they are grown and how you grow them. After that, the winemaking is probably only 20 per cent of the whole picture.

What wine are we drinking on this year’s Pinot & Duck Tasting Trail?
2013. It was a really dry year. Not particularly hot but very dry so no disease pressure. We had a nice long, slow ripening period and I think the wine is showing nice balance. I like to decant this wine because every time I open a bottle it is always better the next day so it just benefits from a little bit of aeration and decanting can do that for you.

What are the rules for decanting? Do you decant just once or a few times?
Once is usually enough, and while it’s nice to have an elegant decanter it’s not necessary. It’s just as effective to decant it into another wine bottle. There doesn’t have to be the great ceremony around it. You don’t have to stand there with a candle and do it over half an hour. You can just glug it in and give it a bit of air.

What is the purpose of decanting?
Decanting is about two things – aeration, and sediment. Proper decanting means removing the clear liquid from the sediment in the bottle but our wines, when we sell them, are pretty young so it’s not really an issue. It’s about aeration.

How would you describe Cloudy Bay’s pinot noir?
It’s a complex bouquet offering layers of dark berries and cherry, cinnamon, sweet leather, fresh herbs and soft tobacco. The palate is plush and round on entry. Ample red and black fruit, including rhubarb, bramble fruit and cranberry, is balanced with notes of fresh mushroom, white pepper and savoury spice. The delicate, lacy tannin structure of this vintage and its bright acidity gives delicious lift to the lingering finish.

Why do some pinot noirs taste light and thin?
Pinot has a natural propensity to light and thinness so you have to really control the crop level which is one of the reasons why a good wine is more expensive because you get a lower crop off it. Pinot Noir doesn’t do cheap. If you want a cheap red wine go for a cabernet or a shiraz. They can work really well, be satisfying and can tick some boxes. Cheap pinot noir? Pretty much anything under $20 may be okay for lighter lunchtime experience but if you want anything with any structure or solidity you need to spend a little bit of money.

Aside from duck, what’s also good with pinot noir?
Birds – Particularly coq au vin. Also pigeon, and cheese. For me, the two most important things about food and wine matching are, if you like the food and if you like the wine. That’s 90 per cent of it. It’s a 90/10 rule with food and wine matching. Ninty per cent of the time wine goes with food and 10 per cent of the time it clashes. When pinot noir is young it tends to have a perfume or fragrance that we call a high tone. It’s all the ethereal flavours and aromas. Earthy flavours go nicely with perfume flavours, and birds tend to give you that, whether it’s pigeon or duck. It’s heaven and earth.

Cloudy Bay winemaker Nick Lane (second from left) with chefs from Monsoon Poon, La Fourchette and The Foodstore who are part of the Pinot & Duck Tasting Trail.

Cloudy Bay winemaker Nick Lane (second from left) with chefs from Monsoon Poon, La Fourchette and The Foodstore who are part of the Pinot & Duck Tasting Trail.

The Pinot & Duck Tasting Trail is on now, until July 31.

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