The Undisputed Charms of Central Otago: Pisa Range Estate Black Poplar Pinot Noir 2007

29 Feb

Living and breathing the beauty of Central Otago for close to a decade endows you with a unique collective resonance about how valuable its assets are. Nowhere else in New Zealand is quite as dramatic as the deep south, lying at 45 degrees latitude, boasting textbook seasonal extremities. Cavernous valleys and gorges harmonize with wide unfurled plateaus, while steep sugar loaf hills crowned by snow-capped peaks cascade down to silty, glacial lakes and rivers. Upon absorbing for the first time this continental, alpine, at times desert-like milieu, you would be forgiven for thinking this environment was hostile to growing grapes to produce world-class wines.

However the 1980s saw a general country-wide viticultural awakening, and Central Otago sowed its vinous roots, heralding a future as a progenitor of (amongst others) superlative Pinot Noir wines. Growing up in this wondrous playground ushered in my prefatory taste of Pinot Noir – and it is a love of mine that since has not waned.

It makes absolute sense then to select and share with you all a Pinot Noir from this place I know intimately, typifying all that is glorious about this grape variety. One of the more remarkable mountain ranges in Central Otago is the Pisa Range, forming the boundary of the Cromwell basin. It begins just 10km north of the Cromwell township on the shores of the man-made Lake Dunstan. Pinot Noir plantings here have proven incredibly successful, and an estate specialising in Pinot I have been continually impressed with is cradled by this magnificent and imposing landmark – this is the appropriately named Pisa Range Estate.

Uncorked by Sonia P.

From the talented winemaking intellect of Rudi Bauer, Pisa Range Estate’s Black Poplar Pinot Noir 2007 with the benefit of bottle age is proving to be their best yet. I was excited to see that a CorkBinner had come across this very vintage as it is one of my all-time favourites. Owned by Warwick and Jenny Hawker, the estate is a relative veteran in the Central Otago viticultural scene, having been established in 1995.

This boutique producer brought out its first Pinot Noir at the turn of the century, and their wines show consistent excellence with the high quality expected but regretfully not always guaranteed from the region. The Black Poplar Pinot Noir 2007 is drinking wonderfully now, with a price point that belies the quality and olfactory enjoyment delivered. A bricolage of dark fruit: Black Dorris plums, raspberry, and Central Otago cherries rollick with aromas of violet, warm spice, earth and geosmin. An intricate lacing of dried mushroom and bacon fat enthralls.

On the palate there’s nothing to dislike – it’s clean with elegant, soft velvety tannins, and lyrically rich fruit and savoury notes. It’s not your typical Central Otago fruit bomb. A long, indulgent finish makes it a superb food wine – particularly with New Zealand lamb or a grilled salmon fillet. You can enjoy this now, or because of the delights of screwcap, have peace of mind in storing it away for a few more years yet. The beauty of Central Otago is tangible, though its hidden charms repose in its stunning Pinot Noir.

-Sophie Parker (Lady Parker)

Being totally immersed in, and mad about wine, food and all things flavour since childhood has seen Sophie Parker fashion wine and flavour as a profession. While flirting with law in her home country of New Zealand, writing about her loves has taken precedence. Her personal website and blog presents the best of wine, food and craft beer in an entertaining, educational and engaging way – whether that’s through video reviews, articles or blog posts.

Based in Marlborough, New Zealand she’s in a unique position to champion New Zealand wine and craft beer though she frequently explores the international wine realm, especially when travelling overseas. She has a total commitment to quality and evocative experiences, and loves a good Barolo. Follow her adventures on Twitter (@ladyparkerwine), or on Facebook (

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