Cen­tral Otago ‘good place’ to make wine

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As long as 120 years ago, a New Zealand Govern­ment ap­pointed wine con­sul­tant, Romeo Bra­gato, con­cluded that Cen­tral Otago was a par­tic­u­larly good place to make wine.

With its con­ti­nen­tal cli­mate and easy drain­ing soils, it is markedly dif­fer­ent from other New Zealand re­gions, a fact il­lus­trated by its grape har­vest oc­cur­ring as much as two months later than the North Is­land.

Prophet’s Rock wines (pro­het­srock.co.nz) , from Bendigo Loop in Cen­tral Otago, are made by wine­maker and Gen­eral Man­ager, Paul Pu­jol. Paul spent his for­ma­tive years in Hamil­ton, be­fore em­bark­ing on a life­style that would see him spend many years mak­ing wine in Al­sace.

Paul’s French her­itage and im­mer­sion in the ways of one of the great French wine re­gions have clearly rubbed off, as his won­der­ful wines have a dis­tinctly con­ti­nen­tal feel.

Rocky Point (a sis­ter la­bel to Prophet’s Rock) Pinot Noir 2015 is a silky, ruby-hued, medium weighted pinot with typ­i­cally rich fruit. Min­i­mal in­ter­ven­tion, wild yeasts and oak mat­u­ra­tion have given it real char­ac­ter.

Prophet’s Rock ‘‘In­fu­sion’’ Pinot Noir 2016 is a beau­ti­ful New Zealand ver­sion of a good Beau­jo­lais, a fresh, zingy, drink young style that is best served lightly chilled. The lack of con­tact with the skins has re­moved the ma­jor­ity of tan­nins from this wine, mak­ing it a vi­brant yet el­e­gant wine – a real crowd pleaser.

My gen­eral an­tipa­thy to­wards Pinot Gris is quite well known, I find the vast ma­jor­ity of them dull, un­in­ter­est­ing and sim­ple. Prophet’s Rock 2015 Pinot Gris has made me com­pletely re­think my prej­u­dice.

A truly re­mark­able ex­am­ple, it is rich and ro­bust with in­cred­i­ble depth of flavour, and won­der­ful length. It is easily the finest Pinot Gris I have ever had, and I would imag­ine it will cel­lar for a num­ber of years yet, with its old school real cork al­low­ing it to de­velop and age nat­u­rally.

Com­pletely dry Ries­ling is a rel­a­tively rare beast in New Zealand – our wine mak­ers tend to leave vary­ing lev­els of resid­ual su­gar in them.

Paul, in true Al­sace style, has pro­duced the 2014 Prophet’s Rock Dry Ries­ling. A slightly aus­tere, el­e­gant, pure and clean Ries­ling, it is show­ing the be­gin­nings of ma­tu­rity with some beau­ti­ful aged notes creep­ing in.

A top ex­am­ple of a New Zealand Ries­ling.

Prophet’s Rock Home Vine­yard 2013 Pinot Noir is Paul’s flag­ship wine – a ma­jes­tic, mus­cu­lar pinot noir of con­sid­er­able weight and in­ten­sity.

From a low yield site, this in­tensely va­ri­etal wine is a won­der­ful ex­pres­sion of the unique Cen­tral Otago ter­roir. It is drink­ing won­der­fully well now, but will con­tinue to de­velop over time.

As the weather cools, I tend to head for the darker beers. I re­cently tried three ex­am­ples of Stout, two good com­mer­cial New Zealand ex­am­ples, and a bor­der­line in­sane Swedish one.

Mon­teith’s Vel­vet Stout ($7/500ml) is a smooth milk stout style. Gen­er­ous and easy drink­ing, it has slight choco­late notes and is a fine ‘‘ses­sion’’ beer. Mon­teith’s con­tinue to sur­prise with their brewer’s se­ries beers, which are all well worth look­ing out for as a gate­way into the world of real beer.

Moa Brew­ing Co. Im­pe­rial Stout ($8/500ml) is sur­pris­ingly easy drink­ing con­sid­er­ing its mas­sive 10.2 per cent al­co­hol con­tent. Aged in French oak, it is a big friendly gi­ant of a beer with some lovely savoury notes.

The best Moa beer I have ever tried.

-Waikato wine and beer writer Si­mon Wood grew up in Hamil­ton and now loves in Te Aroha, email woodon­wine­and­beer@gmail.com

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