‘Mark my words, Marlborough Pinot is about to ratchet up a few notches.’
That was me, back in 2011. Now, five years on, and if the latest crop (cough) of Marlborough Pinots are to go by; my call might be coming to fruition.
Not that Dog Point made their name on Pinot Noir, Indeed, this is an estate that has been focused on, and driven by, Sauvignon Blanc, with Pinot a support player.
But as I suggested in last year’s tasting of all of the Dog Point wines ever made, it is the Pinot Noir that ‘has improved most over the years’, now ‘just a step behind (the whites) in the completeness stakes’.
And this 2014 iteration of the Pinot brings it up to level pegging…
For a little background (read more here), Dog Point is the estate founded by ex-Cloudy Bay viticulturist Ivan Sutherland and winemaker James Healy. While Cloudy Bay is their backstory, the greater Dog Point empire is now arguably much more important, particularly from a grapegrowing perspective with the vineyards providing fruit for some of Marlborough’s top names.
Not only are they smart grapegrowers and winemakers, the duo and their family are also damn nice people, even when it comes to cricket. That context can make it hard to be critical about the wines, but the last few years of Dog Point releases have been so impressive that it’s not hard to be enthused.
That said, if you ever detect any bias in any of my reviews, call it out. Jancis Robinson once said that when she approaches the keyboard ‘the milk of human kindness drains (away)’, a mantra that I like to use every time I’m scoring a wine. That’s not to say I don’t approach every note with positivity – ie ‘this wine might be good’ – but that’s about where it stops.
Anyway, onto these new 2014 Dog Point releases.
2014 in Marlborough is seen in some camps as a vintage of two halves – before vs after the rain. The best wines tend to come from the early picked fruit, with the dry season producing no shortage of flavour. That said, some reports suggest that whole vineyards of later ripening grapes were simply not picked, the April rain causing havoc. Equally, the early-picked fruit can look a bit large.
In the Dog Point context, I think the only wine to look a little lesser this vintage (for the moment at least) is the Chardonnay, which is a fraction heavy. The Section Sauv and the Pinot mentioned above look absolutely spot on, however, even if the Section 94 is still a good 6-12 months off its drinking window.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – these are some of Marlborough’s finest wines, and sold at a very fair price. I’m a massive fan.
Oh and these 2014 Dog Point releases mark the first year where all of the ‘barrel’ wines are sealed in screwcap (for the ANZ market at least). After all the heat that Ivan and James copped at the vertical last year about their predilection for cork, I’m not really surprised. The new screwcaps aren’t as sexy as the heavy foils of the previous vintages, but a win for consistency.
Dog Point Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Sourced from a single block on the Dog Point Vineyard. Handpicked, wild fermented on full solids with 18 months maturation in barrel. Numbers: pH 3.1. TA 6.6g/L. RS 1.25g/L.
Green straw coloured, this is ultra tight, the aromatics still reticent, with tidbits of creamed asparagus, white pepper and grapefruit. Despite the controlled nose, the palate seems broader this vintage, with just a little more whipped cream richness at the edges. Still packs in the grapefruit acidity though, and the power of this is impressive. Score will only go up in time methinks. Best drinking: 2017-2023. 18.1/20, 93/100+. 14%, NZ$35. Would I buy it? Yes.
Dog Point Chardonnay 2014
Handpicked, wild fermented, 18 months in 15% new oak. Numbers: pH 3.27 TA 6.7g/L
Nougat oak looks surprisingly dominant in this Chardonnay, sitting on top of the fruit. The acid is still noticeable to keep things in line, but the white peach and melon flavoured width and winemaking edifice is winning the battle for the moment, capped by warmth (and some oak tannin) on the finish. Still a smart wine, if in need of more time to compose itself. Best drinking: 2017-2023. 17.8/20, 92/100. 14%, NZ$35. Would I buy it? A glass now. More later.
Dog Point Pinot Noir 2014
Handpicked, wild fermented and then spends 18 months in 40% new oak. 15% whole bunches included in the blend. Note the numbers – low acid year and it hasn’t hurt the wine. pH 3.73, TA 4.8.
This is the most triumphant Dog Point Pinot yet. I had to try this three times, coming back time and time again just to confirm whether it was ‘that good’ and my nose/mouth wasn’t deceiving me. Seriously concentrated, even in its absolute youth this looks spot on, all bright red fruit and a little stemmy sap on the nose. The palate is deep and surprisingly firm, entirely mouthwatering despite the low acidity, the long, spicy, sappy finish a masterpiece.
Central Otago be damned! Masterful and grown up Marlborough Pinot with a vitality that is unmatched. Interesting that this had me thinking about the brilliant Fromm Pinots when tasting this (which are some of the best Pinots in the region). Maybe it is the low acid and bright fruit? What a wine. Ready to go already as well. Yes. Best drinking 2016-2026. 18.7/20, 95/100. 14%, NZ$35. Would I buy it? Oh yes. Would be nice to have a case of this hanging around the house.