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Raymond Chan, tasting 2006 to 2012 vintages

In late January 2014 Raymond Chan visited the vineyard and we were able to open every vintage of Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir for a very special tasting. Raymond was one of three wine writers we hosted at the vineyard leading up to the Pinot Celebration.

With seven vintages to review this was the most extensive vertical tasting we have been able to complete. What is now evident, and was not previously as evident, is the exciting vintage variation we are seeing. The variation is a function of the weather in the vineyard each year. We have managed to achieve consistently high quality without losing the interest which each different year brings to the wine.

What is also exciting is to see the potential for these wines to age gracefully over many more years than we expected. This gives our customers confidence to hold these wines longer and enjoy in future years. A vertical review completed by Sam Kim in late 2013 gave similar expected best drinking years. Read that report here

Raymond Chan's extended report can be read on his website here. Below are the reviews of the seven wines as written by Raymond Chan

A True Single Vineyard Wine
There are a few things that stand out about Grasshopper Rock. Firstly, it is devoted to Pinot Noir. A variety of clones is planted, predominantly 115, 667, 777, Abel, 5 and114. The vineyard is one contiguous piece, neatly separated into blocks with clones and rootstock to suit. The site enjoys a northerly exposure and is well-protected from the southerly weather by hills behind, the vigour being a little higher on those slopes, whereas the bonier soils are adjacent the road frontage. There is actually a large rock formation in the middle – Grasshopper Rock. Being devoted to the one variety, Grasshopper Rock has a comparatively large production of the one wine, the vineyard yielding around 50 tonnes. Essentially all of the fruit goes into the blend, and the wine is a full representation of the site every vintage, unlike many other ‘single vineyard’ wines which can be a selection of blocks within the site, or a selection of barrels. As a result, the wine is very vintage expressive, and no doubt truly vineyard or terroir expressive at the heart.

Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir 2006 – 2012
Phil Handford and Mike Moffitt took me through a vertical tasting of every vintage of Grasshopper Rock bottled to date. Although the wine is defined by terroir, it was the vintage variation that was the most obvious feature. There is also a growing finesse, elegance and fruit brightness apparent over time. There may be a change in the wine with the transition from Carl Bunn to Pete Bartle as winemaker detectable too, but that will be intermixed with increasing vine age and the understanding and work on the vines and vineyard by Mike Moffitt. The berry and bunch sizes of the fruit can be correlated to the style of the wine produced, according to Mike and Phil. Here are my impressions of the wines:

Grasshopper Rock ‘Earnscleugh Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 -
4 Stars
Dark hearted garnet colour with some mahogany and brick hues. The nose is softly full and integrated with savoury teriary aromas of brown fruits, undergrowth and mushroomy complexities. Fullish bodied, the fruit is evolved and tertiary, with savoury red and brown, earthy, mushroomy flavours. The fruit sweetness is receding and the tannins grip is coming to the fore, while the acid line is prevalent. Drinking now, and now beginning to decline with a degree of grace. 17.0/20

Grasshopper Rock ‘Earnscleugh Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 - 5 Stars
The small berry size and thick skins evident. Very deeply coloured with dark red and garnet colour. The nose is very firm and packed with black and red fruits, the secondary earthy, dried herb characters showing great presence. This still has freshness and aromatic lift. On palate very concentrated and tightly concentrated. There’s a wealth of fruit sweetness still, and matched by considerable extract and power. The tannins are firm and driving, and the acid provides excellent relief. Drinking on a plateau and it will do so for some time. Another 5+ years ahead easily. 18.5-/20

Grasshopper Rock ‘Earnscleugh Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 -
5 Stars
A vintage overshadowed somewhat by those around it, but emerging with beauty. Light ruby-red with garnet hues, but some residual purple on rim. Very elegant on bouquet, fragrantly lifted by red florals, finely expressed red fruits, and some dried herb secondary complexity and detail. The aromatic nuance is beautiful. Elegantly proportioned on palate, with fresh and sweet fruited richness, supported by very fine-grained structure and extraction. The freshness and acidity providing real poise and length. A refined and lovely, accessible rendition of Pinot Noir. 4-5+ years ahead. 19.0-/20.

Grasshopper Rock ‘Earnscleugh Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 - 5 Stars
Moderately deep ruby red with garnet hues, some brick hues. The nose is very full, solid, broad and packed with dark red fruits, along with seet earthy complexities and dried herbal detail. The volume and intensity on bouquet is the feature. Similar on palate, with mouthfilling flavours, great weight and presence. This has sweet and fleshy richness, with dark plum and ripe berried fruit. Waves of secondary nuance show, but there is underlying tannin grip with the amplitude. Well-ripened and with a robustness. Drinking now and over the next 5+ years. 19.0-/20

Grasshopper Rock ‘Earnscleugh Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 - 5 Stars
A comparative tasting shows the quality of this wine and vintage. I’ve under-rated it in the past. Very dark ruby-red colour, still youthful in appearance with purple hues. The fruit is still very primary, with bright, ripe and brilliant aromatic expression. This has intensity and elegance with great concentration and power. There’s oak infused and fully integral, and complex and intricate detail to the fruit purity. Medium-full bodied with concentration and elegance. Juicy and sweet, with stylish finesse. The bright and fragrant red fruit profile has spice, herb and oak entwined, making the wine complete. Very fine-grained tannins underline the fruit. Great length. This grows in presence in the glass and looks better with each tasting. 8+ years. 19.5/20

Grasshopper Rock ‘Earnscleugh Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 - 5 Stars
Bright, light purple-hued ruby red colour. Voluminous on bouquet with an array of aromas, the fruit in the cooler spectrum showing some herb and stalk nuances, but this has a core of dark red cherry fruit aromas, red florals and red curranty notes. Some dried herb and savoury secondary interest already. The firm structure encases the fruit, the mouthfeel bright, vibrant and sweet-fruited, this allied to an acid-lifted zesty robustness. The tannins are grainy and provide plenty of textural qualities and the palate comes together with balance. There is plenty of rugged vinosity present, and it Will evolve over the next 5-6 years. 18.5-/20

Grasshopper Rock ‘Earnscleugh Vineyard’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012 -
5 Stars
Bright, light ruby-red colour with youthful appearance. The nose is tightly bound with primary red berry fruit, and red and violet perfumes, with subtle fresh herb elements. This has beauty and vitality in equal measure. Medium-bodied, the wine is presented with elegant proportions and finesse. Bright, aromatic, lifted dark red berry and floral fruit profile, along with slightly elevated acidity. The acid provides fruit vibrancy and a poised mouthfeel, and a very fine, flowery tannin line carries the palate. This has concentration at the core, and it will grow in richness over the next 6+ years. 18.5+/20