A vertical tasting of back vintages has provided an interesting and important insight into how well Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir ages.
In November 2017, Raymond Chan and his partner, Sue Davies, visited Grasshopper Rock with . We drove from Queenstown and had time for a good catch up before having look around the vineyard and then tasting through all vintages of Grasshopper Rock since the first in 2006. Raymond had visited four years earlier so this visit provided the opportunity to review the same wines after another four years aging in bottle and to look at the four subsequent vintages.
I value Raymond's reviews and detailed tasting notes. The ratings are how he sees the wines relative to one another. A rating of 18.5 is equivalent to five stars.
For us, the tasting is an important confirmation of quality and aging ability. Only wines produced from high quality ripe grapes can age as these wines have. Consistency in quality year after year can only be achieved with a great vineyard site and excellent vineyard management.
Raymond Chan's report below is unedited and can be accessed at the link at the end of the report.
It’s quite a drive from Queenstown airport to Earnscleugh in Alexandra to visit Grasshopper Rock. But worth it, as Grasshopper Rock is a significant producer, the most successful of the Alexandra winegrowers in wine shows with an illustrious track record from the inaugural 2006 vintage. The vineyard is 7.8 ha, planted only to Pinot Noir, but in six clones, these being 115, 667, 777, Abel, 5 and 114, on rootstock matched to the varying soil types found within the contiguous block. Mike Moffitt tends to the viticulture and Pete Bartle of VinPro makes the wine. Phil Handford who heads the syndicate of owners and Mike Moffitt took us through a vertical tasting of all the wines bottled to date. Some samples were from bottles extracted by Coravin. Here are my impressions. Due to the quick tasting, I haven’t added these notes or scores to my database.
2006: Faded orange-red with brick hues. The nose is fulsome, solid and dense with savoury red-brown fruit, dried herbs and earth. Quite secondary and tertiary, with dried herbs, earth, undergrowth and mushrooms. Soft textures and soft acidity, a touch drying on finish. 18.0-/20
2007: Dark, deep, garnet-red and brown, bricky hues. Full, up-front and bold, with real density and solid depth. Complex and savoury secondary aromas. A big wine, rich and deeply fruited, quite solid but rounded mouthfeel now. Still with good tannins and structure. 18.5/20
2008: Lighter garnet-red with some depth. Lovely full and voluminous ethereal fruit with freshness of red cherry and berry fruits with marked florals. An elegantly proportioned wine, fine-featured and tight, with bright, vibrant fruitiness, with soft red berryfruit. Still to show secondary savouriness, fine textures and acidity. Remarkably fresh. 19.0-/20
2009: Garnet-hued with some bricking, with good depth. This is solid and fulsome on bouquet, quite densely packed with savoury game secondary complexities, nearly funky, with tertiary earthiness. Very fulsome on palate with depth and density, but also fruit sweetness, Red fruits, game, earth and undergrowth all show, with fine-grained tannins the build. Rounded and lush still and with acidity giving freshness. 18.5+/20
2010: Dark, deep, ruby-red with garnet hues and bricking. The bouquet is packed with full, deep, black berry and cherry fruits. This has great presence and layers of complex savoury herb and earthy aromas. Full, deep and densely packed on palate with black and red fruits, savoury game, dark herbs and earth, the wine is still lively and fresh. This has plenty of structure. Lovely complexity and great length. 19.5/20
2011: Moderately deep with garnet hues and a touch of bricking. The bouquet is solid and densely packed, with fragrant red fruits and savoury game, earth, dried herbs, all well-concentrated and complex. A little shy on palate, but showing good sweetness and underlying depth. Remarkably tight still. Secondary game and savouriness is the feature. 18.5-/20
2012: Lighter ruby-red with some depth. This is quite elegant and fine in presentation, still tightly bound, but with finesse, showing same savouriness to the red fruits. On palate and elegant, somewhat slender, but with lovely fruitiness and freshness, with good acidity. A pretty wine in all respects, and attractive for it. 18.0+/20
2013: Light ruby-red colour, with faded rose colour on edge. The nose is fresh with red fruits and fragrant florals, that show with concentration and intensity. Well-proportioned on palate, with more concentration and firmness than the 2012, this has fine tannin and structure and balanced acidity. A real Pinot Noir and very expressive as such. A soft ripeness present. 18.5/20
2014: Dark ruby-red with good depth and slight purple hues. This has an elegant, fine, but firm nose with a taut core of red fruits and fragrant florals, all harmoniously balanced and together. This is sweetly rich and luscious with ripe fruits, enlivened by fresh and lacy acidity, underlined by refined, powdery tannins. Lovely vitality is the hallmark. 19.0-/20
‘Block 6’ 2014: All 667 clone fruit. Dark, deep ruby-red with hints of garnet on the rim. The nose is full, deep and bold with substantial bright dark-red fruits, showing black fruit notes and minerals. Fulsome and solid on the palate, but integrated and plush in the mouth, there is still plenty of fine grip and structure. A bit of grunt too. Ripe dark-red fruits, a little black fruit and liquorice. The wine is a ‘statement’ for Grasshopper Rock. 19.0+/20
2015: Moderately deep ruby-red colour. The nose has intensity and good depth of ripe dark-red berry fruit with subtle herbs, along with freshness, perfumes and vitality. Rich and sweetly luscious fruit, with good, fine structure, somewhat carrying the bright red fruits. Some hints of game add interest, and this unfolds violet and liquorice notes. 19.0-/20
2016: Light rub-red colour with some youthful purple hues. This is elegant and taut on nose with intense dark-red berry fruits. Rich and concentrated on palate, this has dark-red berry and plum favours, but all in balance with fine tannin extraction and a line of acidity. Youthful raspberry notes emerge, the brightness and vibrancy resulting in deliciousness. 19.0-/20
Link to this report: RaymondChanWineReviews November 2017
Link to previous tasting: RaymondChanWineReviews January 2014