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Pinot noir is the wine world’s great diva in that it’s temperamental about where and how it performs but when it’s on song it soars to sensational heights. Its home base and home to most of its stellar performances is Burgundy.
Matching or succeeding those heights has become something of a search for the holy grail of winemakers around the world. It’s a grape that only thrives in moderately warm or coolish climates so not surprisingly the New Zealand industry has been grappling with the grape for a few decades now with increasing success.
Wellington recently hosted hundreds of producers and critics came together at the Pinot Noir 2013 conference to discuss, debate, taste and party. The tone was set with an engaging speech on the first morning by Matt Kramer. He posited that in Burgundy, with centuries of history and knowledge, sometimes 2+2 = 5 and challenged his hosts to learn from this. Technical expertise means the kiwis have plenty of 2 + 2 =4 wines but he suggested that perhaps a more hands off approach allied to taking a few more chances might mean elevating a few of these to ‘5’s.
Humorously actor Sam Neill, who produces his own pinot noir in Central Otago called Two Paddocks (2009 at €19.20 from curioswines.ie & Red Nose wines), asked how it was that most of the Burgundy he buys were only a ‘3’. I agree and can’t recall a Burgundy in recent years that has made me exclaim ‘wow.
New Zealand though, even if it doesn’t attain the mythical heights or insane prices of Burgundy’s finest, makes many superb pinots. What can you expect? It’s a thin-skinned grape so colour and tannins are on the light side and fruit is cherry and berry based.
Marlborough, best known for its sauvignon blancs, has the largest acreage of the variety and makes several affordable entry points to this style. The big brands, Brancott, Oyster Bay and Villa Maria all make a decent fist of the grape at €10-15 depending on offers in the main supermarkets. For wines with more depth from independents priced at €20-35 include Hunters, Lawsons, Delta, Huia, Giesen, Wither Hills, Ara, Tin Pot, Cloudy Bay, Dog Point and Greywacke.
Middle Earth or Central Otago produces terrific wines with intense darker fruit and yet freshness. Felton Road (Cabot & Co from €50) is the daddy but don’t miss Peregrine (€35 at thecellardoor.ie), Mt Difficulty 2009 €31 from winesdirect.ie. In the supermarkets there’s a Tesco Finest Otago Pinot Noir at an affordable €16.99 and M & S have Earth’s End Pinot Noir at about €25.
Other exciting regions include Martinborough and Waipara, the former is home to highly regarded Ata Rangi, Dry River and Craggy Range Te Muna while the latter includes the excellent Pegasus Bay, €34.95 from thecorkscrew.ie.
Here’s a very short (2 min) film by Sam Neill about his Pinot Noir. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9Opxl-ulu0
Delta Pinot Noir 2010, Marlborough, €23.99, Jus de Vine, Fallon & Byrne, 64 Wine, World Wide Wines – Waterford, Sweeneys, Callans in Dundalk
The fruit here is mostly red with cherry, raspberry and perhaps a touch of rhubarb with fresh acidity.
Wild Earth Pinot Noir 2009, Central Otago, €28.99, Jus de Vine, Fallon & Byrne, Brechin Watchhorn, Blackrock Cellars, Red Island, Donnybrook Fair, winonline.ie, Hole in the Wall, World Wide Wines – Waterford, the 1601 in Kinsale and O’Briens off-licences.
Central Otago is in the far south but has a continental climate which gets hot and cold and the extra heat makes for a riper, darker black cherry or deep raspberry fruit but the cold nights mean the acidity keeps it all fresh and never jammy. This is a classic example.
You can follow Martin on twitter via @winerepublic for comments about wine and life in general or @thegargleguru for comments restricted to drink.
Arbitrage (15A) ****
Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling.
HE HASN’T always made the best choices in his career, but Richard Gere shows here how great he can be in the right role.
He’s perfectly cast as a glossy businessman whose calm demeanour hides some nasty secrets in this twisty tale.
Arbitrage works well as both a conventional thriller and a fascinating character study about the lengths someone in power will go to to maintain that status.
The movie opens with suave hedge fund magnate Robert Miller (Gere) delivering an emotional birthday speech about the importance of his family - before nipping off for a quickie with his mistress.
We quickly learn that behind his smooth image, Miller is in way over his head in both his personal and business life.
His girlfriend is putting him under increased pressure to leave his wife (Sarandon) in a world where business and family are intertwined.
Having carried out fraud to complete the selling of one of his businesses to a top bank, he’s cooking the books and keeping it a secret from even his own daughter (a very good Marling) who’s his right hand woman.
But when an accident threatens to expose his personal and business life he flees the scenes, putting him on the radar of a dogged cop (Roth, excellent), who’s convinced Millar is lying to him.
What emerges is a timely and very entertaining thriller about power and secrecy, with the tension kept simmering by a great cast.
Broken City (15A) **
Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta Jones, Kyle Chandler.
Broken City is not a bad movie, exactly, but its mediocrity is frustrating given the level of talent involved.
Set in New York City, the movie opens with hard-working cop Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) being urged to quit his job “for the greater good” after being implicated, then cleared of, a controversial killing while on duty.
The man responsible for the stand down is the city’s big shot, Mayor Hostetler (Crowe) who has promised to look after Taggart in the future. Seven years later, while struggling to make a living as a private investigator, Taggart is contacted by the Mayor who is now running for re-election.
He’s offered substantial money to tail the Mayor’s wife (Zeta Jones) who her husband suspects of having an affair.
But it’s not long before Taggart discovers there’s much more going on than adultery as he discovers corruption on a massive scale, and finds that he’s been betrayed by his boss. Does he take the money and walk away, or expose the most powerful man in the city?
The stage is set for these two savvy characters to outfox each other but the movie never finds its feet. If there were ever the bones of a strong script here, director Allen Hughes fails to bring it effectively to the big screen.
All involved seem to confuse the movie’s twisty plot - there are red herrings aplenty - for one more intelligent than it actually is.
But the two leads disappoint. Wahlberg’s in familiar territory here as the tough guy but that in a way is the problem. He’s been in roles like this so many times that it adds to the ‘seen it all before’ air that the movie already has.
Even when he squares off against Crowe in what should be the movie’s most tense scenes they both falter. Wahlberg simply doesn’t have the charisma to lift the limited material. And Crowe, sporting fake tan and a dodgy haircut, is unconvincing in what really should be his comfort zone.
Esther McCarthy, Movie Reviewer with the Sunday World