I don’t know if one should find a correlation between the Food & Drink programme on BBC 2, co-presented by Kate Goodman earlier this year, and the increasing stream of wine “celebs” who have been turning up in her little shop, Reserve Wines, in West Didsbury. Last week, Margaret and Ivan Sutherland from Dog Point Vineyards came to introduce a bunch of South Mancunians to their wares from the other side of the globe.
Dog Point Vineyards was born out of friendship and common values between James Healy the oenologist and Ivan Sutherland the viticulturist. The Dog Point vineyard was set up by Ivan and his wife Margaret before 20 years of Cloudy Bay started back in the 70s, so when the team decided to return to a more human scale and hands-on approach to winemaking, they naturally chose to settle at Dog Point. This was in 2002, not so long ago.
Dog Point do things very simply and aim for purity of style rather than flooding the supermarket shelves with bulk wine. Much like many winegrowers in Burgundy and the Loire in France, they use a non-interventionist approach. “Not interfering” counter-intuitively means a lot of work has to be done to ensure that the vines produce a very healthy fruit to an ideal ripeness and that the right technologies are applied in the winery so that little in the way of “additions” (understand sulfur, acid, sugar and all sorts) is required to prevent “faults” from fermentation through to bottle ageing. I could easily ramble on about this but others are more qualified than I so I would recommend you read their work if this is of interest. Suffice to say, Dog Point only make four different wines each year, from three different rape varieties. And they give their grapes and wines their full attention.
This is a classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The staple of what put Marlborough on the global wine map. Lemon and lime lifting aromas of lively gooseberries with a limestone edge to it. On the palate it’s bright with good levels of acidity, and good depth of flavours, all in balance. A perfect aperitif wine to get started simply but beautifully before a big meal with family.
Now this is another Sauvignon Blanc but it’s as far as the comparison will go. You’ll notice the name of the grape doesn’t appear on the label. Coming from a specific sub-section of their vineyard, this wine was fermented from wild yeast. The malolactic fermentation (which transforms the tart malic acid into softer lactic acid) was avoided but the wine was aged on its lees for 18 months in used oak barrels and it was bottled unfiltered and un-clarified.
The result is a is a more restrained style…at least on the nose. Nowhere near as exuberantly fruity as its sibling, the leesy (yeasty, bready) aromas are more dominant and there’s a hint of matchstick (or hot flint stone) along with pithy citrus and limestone in the background. Again good acidity on the palate, a little white pepper with apple and lemon supporting these mineral flavours. Fantastic depth and length. This would make a great transition from the previous Sauvignon Blanc and would accompany superbly any light and delicate starter or main dish. I loved it and voted it my wine of the night.
Also aged in oak barrels for 18 months, a small fraction of it new, with the lees, but this time the malolactic fermentation was fully completed. This is a beautiful Chardonnay. Fresh green apple but also almonds, butter and warm spice (cinnamon). Quite complex but it’s not messy. Plenty of acidity still but softer due to the malo. Medium to full bodied, a little nutty and toasty but subtly so, very well integrated oak. It’s clean and focused…and very dry indeed.
Dog Point Vineyards – Chardonnay 2008
The extra couple of years have developed the nuttier aromas and flavours but have not taken away any of its freshness and vibrancy. The oak is taking over ever so slightly and the mouthfeel is almost tannic, a bit like when you bite into a fleshy green apple. Astringency and acidity combined with intense flavours of green fruits, bread and toast. A great, clean finish with grapefruit ensures your palate is fresh to move on. Now would you believe it, it was not only Miss Mash’s wine of the night but the overall winner in the audience too. That is saying something. Here’s hoping the 2008 evolves in the same direction.
Now we’re getting to the kind of stuff both Miss Mash and I love. This first sample was all you could expect from a very good Pinot Noir: juicy sour cherries and savoury notes packed in a soft but coating mouthfeel thanks to velvety tannins and a good concentration of fruit. The right level of acidity and a superb length bodes well for the older vintages.
Aside from the extra year in bottle, the interesting aspect here is how you can pick up on the vintage differences. The 2009 offered a more floral bouquet of aromas and more red fruits like strawberries and red cherries which together with notes of pepper and mushroom makes this wine a little more ethereal. It’s a little bit thinner on the palate and will not age as much as the 2010 but it’s a sublime wine now.
Dog Point Vineyards – Pinot Noir 2007
The Sutherlands kindly brought a couple of magnums of their 2007 Pinot Noir to the tasting. We’re back on a style more akin to 2010 but with an extra 3 years in bottle. The savoury aromas and flavours are more developed: mushrooms, meaty, gamey notes accompanying the sour cherries, a fuller body, good acidity and lively tannins give this wine a great structure. I’ll venture to say that it is probably at its best, or close to it now but it will keep a little longer, maybe a year or two in bottle before you start losing in body and fruit.
Overall we truly enjoyed these wines. They are definitely above average, taste from where they come from and are very pleasant to drink. Dog Point wine retails between £22 and £28 in the UK on average and this is reflected in the gustative experience. On that basis I would say they are fairly priced. And in case you’re doubtful we put our money where are mouths are and we ordered two bottles of each of the Section 94 2010, the Chardonnay 2010 and the Pinot Noir 2010, making these the most expensive wines we ever bought. They will be left in the cellar for a few years although the Section 94 may make an appearance sooner 😉