2018 Matt Connell Wines, Pinot Noir “Rendition” Artist Label Series, Central Otago, New Zealand.
The 2018 Rendition Central Otago Pinot Noir by Matt Connell is rich and layered wine that thrills the palate with a deep ruby color and slightly smoky nose that leads to an array of fleshy black cherry, plum, raspberry and blueberry fruits along with hint not orange tea, saline, sweet herbs and a polished, almost luxurious, silken mouth feel, making it very impressive and pleasing stuff. The label based on a piece by New Zealand’s version of Banksy, the street artist “Component” that Connell felt succinctly or abstractly captured the (purity) of elements that make up Central Otago’s intriguing and beautiful remote landscape. Central Otago, a wine region that is like no other in the world and an area well known for its unique Pinot Noir terroir, it is often considered the Burgundy of the Southern hemisphere. This is my first experience with Matt Connell’s wines and I am very impressed, this is an exciting, well structured and high quality effort that interesting details that reminds me of wines from the Sonoma Coast or Anderson Valley with its dark flavor profile and depth with moderate alcohol and slate driven Spatburgunder(s), like those made by August Kesseler and or recent vintages of Meyer-Nakel, both of which are fantastic Pinots. While the 2018 is now end of vintage, I see the 2019 has hit the market and I look forward to getting some of that too, such is my delight with this under the radar Kiwi Pinot and the reasonable price, you could do a lot worse than this well made and complex wine. The diverse and mineral rich soils of Central Otago give the wines here their personality and are influenced by the Southern Alps mountain range, which creates the exceptional cool climate conditions to produce great Pinot grapes.

There’s a lot to discover from New Zealand’s south island wine regions, especially here in Central Otago, a place of incredible rugged beauty and while mostly known world wide for the excellent Pinot Noirs found here there is an amazing subculture of other varietals that do well here from Gruner Veltliner to Gamay Noir as well as Riesling and Chardonnay. This Matt Connell Rendition Pinot was made using sustainable grapes grown in the Lowburn and Bendigo subzones using clean and minimal intervention, in other words Connell has a light touch, while allowing the wine to be opulent in flavor, but with a nice cut of natural acidity and without the overt use of new oak. The Matt Connell Wines label was established in time for Vintage 2016 and was instantly a hit with the locals and in his second vintage, 2017, Matt scored a trophy at the prestigious New Zealand International Wine Show for his Pinot Noir, though digging into his wines I see he makes what he calls a Viognier Rosé and a Single site Chardonnay from Lowburn, which also looks like worth a try too. Matt Connell, who has 20 years of winemaking in his background with some great winemakers helping him along the way from Sue Hodder at Wynns Coonawarra Estate and Adam Godley Campbell at Elk Cove vineyards in Oregon to Michele Richardson the Ex head winemaker at New Zealand’s Villa Maria and he now with his wife Beth, who is focused on winery business, have set their own path and produce a tight set of artisan wines, like this delicious Rendition Pinot, that display a sense of place. Limited availability in the States, this fruit forward and graceful Pinot also goes great with food and will age well, though very rewarding now. Connell’s efforts, have as noted, caught on with a nice medal haul in recent years with a Gold Medal on this 2018 and a Double Gold for the just released 2019 version, again, making me think I need to invest in a few bottles soon.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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