Schubert Block B & Marion’s Pinot Noir 2011 – Martinborough, New Zealand

Having tried the new 2011 pinot noir releases from Schubert at the New Zealand Pinot Noir Celebration back in February, even though only just bottled, one could already sense a brooding concentration in the vintage yet balanced with notably fresh-cool acidities and crunchy fruit.

Actually, the vintage theme at the regional tasting was 2010, a perfectly ripe and charmingly flirtatious year where seemingly everyone in New Zealand made very good pinot noir; in some instances perhaps a fraction too ripe or maybe just little more forward and certainly very approachable now. That said, I am going to put several 2010s in my cellar, particularly from the slightly cooler regions such as Waitaki Valley, Gibbston Valley and Martinborough, the later looking like the star region of the vintage with wonderfully ripe, silky tannins.

Kai Schubert – Vigneron!

Kai Schubert dropped off another set of his 2011 Pinot’s when he came through Singapore; we see him quite frequently on his global travels and his strategic efforts to build a comprehensive export market for their wines–Kai tells me their wines are selling well in Brazil! Curiously, they have had trouble securing a permanent importer in Singapore with a number of false starts, but that’s the Singapore wine trade for you–tragic really.

As with all the wines reviewed for the ‘Must-Have Wine’ column, I tried the 2011 Schubert Pinot Noirs over a meal, purposely timed with a delivery of a whole loin of New Zealand Venison, sourced through my favourite meat supplier, Culina. You’re not going to find this venison on the shelves at Culina as it is primarily imported for restaurants but if you contact Tim Martin Sales & Operations Manager, Meat Division, and mention my name, he will look after you.

For the rest of the world (outside of Singapore) if you have not eaten venison or in particular New Zealand venison, I can assure you it is the finest, leanest (it only eats grass and leaves), most impressive red meat on this earth. By definition it is a game animal, the word venison derived from Latin vēnor (to hunt or pursue) and part of the English vernacular from the Norman invasion of England and the establishment of the ‘Royal Forests’. In North America and much of Europe it is known “Cervidae“, from Latin: cervus, “deer”. Yes, all this wonderful information is from Wikipedia, but I will be writing on my own research and experiences with deer, having shot my first one at the age of nine, and a comprehensive article coming…soon.

So, I take the loin of venison, which is quite long, longer than a whole fillet of beef, although much thinner, about an inch thick, and cut into three portions about foot long (3 dinners for us) and trim of the sinew (there’s no fat at all). Scoring it very lightly and rubbing in some cracked pepper, crushed juniper berry and olive oil, I then seared it in a smoking hot pan each side, immediately putting the pan into a hot oven for no more than 8 minutes (less for the thinner portions), sprinkling it with Maldon smoked sea salt as I remove it from the oven to rest for 10 minutes. Yes, it’s that quick and simple, practically easier than cooking a beef steak.

I have to confess, I am already halfway through the bottle of Block B Pinot Noir, and the smoky, charred, blood-gamey incense filling the kitchen and my nostrils, as I inhale all these fumes and the pinot, it’s like a Moroccan Hookah Pipe and I’m already in a very pleasant place/space. Looking at my notes, I have written ‘gamey, blood, venison’ and I know your thinking this is some kind of autosuggestion, but it’s true; it’s a nuance in the wine…nothing to do with my kitchen intoxication.

In the same pan, that is having removed the loin to a dish to rest, I have deglazed it with a splash of Sherry vinegar (to give it a lift) and two dollops of demi-glaze, adding some pre-soaked dried wild mushrooms and the juices from the resting meat to make a tangy, savoury sauce. I am serving it with Kale sautéed in butter which adds another aspect of earthy-herbal quality (I just love Kale and cringe at why my parents tortured me with Silver Beet) and roast beetroot and Kipfler potatoes–the roast beetroot possibly the best accompaniment for venison I can think of.

The wife is home by this stage and totally impressed by the smells coming from the kitchen and what’s on the menu. She has met Kai and comments that we would need the entire loin if he was here! Of course it’s meant as a term of endearment; after all, Kai is Maori for food, even though he is German, it fits.

You have to serve venison loin rare to medium rare, and if you let it rest long enough you will find this is not the chewy raw-rare of beef; if you cover it loosely with tinfoil it will continue to cook evenly and whilst there is pink-bloodiness, it will be supremely tender; actually it melts in the mouth and nirvana with pinot noir.

Drinking the two wines in tandem with the venison, you get a real sense of how different they are; in retrospect (of my drinking) the Marion should be approached first as it is clearly more elegant and nuanced, whereas as Block B is, well in your face and consistently ‘The Mother of all Pinots’. I know I should not write so much of such hedonistic pinot noir; the purists and Burgundy zealots assaulted by these seductively plush and powerful pinots, but I personally love this style and in a way it is what New Zealand can do (with pinot) like no other country can. Anyway, if they ever start defining what the perfect style of pinot noir is, it’s time to stop drinking the stuff.

I was converted/discovered Schubert Pinot Noir some years back and have written a number of articles on their wines (follow the links below) and they have progressively evolved, each year somehow regardless of vintage, more impressive, complex and seductive, and it is tempting to say that Marion Deimling’s, Kai’s partner and the one that actually does all the real work (behind every strong man is a stronger woman) 2011s are her best wines to date, that is until we see the 2013s.

Personally, Schubert are in my top five pinot noir producers in New Zealand, but I can’t tell you what are my top 5, as its actually a top 20, and if I start along this track it will end up looking like some sort of egotistical ‘classification’; worse, you will expect me to score the wines.

You simply just need to buy these wines in case quantities, drink as much as you like now as they are gorgeous and give great pleasure. If you can, stick some a dark place for at least 5 years–having tasted the 2005 and 2006s recently–your patience will be greatly rewarded.

And for the record, Kai is one of the original ‘Bastards of Pinot’ but that’s another tale to be told.

Right bunch of Bastards of Pinot Noir


Schubert Block B Pinot Noir 2011

Outrageously hedonistic rich perfume of blood plum, dark cherry, black and blue berry fruits, evocatively meaty and smoky, deep-spiced, Indian spices and hot wok (note to oneself, need to extend thesaurus on spice nuances), grilled rare meats, gamey-venison-blood, very earthy and a little funkiness, lathed steel-minerals, more of the smoky meaty nuances, wonderful stuff, can’t stop inhaling it. Palate opens in a torrent of blood plum, dark berries, plush, gorgeous enveloping fruit, accelerated by a rush of spiciness and cold-steely acidity, silky and layered fruit, lingering cinnamon spice and a briary complexity that has you hanging on every sip. About as profound and alluring as pinot noir gets and enough oomph to convert the most ardent cabernet drinker (away from the dark side).

Schubert Block Marion’s Pinot Noir 2011

Deep mineral, rust and iron-railway iron-complexity strikes you first, then with a swirl of the glass a sweet perfume of red cherry, raspberry and strawberry compote, hints of juniper, anise, lavender and rosemary add to a very lifted dried-herb bouquet, totally alluring, very pinot, and expressive minerality, river gravel, running stream, clay-terracotta, and a sweet, moist pipe tobacco nuance… could go on, but enough said. Juicy, succulent palate entry gushing with red berry fruits, lively-tangy piquancy to the fruits and exhilarating carry of acidity, gentle tannins, seamless and slippery texture, warm glow with a gentle spiciness and sweetness lingers, although checked by a cool tailing of acidity. Wonderfully zingy wine, ethereal, glycerol-smooth-textured, almost invisible tannins, perfection, irresistible wine that you want to gulp down.

If I could be so crass; you just can’t help wanting to sleep with the Block B, but really the Marion’s will be your lifelong partner.

More reading on Schubert – Winery of the Year – Schubert, New Zealand

Thai Duck Curry – The Perfect Match – And the wine… Schubert Pinot Noir of course, the consummate duck curry wine!


By Curtis Marsh | Must Have Wines | Related to: , , , |

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Schubert Block B & Marion’s Pinot Noir 2011 – Martinborough, New Zealand

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