Felton Road 2020 Release.

The time has finally come for us to present our allocation of Felton Road’s 2020 vintage.

As many of you know, Felton Road produces bottles in extremely small quantities, and the uncontrollable factors of the past 18 months certainly haven’t made things easier.

Please see below the full vintage report from proprietor Nigel Greening. If you would like to join the waiting list for any of the following wines, please contact our manager Sarah at wine@specialistcellars.co.uk

Felton Road 2020 Vintage Report

All wines are a reflection of their vintage, but 2020 is going to always be the lockdown harvest. 

I had arrived in New Zealand after a fairly terrifying journey across the world just waking up to how serious this whole thing was. I endured 14 days of quarantine (at home in those days) then the day after that ended New Zealand announced a truly draconian lockdown. For a couple of days we didn’t know if we would be forced to leave the fruit to rot on the vine. When the rules were announced it was both good and bad. Good that we could harvest, under the most stringent conditions of hardship, bad because I was locked out of the winery: over 70’s (and I was that by just 6 weeks!) were excluded unless absolutely critical and, in truth, they could do it without me. The tough part was to watch Blair’s utter refusal to compromise from 60 kilometres away.

The weather was grim. The vines were right on the brink, the pickers stranded in bubbles: little tent encampments in the vineyards, unable to shop for the foods they wanted, relax, or do anything but wait. The winery team were living in camper vans in the carpark. We kept them supplied, kept them as cheerful as we could at a distance but Blair wouldn’t let them pick. Slowly, agonisingly, the fruit came in. The longest harvest we have seen.

I remember asking Mike his feelings on the fruit as it arrived. “Better than 19” was his verdict. It seemed impossible. When lockdown was lifted in a country where the disease no longer existed in the community, the wines were in the process of pressing off to barrel.  I had my first and only chance to taste the vintage as it left the fermenters… and it looked exciting. Better than 19? A big call but not just a bold one. 

15 months on, I have Nicola shouting for the release notes for our European partners and customers but I am being as stubborn as Blair. Until I have tasted the finished bottled wine, I’m not writing the release. It is so strange to have a wine sitting in bottle that I haven’t followed through its elevage but today a courier arrived and four bottles were lined up on the kitchen counter. Better than 19? Ask me again in 5 years.

They are very close… very close in overall quality but quite separate in style. 19 was suave, a wine that relaxes in an even, cool but close to ideal year. 20 has the spine that comes from a difficult harvest and birth. I feel a swagger of accomplishment in the 20’s that the more privileged 19 cannot claim. These are unique wines from a unique year. Most excitingly they were both cooler years, as is the equally promising 2021 now sitting in the barrel. Three cooler years in a row. We wouldn’t have bet much money on that happening. Volumes of Pinot are similar to 2019 but Chardonnay is quite severely down.  

Felton Road Pinot Noir, Bannockburn 2020:

Lovely deep garnet, with a hint of purple as are all these Pinots. The nose starts almost entirely with deep florals:  Violets, dark Roses,  even Hibiscus. Then a hint of plum. The palate contradicts to begin with: so silky, so elegant, but a spine of fresh acid and underlying muscle. Bramble leaves and a sappy touch keep it all lively, but that deep river of silk fine tannin runs alongside. Very pure on the finish with just a bit of swagger to wrap it up.  More than anything, it is the essence of Felton Road. I hate to use the term best yet, but I struggle to think of a vintage that has been its equal.

Felton Road Pinot Noir, Cornish Point 2020:

 I smile as I smell this wine: for about 6 years now, Cornish Point, once the exuberant kid out of the blocks, has been becoming more and more reticent to show itself when very young. The nose is hiding; hints of the spice box that will be lurking in there, but it isn’t going to show itself any time soon. These days, in youth this wine shows its potential through its texture and, like the Bannockburn, there is the acid spine accompanying the viscous palate.  More stemminess here, bramble leaves, and richness in the fruits, The tannins are slightly firm and drying this young.  A more singular wine than the Bannockburn, as befits its single vineyard status. But half a dozen years is going to reveal an absolute classic:  a wine keen to prove it is every bit the measure of it’s older brother: Block 3.

Felton Road Pinot Noir, Block 3 2020:

So what does the older brother have to say? Pretty much as always, it is a bit more open on the nose, darker in tone, but not in colour,  quietly confident. The first sip tells you this is going to be a command performance.  The usual notes are all in place: chocolate, deep cherry fruit, a touch of sappy herbs, and enough length to allow a chapter of subtle development.  Tannins, while ever fine, will take a while to sing; right now, they shout a bit. But the whole thing is about harmony: the effortless grace of a vineyard that has shed its youth and is proving to be self assured in adulthood.

Felton Road Chardonnay, Bannockburn 2020:

One sniff and I’m salivating: elderflower, honeysuckle and fresh grapefruit. It’s very pure, but aching to be tasted. The palate has an authority I can’t remember seeing before in this, the village appellation. There is a texture beyond the norm, a touch of grip, The palate sings with a combination of racy acid and a depth of fruit: grapefruit, citrus, not a hint of wood, but the oak is doing its job adding a nuance of depth and roundness to the chiselled profile. A long, clean saline finish, as always, but more so. The new benchmark.”

Cheers and Kia Kaha
Nigel Greening

Nigel Greening, Felton Road
Nigel Greening Felton Road

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