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1903 vintage still a good drop

By Jake Beleski

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In 1903 we had the first Tour de France, Atletico Madrid football club was founded, and the first box of Crayola crayons was sold for five cents.

It was also the year Lansdowne Vineyard produced a certain claret — and by all accounts it still tastes pretty good.

There are just a few bottles of it left and a group of wine writers and judges from overseas, as well as a few local connoisseurs, gathered at Masterton’s Brancepeth historic homestead on Saturday to open one of them.

Edward Beetham is the fourth generation to farm the family property, and said the feedback to the wine had been “phenomenal”.

“The one we had on Saturday is called claret, which seemed to be a generic name for anything that was a blend in those days.

“It has a high content of pinot noir, believed to be over 50 per cent.”

The wine could be traced back to his great-great-uncle, William Beetham, and his wife, Marie Zelie Hermanze, who emigrated from England in 1855.

Understandably, after such a long time, some bottles were no longer drinkable, Mr Beetham said.

“Of good bottles there are probably 40 or 50 left, but there’s probably 150 that have wine in them but the corks have not withstood the test of time.

“If the corks have had it and the wine has oxidised, it will go off very quickly.”

The wine’s flavour changed significantly over time, but it was still “quite pleasant”.

“There’s nothing like it today,” he said.

“It’s different – just with age I suppose.”

There had been no conscious effort to save the wine for such a long time, but circumstances ensure that happened.

“It was just the way it’s unfolded – I think the passion for wine has waxed and waned over the years.”

The pinot noir connection is significant, as the Pinot Noir NZ 2017 celebration is on in Wellington this week.

Over 600 of the most influential wine writers, industry experts and imbibers from 20 countries congregated on the Wellington waterfront yesterday for the start of three days of tastings and an overall submergence in the pinot noir variety.

Actor and winery owner Sam Neill is in town for the event, and said it was something he always looked forward to.

“It’s wonderful to be back in Wellington for Pinot Noir NZ 2017 – a must for New Zealand’s wine industry and anyone involved in producing, selling or writing about pinot noir.”

“I’m looking forward to reconnecting with pinot affiliated friends from all over the world, who are always a colourful mix of farmers, aficionados and revellers.

“It’s wine we’re celebrating, so there’s a tendency to have some fun along the way.”

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