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Central Otago Pinot made by legendary Burgundy winemaker… introducing the stunning Prophet’s Rock Cuvee Aux Antipodes!

06 March 2017|Cellar Journal

Cellar Journal readers will notice the different format today, but a wine like this requires a little more space than the normal email template will allow. I also fear I might start to rave on – since I’m about as excited by this ‘Cuvee Aux Antipodes’ as I have been by any wine I have offered in nearly 5 years of writing this weekly offer!


It was nearly 2 years ago when we heard about an exciting and clandestine project going on in Central Otago. Francois Millet, the winemaker for Comte Georges de Vogues in Musigny, had visited his friend and protégée Paul Pujol at Prophet’s Rock. He’d fallen in love with the region and its wines and so the two men agreed that Francois could have his pick of any Pinot Noir fruit he wanted from Prophet’s Rock’s Bendigo ‘Home Block’ to make a wine for himself. Even for such a legendary winemaker as Francois, what happened next was incredible… From just a simple walk-through of the vineyard, he was able to identify the small section of vines that always made Paul’s finest parcels – and then swipe the fruit for his own cuvee! Paul must have bitten his tongue hard enough to draw blood…

Such other-worldly skill is what makes Francois Millet something of a God among men to lovers of Burgundy wine. As the winemaker of De Vogue for the last 30 years, he is entrusted with large portions of Chambolle’s only two Grand Crus, Bonnes Mares and the mythical Musigny. The names of these vineyards are whispered with reverence by Pinot lovers the world over and a bottle of either starts at about $750 a bottle (if you’re lucky enough to find them of course!) Very small production, De Vogue Grand Crus are greedily snapped up by collectors and trade for much, much more on the secondary market.

You’ll be beginning to see why I am so excited… what could a winemaker like Francois do with what I personally think is Central Otago’s finest Single Vineyard? We have been bursting to taste the wine and we finally got our chance on Thursday 16 February – that it was in the presence of the two winemakers themselves, Francois and Paul, made the evening one I won’t soon forget.

Even more unforgettable was the wine itself… Though I know how outstanding the Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noirs are (I collect them myself), nothing quite prepared me for what I tasted in the Cuvee Aux Antipodes. A wine of such incredible finesse and elegance, it has a lightness of touch and an ethereal, gossamer texture like the finest silk. Unmistakably Central Otago on the one hand, yet strangely foreign at the same time, it has to be the finest wine I have ever tasted from the region.

Many of Francois’ winemaking techniques have been honed by his reverence for the great terroirs of Musigny and Bonnes Mares. He believes in doing the absolute bare minimum to let the vineyard express itself and avoids extracting too much (a common criticism of New World winemakers). With Musigny he doesn’t plunge the wine at all during fermentation, merely wetting the cap, while he has to take what he calls a ‘firm hand’ with Bonnes Mares – which means he plunges it once! It’s a philosophy that Paul Pujol has been gradually adopting with his own wines, and each vintage has been better than the last. There is a lesson for New Zealand winemakers there – at least those with truly special vineyard sites.

Sadly not many winemakers will get to try this Prophet’s Rock Cuvee Aux Antipodes 2015, since only 293 dozen were made and a substantial amount goes offshore to satisfy fans of De Vogue wines the world over. We have secured a small allocation (substantial by NZ retail standards) and it is being offered to Cellar Journal readers on a first-come basis. Maximum 6-bottles per customer, this is a great chance to start your collection of what could well become NZ’s most collectible Pinot Noir. We have confirmation that there is a 2016 Cuvee Aux Antipodes in barrel and it will be offered first to those who buy this year – so I would highly recommend getting in on the ground floor.

In fact, if you only buy one Pinot Noir to cellar this year, ensure it is this one!