Burn Cottage, Central Otago
A south Island New Zealand road trip, part 3


With its Goethe-derived labels and biodynamic viticulture, Burn Cottage is an interesting project. Since its debut in 2009, the Burn Cottage Pinot Noir has become one of Central Otago's most talked about and sought after wines.


Burn Cottage is the project of American Marquis (pronounced Marcus) Sauvage (above). He hired a stellar team of Ted Lemon (consultant) and Claire Mulholland (winemaker) to oversee it. It's a 27 hectare property with 10.2 hectares of vines, on the border of Lowburn, towards Bannockburn. The soils are predominantly sandy loams, with some gravel, and also some fluvial and alluvial outwash.

Ted Lemon and Claire Mulholland 

Marquis Sauvage's family have a history in agriculture, initially in Kansas, and later in Australia. In the 1990s they entered the wine distribution business. They also own a winery in the Pfalz, Germany. The land for Burn Cottage was previously sheep farming country, and they bought it at auction in 2002.

Ted explained that how they'd underestimated the influence of the wind here: it's almost always negative (they don't agree that it has any benefit in reducing vigour), and so they have spent a lot of time and money establishing shelter belts. We also met with Shane Livingstone, the vineyard manager. From the outset, this site has been managed biodynamically. 'We were ridiculed by a lot of people in Central Otago at the time,' says Ted. But now Burn Cottage has a great reputation for its Pinot Noir. Consultancy help has come from Peter Proctor, who is a Kiwi who works widely, including projects in India. 'The way Peter teaches biodynamics is very different from other consultants,' says Ted.

The vineyard is in a north-east facing amphitheatre with the Pisa mountains behind. Most (93%) is planted to Pinot Noir, with the Abel clone in the majority at 23% (the full set of clones: Abel, 10/5, UCD5, 777, 667, 115, 114, MV6, 943, 828). When the grapes are pea size, they go through and remove the shoulders and the shattered grapes to get more even ripening. First plantings were 2003, although they had quite a bit of trouble getting good planting material at that time. As a result, most of the vineyard was planted in this and subsequent years, although half a hectare was added after that every year until 2009.

We tried a range of the wines that have been released so far. The 2014 Moonlight Race is a new regional blend from three different vineyards, and it's direct and delicious. Of the Burn Cottage Pinots, 2014 had a slight edge over 2013 and 2012, both of which were very good.

There's a new wine: the Riesling/Gruner Veltliner, first produced in 2014. This is quite an impressive textured white with some peppery notes alongside the pear fruit, and it's lovely.


Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Sweet with lush, floral cherry fruit. Sweet, warmly spicy and grippy with freshy red cherries and spice. Textural and very fine. 95/100 (02/17)

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
17% whole cluster, 29% new oak. This has concentration and freshness with black cherries, plums and spice. Lovely texture: fine-grained tannins with really sweet cherry fruit. Very stylish, fresh and fine. Not acidified. 94/100 (01/16)

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
24% whole bunch, 22% new oak. Fine with slightly peppery, spicy nose on the nose. Ripe, sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit on the palate, showing lovely freshness and definition. Fine, spicy notes, too, with lovely fruit quality and texture. 94/100 (01/16)

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2012 Central Otago, New Zealand
There’s a lovely autumnal character to the nose with a sappy green edge to the black cherry and blackberry fruit. The palate has lovely texture and freshness with richness combined. Fine grained tannins and sweet liqueur-like black fruits. Served slightly cooler, this has lovely focus. 95/100 (03/17)

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2012 Central Otago, New Zealand
10% whole bunch, 25% new oak. Fine, spicy herby nose with an intriguing pepper and ginger quality. Fresh, juicy, vivid palate has brightness and also some structure. Nice acidity here: quite textural with a savoury twist. 93/100 (01/16)

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
Fruity, vivid and juicy with subtle green notes on the nose. Lovely precise palate has a bit more detail than the 2010 and shows wonderful purity of fruit. Real elegance here. 95/100 (02/14)

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
Beautifully focused nose: fine, expressive with lovely perfume of floral black cherry fruit. The palate is supple and ripe with sweet fruit. Fine with nice weight, but elegant despite the concentration of flavour. Beautifully put together. 95/100 (02/14)

Burn Cottage Moonlight Race Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is a regional blend from Burn Cottage vineyard, Northburn vineyard (organic) and Cox Family vineyard (in Gibbston, sustainable). 15% whole cluster and 19% new oak. Aromatic with fresh black cherries and some raspberries, as well as hints of tar and spice. The palate has a hint of spicy oak and direct, fresh, sweet black cherries. Lovely wine. 93/100 (01/16)

Burn Cottage Riesling/Gruner Veltliner 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
Roughly half/half of each variety. Grapey sweetness with some white pepper, melon and pear notes. Textural, with a fresh, slightly pithy finish and a hint of sweetness. 92/100 (01/16)


Mount Maude, Central Otago
Rippon, Central Otago
Burn Cottage
Prophet's Rock

Central Otago masterclass
Burgundy masterclass
24 fine wines tasted at the Grand Dinner

Gibbston Valley
Chard Farm
Wooing Tree
Folding Hill
Mount Difficulty
Lowburn Ferry
Grasshopper Rock
Doctors Flat

Visiting Central Otago, New Zealand (2010) (series)
Visiting Martinborough, New Zealand (series)

Wines tasted as indicated month/year
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