June 8th, 2018/ BY Michael Pinkus

Pay attention to New Zealand Pinot Noir

Sure, we know New Zealand for Sauvignon Blanc — after all, it’s what made the country a household name — but there are other grape varieties that should now share some of the spotlight that’s on the little-island-that-could in the South Hemisphere.

For many years, New Zealand has been overshadowed by its southern neighbour. However, while Australia’s star in the wine world has fallen, New Zealand’s has continued to rise. Since winemakers and growers know that can’t last, they are trying to show the world there is more to New Zealand wine than just Sauvignon Blanc. There’s also Pinot Gris and Chardonnay on the North and South Island but New Zealand shouldn’t be seen as only a white wine destination; there are reds in those hills too. And that’s where those grapes are growing, especially New Zealand Pinot Noir, which is garnering a lot of attention and excitement, up and down the islands.

Pinot Noir is having its day in the sun and people are paying special attention to the grape across New Zealand. From the juicy, easy-drinking versions being made in Marlborough to the alternative styles of Martinborough, right down to the robust, complex and elegant versions being made in the Central Otago, Pinot lovers should be keeping an eye open for what’s next because this grape is definitely on deck.

Pinot Noir has become a passion for many winemakers. But while there is also a love of Chardonnay because of how it can be manipulated, Pinot does not provide that luxury. The grape is fickle and finicky, yet the results can be magical if handled in the proper way.

Having recently visited the country and tasted Pinot Noir from top to bottom, I can safely say the diversity coming out of New Zealand is as good as anywhere in the world — and getting better. It truly is a Pinot-lover’s paradise. Whether you like ’em juicy or chewy, tannin-laced or smooth as silk, New Zealand has got you covered as each region continues to evolve its Pinot program, with more vines going into the ground (the right kind of ground) all the time. And with each additional planting, winemakers have more material to play with. At this rate, I would not be surprised to see Zealand on the lips of every Pinot drinker within the next five to 10 years. Here are 16 reasons why…



16 New Zealand Pinot Noir worth tasting

Escarpment Te Rehua Pinot Noir 2016, Martinborough ($67)

Rich dark berries with a hint of baked plum and gentle spice. There’s also a tickle of floral along with some herbal character and a complex tannic finish that appears non-aggressive.

Te Kairanga Runholder Pinot Noir 2016, Martinborough ($30)

Made from the oldest and best vines on the Martinborough Terrace. Spiced blueberry and raspberry on the nose followed by strawberry, cran-cherry and some savoury bits. Subtly creamy mid with gentle spice on the finish.

Martinborough Vineyard Home Block Pinot Noir 2015, Martinborough ($59)

35-year-old vines with the addition of 15% whole-bunch press helps give this wine some weight and spice without going over the top. Cherry liquorice nose leads to a palate of sweet black cherry, anise and white pepper.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2016, Martinborough ($67)

A parcel blend from fruit that’s more than 20 years old and aged 6 months extra in oak after blending. Mineral and spiced plum sit at the core of this wine while the fruit comes across dark and spicy. To be released this fall.

Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2016, Martinborough ($45)

There’s a back-end tension to this wine that makes it stand out: it has a spicy edge on the nose while on the palate it’s plum and dark fruit with some smoked-cranberry notes.

Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir 2014, Central Otago ($72)

This Marlbrough winery realized the potential of the Otago early on and now produces this beauty annually. It’s a fruit-driven affair that’s rich with texture helped by the acidity of the area. Spiced blackberry and wood smoke show themselves mid-palate, but it’s the peppery-spicy finish with a hint of floral that makes this one so special.

Allan Scott Generations Pinot Noir 2016, Marlborough ($27)

Simple meets tasty in this bottle: black cherry, strawberry, cranberry and earthy notes with a finish that lingers on with cherry and spice.

Tim Heath
Tim Heath, senior winemaker at Cloudy Bay

Pinot Noir is having its day in the sun


Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Marlborough ($43)

Makers and growers of only 3 grapes (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir) so they have to do them all justice. These 22-year-old vines are planted on their own root stock and produce a savoury, plummy, Christmas spice, blackberry and smoky version while adding clove and cinnamon on the finish.

Mahi Wines Pinot Noir 2016, Marlborough ($31)

Three weeks on skins and 15 months in oak, with only 8% new, gives this wine a freshness of fruit you would not expect: cranberry, blueberry and pretty bits of sour cherry on the finish.

Marisco Vineyards The Kings Wrath Pinot Noir 2016, Marlborough ($27)

Lots of restraint is shown both on the nose and palate, especially when you consider it saw 50% new oak for 9 months, in larger pungent format, not barrique. Violet, cran-cherry, earthy and juicy at its core, it’s fruit-driven with a tense tannin backbone.

Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Pinot Noir 2013, Waipara Valley ($81.50)

A barrel selection taken from the un-grafted and oldest vines on the property, because those give the best skin to juice ratio, then aged in 40% new oak. Big red fruit, red liquorice and a slightly savoury note that turns spicy on the finish. Very elegant.

Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir 2016, Central Otago ($78)

An un-fined and un-filtered Pinot taken almost entirely off a 1.7-hectare block and aged 16 months in oak. Surprisingly delicate with a mocha-latte and cherry nose that follows onto the palate. Retains great acidity and hints of smoke and spice on the finish.

Akarua KOLO Pinot Noir 2015, Central Otago ($77)

It’s a bruiser of a Pinot, but by the time you reach the end there’s a delicacy you didn’t see coming. Plum, black cherry, and mineral kick things off, robust tannins show up middle to finish but so too do cinnamon, clove, pepper and a pretty floral nuance.

Seresin Leah Pinot Noir 2014, Marlborough ($30)

This biodynamic vineyard has a good handle on Pinot Noir and in this version (they make quite a few) violets meet cran-cherry, deriving a silky palate that shows savoury notes and gentle spice on the finish.

Peregrine Pinot Noir 2015, Central Otago ($41)

We’re heading down closer to Queenstown here, yet it’s still Otago. We’re looking at a marginal grape-growing climate where Pinot thrives. This is a 3 sub-region blend that shows depth of dark fruit, spice, mocha and black cherry.

Amisfield Reserve RKV Pinot Noir 2014 ($109)

From the Rocky Knoll Vineyard, a 2-hectare plot that gets some pretty special treatment from beginning to end. Well-structured with spiced red fruit up front and black fruits like black cherry, plum and blackberry all mingling with elegant spices.



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