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New Zealand Pinot Noirs

6 February 2017

I am a fan of Pinot Noir, especially those from Burgundy. Before today, I did not have a chance to taste much of Pinot Noir from New Zealand, where Pinot Noir is the second most widely planted grape variety after Sauvignon Blanc. Today, I have learned a lot from Debra Meiburg MW and Liam Stevenson MW from a WineSPIT workshop: "Exploring New Zealand's Pinot Noir", where I tasted twelve samples side by side, and looked at this same grape, in depth, from a single country. Pinot Noir is renowned of its clonal variations and its ability to reflect terroir. New Zealand is constantly sunny making Pinot Noir with pronounced fruits. That said, Pinot Noirs can still be able to reflect in the regionality within the country: Marlborough Pinot Noir is bright, brilliant and flossy, with a round palate; Martinborough with more clay soil produces spicier and more savoury versions with a heavier and wider palate, closer to the Burgundian style; Waipara with predominant limestone soil, produces more aromatic, delicate and silky styles; while Central Otago with its continental climate makes Pinot Noirs with heavier weight, higher concentration with a richer palate. For me, New Zealand Pinot Noirs are very value-for-money and quite an alternative choice other than Burgundy reds.

As Pinot Noir grapes are thin-skinned, it is key to extract colour and tannin in winemaking. Liam explained how Pinot Noir hated human handling and that it just wanted "natural work". That's why increasingly winemakers are pushing on the fruit by hand, trying to extract colour and flavour without extracting too many tannins.

The twelve wines tasted are:

  • Astrolabe Province Pinot Noir 2014

  • Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014

  • Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2014

  • Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2014

  • Paddy Borthwick Pinot Noir 2015

  • Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir 2014

  • Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2012

  • Muddy Water Pinot Noir 2012

  • Mount Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2014

  • Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir 2012

  • Felton Road Calvert Pinot Noir 2014

  • Kumeu River Hunting Hill Pinot Noir 2014

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