Day 1 of Pinot Noir NZ 2013. The key note speakers have challenged and entertain and now we start exploring the key Pinot Noir producing regions in depth. To be honest I wasn’t too excited by where I had been assigned to start my journey of exploration but here goes…
Marlborough wines have been a real surprise for me. This my 3rd Pinot Noir NZ event and I can only recall one or two Marlborough wine that rated in my top wines. The others were definitely not memorable! This time, however, I found a lot to like and the progress was exponential. This is, of course, the area of NZ famous for Sauvignon Blanc and there are many producers here who are household names around the world. Perhaps not the usual location to find producers passionate about a variety such as Pinot!
The region boasts 24,000 ha of wine grape producing vineyards, only a fraction of which is planted to Pinot Noir yet already Pinot Noir from Malborough represents 46% of NZ production – the largest area. A fact that surprised me.
Site selection has become much more considered and so has clone choices. Have said that, it is clear there is no real consensus yet on identifying optimal terroirs. The three sub-regions all have new plantings and it will be some time before these subregions become more clearly understood.
Climate is main influence in Marlborough wines – moderate temperatures because of proximity to water, ie Maritime influence and protection from potentially extreme weather from the west due to mountain ranges. This rain shadow produces dry wind and low humidity making Malborough highly suitable for organic growing. 1500 ha of organic vineyards have been established already. The other natural advantage the region has is Lux quality of light and the have it in abundance – 2500 light hours of pure bright light! The vines love it but the vineyard workers need lots of sun protection.
Reticulation of water enabled dry sites here to be developed in the Southern slopes.
The pinot noirs produced here are now showing good primary cherry fruit flavours, smooth often plush tannins and good acid. Many different styles are developing from fruit driven to more floral to powerful tannic wines. Sites with underlying shingles and silt are often perfumed. Clays sites have “shoulders” i.e. more body and tannins. There is a palate of flavours here.
Malborough pinot noir often offer good value as the region is developing its reputation and often Pinot production is a side line to larger scale Sauvignon Blanc production.
The wines that I particularly liked were (all 2010 vintage):