New Zealand has a fantastic range of pinot noir wines from regions on both the north and south islands. The following wines were tasted in February, 2010 and represent some of the best pinots that NZ has to offer:
Bell Hill Pinot Noir 2007 – 98 points.
Youthful but beautifully structured, velvet tannins, long persistent flavors. From a 1-hectare plot of vines on a limestone slope at Waikari, inland from Waipara, in North Canterbury, this is an outstanding Pinot Noir. Deeply coloured, with sweet cherry, plum and spice flavours, complex but needs time to develop. Words like powerful yet harmonious and graceful spring to mind. My top NZ wine!
Hans Herzog Pinot Noir ‘Grand Duc’ 2007 – 97 points.
This is Hans’ reserve wine from his meticulously maintained Marlborough vineyard – a vineyard selection of the best block of that particular vintage. Richly coloured in the glass with inviting aromas of ripe blackberry, raspberry and cherry. The palate is full-bodied with a luscious, velvety texture, ripe dark cherry fruit aromas with undertones of cigar smoke and well-balanced acidity. Intense, elegant and complex. 14.8% alcohol didn’t appear hot in the cool of NZ but may be a problem in some circumstances!
Schubert 2008 Pinot Noir “Block B ” – 96 points
Tight, multilayered nose showing sweet red and black berry fruits with some chocolaty spicy aromas from the oak. In the mouth it has quite a density of elegant ripe cherry and berry fruit with citrusy spice, hints of coffee and showing very nice minerality. Good concentration and some silky-yet-firm structure of smooth but present tannins. Age worthy. 14+% alcohol.
Akarua Cadence Pinot Noir 2007 96 points
One of my favorite, lesser-known Central Otago wines. 2007 Cadence is a barrel selected reserve showing complex notes of plum, dark berries and spice. The palate is rich with layers of dark berry fruits supported by good tanins, integrated oak and a long finish with touch of spice. 95 Points Gourmet Traveller WINE, 5 Stars, Winestate.
Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2008 – 96 points.
A “grand cru” Pinot Noir from Martinborough. The 2008 was a better-yielding vintage for Martinborough producers compared to 2007 but the fruit quality was excellent. Awarded 97/100 from Nick Stock in his Penguin Buyers’ Guide. Consistently outstanding producer.
Muddy Water Hare’s Breath Pinot Noir 2007 – 96 points Deep mahogany colour, lifted nose of dark fruits with a touch of smokiness. Silky tannins with a little grip on the finish. Length was excellent. Tasted blind during the International tasting at Pinot Noir NZ 2010. Described by Oz Clark as follows: “reminds me of cassoulet and cuddles in front of a log fire”. “Not joyous but good, definitely a wine of its place”.
Bald Hills Single Vineyard Central Otago 2007 – 95 points
The 2007 Bald Hills displays deep colour and good clarity with black cherry aromas, and is layered with very bright red fruit flavors. It has good intensity, length and texture with a finish of star anise spice.
Mt Difficulty Single Vineyard Long Gully Pinot Noir 2007 – 95 points
This single vineyard produces the most concentrated of the Mt. Difficulty wines and was cropped at less than 0.8 tonne/acre. Only 380 cases are produced – the single vineyards are not made every year. Unfined / unfiltered. Medium ruby with purple tints. Floral aromas give way to red cherry and raspberry, with spice and thyme. Fine grained tannins. Concentrated flavours yet still elegant. Long finish with a bit of spice and wild herbs.
Julicher Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2007 – 95 points.
Wonderful depth of flavours as a result of a low-yielding vintage, Earthiness and smooth tannins. The 2008 has won a Trophy (Pinot Noir) and Wine of the Show at the Air NZ Wine Awards!!! Limited stocks – one only left in Martinborough Wine Centre when we visited there!
Craiggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir 2007 – 94 points
Medium clarity, unfiltered/cloudy. Highly perfumed, lifted, maybe a touch volatile, soft sweet fruit with touches of burgundian flavors – mushrooms and wild herbs. Fine tannins and good structure.
Te Hera Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006 – 94 points
***GREAT VALUE. A truly exciting very small Martinborough producer that is handcrafted with passion. Lovely dark cherry and berry fruit, some floral notes supported by subtle smoky oak and a hint of spice. The 2007 Pinot and barrel samples of 2008 are also very good and show consistency from this small producer. Under-priced!
Schubert 2008 Pinot Noir “Marion’s Vineyard” – 94 points
**VALUE. Strikingly ripe and sweet aromas of red berries, this ruby coloured medium bodied wine has a lovely cherry filled palate fine tannins and acidity maintaining the wine’s elegance. Long finish with some spice and good structure. Drinking beautifully now and will improve. Highly recommended,
Vynfields Martinborough Pinot Noir 2008 – 94 points.
**VALUE. Perfume, elegant fruit flavours, and soft ripe tannins are all hallmarks of this outstanding Pinot Noir. Another small family Martinborough producer that is totally organic and made with passion and enthusiasm.
Mountford Estate Pinot Noir 2008 – 94 points.
Highly aromatic, lifted almost estery with violet notes. Feminine palate of this wine from Waipara is quite a contrast from the Martinborough and Central
Otago wines. Palate of sweet uncomplicated fruit but will develop. Has charm.
Julicher Estate ’99 Rows’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2008 – 93 points ***GREAT VALUE. The second label of its premium Julicher Estate label, this is approachable in its youth with clean fruit and soft tannins. Elite Gold at Air NZ Wine Awards!
Pyramid Valley Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 – 93 points.
Very sweet fruit, nice burgundian background, soft fine finish with a little grip. Will develop nicely and expect the fruit to integrate and develop more savoury palate. Has potential.
Kusuda Pinot Noir 2008 92 points.
Meticulously maintained vineyard in the heart of Martinborough: the fruit is harvested and sorted with great care. Made by Hiro Kusuda, a Japanese ex lawyer and diplomat. The wine has a lifted nose, red berry and raspberry fruit with some grip. A little unbalanced with prominent high acidity which, at this stage, somewhat marred the experience. Needs time.
Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2008 – 92 points.
Perfume, light to medium weight, elegant fruit flavours, and soft ripe tannins make this a very nice Pinot Noir.
Peregrine Pinot Noir 2008 – 92 points.
Palate shows the fruit purity with good depth and spice. The 2008 growing season was long with above average temperatures providing the perfect conditions for Central Otago Pinot Noir. The fruit is sourced from the Cromwell basin and Gibbston sub regions. Already won a Gold at the Sydney Top 100.
Amisfield Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 – 91 points.
Expensive but a nice pinot although slightly disappointing compared to my previous encounters with earlier vintages and barrel tastings in 2004.
Note – the above scores are my own rating.
Notes from NZ Pinot Noir 2010 and subsequent visit to Martinborough. 1-9 February, 2010