Principles of Pinot Noir- Is New Zealand the new Burgundy

New Zealand wines are the words on everyone’s lips with a relatively young history they have added a tidal wave of influences on the greater wine regions of the world, we are now standing and listening. New Zealand Wines moreover Pinot, should hold a worthy place in your cellar. Native to Burgundy and notoriously fickle the Pinot Noir grape has found in New Zealand a home away from home. Their special combination of soil, climate and water, innovative spirit and their commitment to quality, come together to deliver pure and intense wines. Our members always ask where do we buy Pinot from in New Zealand. In this offer we give you some options, we feature Pinot Noirs from North to the very south of the island and define some regional styles. Some of these examples are exclusive to Vinified. You can decide which style is better North vs South more importantly Martinborough vs Central Otago.

Marlborough centred on the town of Blenheim, is New Zealand’s flagship wine region. Which, in combination with Sauvignon Blanc, put the country on the international wine stage. More than just Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough offers increasing depth in varieties and terroir. Established in the 1960’s, the region has come of age. It is dissected by a river and made up by three valleys, the combination of a cool, yet high sunshine climate, low rainfall and free-draining, fertile soil produces lively and fresh Pinot Noirs. Look out for vibrant red colours and cherry fruits. Famous producers: Montana, Fromm La Strada, Cloudy Bay and Dog Point.

Martinborough, for some 30 years has been quietly work toward becoming a world-class wine village. Look out for Pinots with big structure, fruit sweetness and complexity. 20,000 years of ancient geology sets these wines apart, vines are grown in alluvial river terraces, loam soils and stony escarpments. Low cropping levels partly due to the strong northwest winds sometimes present at flowering time, further concentrate flavours in grapes. The climate is about hot dry summers and cold frosty winters, perfect for further capturing acid and texture of fine Pinot Noir. Although only accounting for one percent of New Zealand’s wine production, this regions bats above its weight and is regularly compared to Burgundy. These wines in general are heavier than those of their southern counterparts. Famous producers: Palliser Estate, Escarpment, Craggy Estate, Dry River and Ata Rangi.

Central Otago ‘ Central’ is an awe-inspiring place to make wine, centered around Queenstown, this is the world’s southernmost wine outpost and the country’s highest, with its semi-continental climate frosts are an accepted. However the marked variation, high sunshine and short, hot summers provide an eloquent, albeit brutal, landscape for vines: site selection is everything here. Dry autumns and overall low humidity are significant assets, helping to coax both amazing purity and complexity from the fruits of the vine. Central has six sub – regions stretching from Wanaka 80kms to the north of Queenstown through Bannockburn, Alexandra, Bendigo and the Crowell Pisa basin located on the valley floor 25 Kms south of its namesake township of Cromwell at the foot of the picturesque snow capped mountains. Your looking for wines with a nervous energy of acid and robust tannins, soft and sweet red fruits. Some even have added complexity of herbs and spice and all things nice. Famous producers; Rippon, Felton Road, Chard Farm and Amisfield.

Tasting Notes

Ata Rangi ‘Lismore’ Pinot Gris 2014 – Martinborough

Almost clear, gentle aromatics on the nose, musk, pear and white florals like jasmine. This example of white Pinot in the mouth is fine, textured with nectarine and almond tart characters. Some alcohol warmth on the back palate if anything. Fermented in both tank and puncheon for texture. Will fill out over the next 3-4 years. Cellar 2015 – 2018

Shaky Bridge, ‘Pioneer’ Alexandra 2012 – Central Otago

Founded in 1973 This is a savory example of southern Pinot Noir. It is beautifully lifted on the nose with dark blueberry and floral aromas, followed by a juicy forest floor palate that’s well rounded with and gamey undertone. The wine is well balanced and has integrated tannins and will develop rich complexity. Cellar 2015 – 2017 5yrs+

Pisa Range ‘Run 245’ Pinot Noir 2011 – Pisa Range, Central Otago

The is a super seductive wine, taken from a group of vineyards. Reddish purple in colour, broad aromatic spectrum of olives, bay leaf and blueberries. A mid palate wine with dark cheery fruit and hints of spiced oak with clove and coffee overtones. Batting well above its average. With good cellaring potential. This is a sophisticated wine with good acids, integrated tannins and has an intensely fruity finish. Great concentration. One of the wines of the night at our series of Mister Jennings dinners in Richmond, Melbourne. Cellar 2015 – 2017 5yrs.

Julicher Estate Pinot Noir Te Muna Road 2011 – Martinborough 

From a Dutch husband and wife team, these grapes were hand-harvested and de-stemmed into small open top vats for fermentation and finished in French oak. The nose here is gamey and has a little funk, the mouthful is rich, balanced with silky tannins wrapped around spicy black cherries and a hint of mocha on the finish. Sensational palate and exclusive to Vinified Cellaring: 2017 – 2019 8yrs + 13% alcohol and choc-full of goodness.

Quest Farm Pinot Noir 2011 Pisa Range – Central Otago

Mark Mason and Michelle Crawford live and work on a stunningly beautiful site located on the Parkburn, nestled in the foothills of the Pisa Range. From a 150-hectare site, 20 hectares have been planted into 18 different vineyard blocks. Different soils, aspects, altitude, clone and rootstock add layers of complexity. Hand picked, small batch fermented, hand plunged, basket pressed – made with passion this wine this is so pretty. It was a standout in the line up. Light-ish in colour, aroma’s build to crushed strawberries and red rose and there is just an inkling of French oak spice here. The palate delivers with roundness wand fruits of the forest alongside star anise with silky and defined tannins. WOW! Cellar 2015 – 2017, 5 – 7years.

Cellar release – Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ Pinot Noir 2009- Martinborough 

2009 was a cracking vintage in Martinborough, this single vineyard wine from a 22 year old vineyard is a standout. Winemaker Larry McKenna and his team stand at the top of the tree for quality. This is dense dark and a black bold example from the deep alluvial gravel soils of Martinborough terraces. Way bigger than I expected. It has been matured in 30% new oak, it has good acids, a really soft mouth feel with notes of plums and clove. Very big style. Cellar 2017 -2019, 10 years

Hawkdun Rise Pinot Noir 2011  Cromwell Basin – Central Otago

We love this wine a blue elite gold winner at the recent Air New Zealand Wine awards (1 of three). It is beautiful. Crimson in colour, initially quite light on the front palate, builds with thyme and sage notes, filling out with some plush plump red berries in the mid palate and a long savory finish. Exclusive to Vinified. Classy wine with good cellaring potential. Cellar 2017 – 2019, 8 years.

Overall the differences in the two regions after two fabulous events are Martinborough, on average has older vines, their wines are bigger and bolder with savoury palates, earthy characters and forests floor flavours, very distinctive. Central Otago has exploded, with its several sub-regions stretching from Wanaka 80kms to the north of Queenstown through Bannockburn, Alexandra, Bendigo and the Crowell Pisa basin. The big difference on the palate in these wines is freshness and defined acids. Martinborough has tannins and Central has acids, Central wines are softer, red berry spectrum of fruit and can be simple in wetter years. Regions are equally cellar worthy but styles are very different. We can no longer bundle New Zealand Pinot Noir into the one bowl, the regions are now stand alone. When we started this journey our flagged was firmly rooted in the Martinborough camp, our thinking has changed…maybe.