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11.06.2013

The Best of New Zealand Pinot Noir

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Sometimes it almost seems possible to taste the beauty of a place when we're sipping a wine. If this were actually possible, instead of just being a compelling romantic metaphor that we like to invoke about wine, then without a doubt, the world's greatest wines would come from New Zealand.

There's little to say about New Zealand's staggering beauty that hasn't been said in words well by others, and a million times over in photographs. It's one of the most unspoiled landscapes on the planet, and its diverse topography defies easy description.

Not everyone can manage a visit to New Zealand, but luckily we can all drink its wines. The country became famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, but Pinot Noir was the grape that cemented New Zealand's reputation as a world-class wine region worth everyone's attention.

That was about a decade ago, and a lot has happened since. That was also about the last time I had been to the country. Then, in January of this year I had the occasion to return to New Zealand for their bi-annual New Zealand Pinot Noir conference in Wellington.

Returning to taste through hundreds of Pinot Noirs ended up being a remarkable experience. Akin to running into an old high school classmate only to find that she's starring in Hollywood blockbusters. You remembered her as being kind of cute when you were seventeen, but now? Holy crap.

In short, there is now some seriously fantastic Pinot Noir being made in New Zealand. The finest wines (some from long-standing producers, some from relative newcomers) have reached new heights of quality and finesse, but more impressively, the overall quality of the middle of the pack, those hundreds of small and mid-size producers, has dramatically improved. This is true perhaps nowhere so much as in Central Otago. More about that below in the context of those wines.

New Zealand Pinot Noir provided anyone willing to focus an unparalleled opportunity to taste literally hundreds of wines from all over the country, and so I buckled down and focused. Over three days I tasted around 250 pinots, most from the 2010 vintage, with a good representation of 2011, as well as a smattering of wines from 2004 to the present.

My tasting notes and scores for these wines are grouped below by region. I hope you will take the opportunity to seek out some of these wines, as the best of them are truly world-class.


Canterbury + Waipara

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Lake Forsyth Vineyard, Canterbury

The next time I go to New Zealand, the very first place I'm headed is North Canterbury. Located on the country's South Island, the Canterbury wine region is actually now two areas: the alluvial plains that surround the city of Christchurch, and a more newly developed valley about an hour to the north called Waipara, that distinguishes itself by being slightly warmer, and containing large amounts of limestone soils, which are not particularly common in New Zealand. Over 60% of the region is planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with Riesling coming in a distant third in terms of popularity.

Waipara is frankly the most exciting new winegrowing area of New Zealand in my opinion, in part due to a single producer, Bell Hill, who are making some of the most stunning wines I've tasted from New Zealand. Along with another producer, Pyramid Valley, they represent a glimpse into the future potential of the place. Both are small, family-run outfits, farming biodynamically, and making wines of extreme elegance and distinctiveness.

If you've not had a chance to try them, I cannot recommend them highly enough. These two producers were the highlight of my trip, and will be at the top of my list to visit when I return.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5

2010 Pyramid Valley "Angel Flower Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Canterbury. $60
Medium cloudy garnet in the glass, this wine has a phenomenally perfumed nose of cranberry, floral notes, and black cherry. In the mouth, gorgeous dark and rich cherry, earth, and floral notes swirl in a silky seamless whole that floats effortlessly across the palate. Despite being utterly delicious, it's the texture of this wine that truly bowls me over, seducing with satin and gloss. Gorgeous acidity and fantastic length. A candidate for the best NZ Pinot I've ever had. 13.7% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Pyramid Valley "Earth Smoke Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Canterbury. $50
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth, dark cherry, and piney forest floor with a hint of sandalwood. In the mouth the wine overflows with gorgeous raspberry and cranberry fruit that luxuriates on the palate like the sprawling Queen of Sheba on a bed of velvety tannin. Notes of cedar and dusty earth emerge in the long finish. Wow. 13.2% alcohol. click to buy.

2007 Pyramid Valley "Earth Smoke Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Canterbury
Light cloudy garnet in color, this wine smells of candied apple and flowers. In the mouth stunningly beautiful flavors of red apple skin, redcurrant, earth and leather are possessed of a delicate, lacy acidity and caressed by velvety tannins. Stunningly refined and delicate, with a phenomenal finish. 12.8% alcohol.

2007 Pyramid Valley "Angel Flower Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Canterbury
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a remarkably floral nose with bright redcurrant fruit and a hint of wet stone minerality underneath those juicy aromas. In the mouth, redcurrant, raspberry, cedar, and leather flavors are layered on top of a bed of piney forest floor flavors that lean towards the dark peaty side of earthy. Stunning acidity and faint, velvety tannins linger for a long time in the finish. Remarkable. 12% alcohol.

2011 Tongue in Groove Pinot Noir, Canterbury
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully floral and raspberry aroma. In the mouth the wine is bright and crystalline with flavors of sweet raspberries dusted in faint tannins. Gorgeously bright acidity makes the overall impression of the wine a glassy purity that is quite compelling. 14% alcohol.

2010 Bell Hill Pinot Noir, Waipara
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cranberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth earthy cherry and black raspberry fruit builds into more complex black tea, earth and forest floor notes as supple powdery tannins wrap around the edges of the mouth. Phenomenal acidity and incredible purity through a very, very long finish. Stunning. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Bell Hill Pinot Noir, Waipara
Medium garnet in the glass, This wine smells of candied raspberries, a hint of brown sugar and flowers. In the mouth, gorgeous raspberry fruit has a wonderful aromatically sweet complexion as it mixes with cherry and deeper earth tones. Bright acidity and faint tannins linger for a long time through a gorgeous finish. Delicate, distinctive, and delicious. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2006 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir, Waipara
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cranberry and the sweetness of French oak. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit nestles into a cupped hand of suede-like tannins, and a scent of wet earth. Excellent acidity makes the fruit zingy and the earthy notes make for a nicely balanced package that has both elegance and deeper notes of profundity. Stellar. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir, Waipara
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cranberry and a hint of oak. In the mouth, bright juicy cherry fruit melds with raspberry in a crystalline pure-toned package that is bursting with acidity. Stonier, even metallic mineral and earth tones hang underneath the boisterous fruit, and linger through the long finish. Supple, fine grained tannins. 13.5% alcohol.\ click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5

2010 Bell Hill "Old Weka Pass Road," Pinot Noir, Waipara
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of struck match, bright cherry fruit, and wet earth. In the mouth the wine is exceedingly velvety and smooth on the palate, with gorgeous citrusy cherry fruit that tumbles for minutes in the mouth with deeper earth and herbal notes adding complexity through a long finish. Fantastic. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir, Waipara
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, raspberry, and dark earth. In the mouth the wine has beautiful balance, with juicy notes of raspberry and cherry fruit made bright by excellent acidity. Notes of earth linger in the finish. Seamless and beautifully textured. click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2008 Bell Hill Pinot Noir, Waipara
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of floral notes, cedar, and tightly wound earthy raspberry. In the mouth, tart redcurrant melds with earth amidst leathery tannins and a touch of alcoholic twang, despite the wines very low 13.5% alcohol. This wine may just be at an awkward point in its development. A citrus edge hangs in the finish as well. click to buy.

2010 Pegasus Bay "Prima Donna," Pinot Noir, Waipara
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth flavors of cherry and raspberry have a sweet aspect to them, while suede tannins brush the edges of the mouth. Good acidity and length. click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9

2007 Pyramid Valley "Growers Collection," Pinot Noir, Canterbury
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of citrusy red raspberry and cedar notes. In the mouth, bright raspberry, cedar, and sandalwood flavors mix with a juicy orange peel note in the long finish. 14.2% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Muddy Water Pinot Noir, Waipara click to buy.
2010 Muddy Water "Hares Breath," Pinot Noir, Waipara click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Bellbird Spring "River Terrace," Pinot Noir, Waipara
2010 Fancrest Estate Pinot Noir, Waipara
2010 The Crater Rim Pinot Noir, Waipara


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2010 The Crater Rim "Omihi Rise," Pinot Noir, Waipara


Martinborough + Wairarapa

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Palliser Estate, Martinborough

The Wairarapa region, and its sub region of Martinborough were some of the earliest places to put New Zealand Pinot Noir on the map. The rolling sheep and vineyard covered hills of the southeastern corner of the country's north island offer a beautifully crenellated landscape of old stream beds and fault-shifted soils that support a remarkable range of expression for Pinot Noir. The region is one of the warmer growing sites for Pinot Noir, and similar to Marlborough in its overall climate.

Some of the country's pioneering Pinot producers hail from Martinborough, including notably Ata Rangi and Escarpment, both of whom carried the torch for New Zealand Pinot Noir for years before many took notice. Superstar producer Craggy Range has also gained the region much attention with their devotion to producing a Pinot from Martinborough each year.

While Martinborough still produces some excellent Pinot Noir, it has been somewhat eclipsed in quality and prominence, at least in my eyes, by some other regions of the country at this point.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5

2004 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cedar, and red apple skin. In the mouth, flavors of red apple skin, raspberry and a hint of forest floor have a wonderful aromatic sweetness to them, and a cloudy effortlessness that lets them float across the palate, even as velvety, fine grained tannins eventually bring them back to earth. Long, lovely, and juicy. Aging beautifully. 14% alcohol. click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry and deep wet earth. In the mouth that dark, earthiness takes a turn for the deep, shot through with cherry and cranberry fruit. Leathery tannins grip the palate firmly but great acidity keeps the fruit bright and juicy. Long finish. 13.8% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Craggy Range "Te Muna Road Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of exotic spices, cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, sweet raspberry fruit mixes with darker earth and black cherry notes as notes of forest floor emerge along with the faint tannins that wrap around the core of fruit and linger with fuzzy texture through the finish. Great acidity makes the fruit juicy. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Craggy Range "Te Muna Road Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth the wine is silky as hell, with cherry and raspberry fruit floating on a bed of billowy satin. Velvety tannins seem to emerge from nowhere to caress the mouth. Slightly softer acidity than I'd like but that doesn't detract significantly from the sexiness of this wine. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wonderfully floral raspberry fruit, with notes of green wood. In the mouth beautifully floral cherry and wet earth notes mix with bright citrus notes that linger through a long finish. 40% whole cluster fermentation. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Kusuda Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Medium cloudy garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cedar, and wet earth. In the mouth, high toned cherry, cedar, and the green woody flavors of grape stems mix with deeper earthy notes ad fine grained tannins gently buffet the edge of the mouth. Good length. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Schubert "Marion's Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Wairarapa
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed herbs, raspberries, and redcurrant with a woody undertone. In the mouth, the wine offers a spicy raspberry and bright cherry fruit core wrapped in faint tannins with great length and fantastic acidity. 14.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Schubert "Block B," Pinot Noir, Wairarapa
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cedar, wet wood and wet earth. In the mouth, cherry, cranberry and raspberry fruit bounce across the palate with fantastically juicy acidity and dusted by faint tannins. Excellent finish, and an overall juiciness that makes it quite delicious. 14.5% alcohol. click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2010 Ata Rangi "Crimson," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of crushed mixed berries and bright raspberries in particular. IN the mouth beautiful raspberry and cherry fruit is held in a leather glove of tannins. Excellent acidity and long finish. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2008 Craggy Range "Te Muna Road Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of earthy cherry and raspberry fruit tinged with a hint of cedar. In the mouth, flavors of cedar and raspberry mix with a woody earthy quality. Tightly wound tannins are finely grained but muscular, giving the wine an overall taut quality. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Escarpment "Kupe Single Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Medium to dark cloudy garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pruney cherry and raspberry fruit tinged with cedar. In the mouth flavors of red apple skin, cedar, and cherry mix under a gauzy blanket of fine-grained tannins that are supple and smooth, like a sheet of muscle underneath the fruit. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2006 Kusuda Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of sweet brown sugar, baked apples, and red fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit melds with earth and woody flavors, nicely balanced against good acidity. A hint of alcoholic heat lingers in the long finish, but the wine is quite poised and delicious. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Te Kairanga "Runholder," Pinot Noir, Martinborough click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9

2007 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Medium to dark ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, leather, and earth. In the mouth flavors of dark cherry and dark earth mix with a rich cedar character. Bright acidity and fine grained tannins round out the mix. click to buy.

2010 Dry River Pinot Noir, Martinborough
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of dark cherry fruit. In the mouth, black cherry fruit mixes with darker blueberry notes, earth, and wet tree bark. Fine grained tannins linger for a long time in the finish. 13% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Burnt Spur "Single Vineyard Series," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
2010 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir, Martinborough
2010 Palliser Estate "Green Label," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
2009 Cambridge Road Pinot Noir, Wairarapa
2010 Urlar "Gladstone," Pinot Noir, Wairarapa


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Julicher "Estate," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
2010 Julicher "99 Rows," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
2010 Martinborough Vineyard "Martinborough Terrace," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
2010 Te Kairanga "Estate," Pinot Noir, Martinborough
2010 Cambridge Road Pinot Noir, Wairarapa


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2010 Gladstone Pinot Noir, Wairarapa
2009 Gladstone "Johner," Pinot Noir, Wairarapa


Marlborough

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Churton Vineyards, Marlborough

Tucked into the farthest northeastern corner of New Zealand's south island, just over the hill from the jaw-dropping islands and valleys of the Marlborough Sounds, Marlborough the wine region is rightfully known as the Sauvignon Blanc capital of the Southern Hemisphere. But like a superstar rock drummer that harbors a secret desire to sing lead vocals, Marlborough yearns to be taken more seriously than a $14 bottle of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc would merit.

Well, I'm here to tell you that it's time to hand this guy a microphone. Marlborough Pinot Noir is hot stuff, even if most people still don't know that even Cloudy Bay makes some excellent renditions of it.

I think I had tasted perhaps half a dozen Marlborough Pinot Noirs before this recent trip, and I emerged from an afternoon tasting in their pavillion quite humbled at my ignorance of the region's strength with this grape.

Characterized by several alluvial river valleys, Marlborough is a study in gravelly loams, with massive vineyards sprawling across the flat, former river valleys. Some of the more exciting winemaking, though, is happening on the hillsides, especially in the more southerly Awatere and Southern Valleys areas.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5

2010 Clos Marguerite Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a beautifully perfumed aroma of crushed green herbs, dried flowers and raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry fruit is riddled with savory green and dried herb flavors borne on a very silky texture. Seamless and quite remarkable. 900 cases made. 13% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Greywacke Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of beautifully pure sweet raspberry and a hint of earth. In the mouth, the wine is gorgeously poised, with flavors of raspberry fruit balanced against deep wet earth and wet sawdust. The tannins are faint and luxuriously supple, and add to the wines generally velvety texture. Beautifully balanced and a remarkable first vintage for this producer. 14% alcohol. click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5

2008 Clos Henri Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light ruby with a hint of garnet still scuttling about its edges, this wine smells of sweet raspberry fruit. In the mouth cherry and wet dirt dance a wonderful counterpoint, as the bright fruit is wrapped in faint powdery tannins. Juicy, thanks to excellent acidity and an overall nice balance. click to buy.

2009 Clos Henri Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of perfumed, sweet raspberry fruit. In the mouth, however, the raspberry is tart and slightly woody, nicely married to deeper earthy notes. Powdery tannins dust the mouth and a note of sawdust lingers in the finish. Quite distinctive. click to buy.

2009 Clos Marguerite Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Pale ruby in the glass with a hint of brick red at the rim, this wine smells of green herbs, wet earth, and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, the wine is exceedingly silky with flavors of cherry and raspberry fruit. Filigreed acidity brings a citrusy character to the wine while notes of leather and earth deepen the wines dynamic range. Supple smooth tannins linger along with notes of citrus peel in the finish. 13% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Cloudy Bay "Mustang," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and wet earth. In the mouth, cherry and earth take on an herbal aspect as bright acidity makes the fruit juicy, and forest floor notes take the herbal down to something dirtier and deeper, like plunging your hands deep into river mud. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pure cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, juicy cherry and raspberry flavors have a supple smoothness to them and are beautifully balanced with bright acidity. Fine, fine tannins are supple and drape the edges of the mouth as the wine lingers for a long time. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2008 Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, raspberry and darker forest berries. In the mouth darker cherry fruit takes on a nice umami character along with dirt and forest floor. Notes of wet wood linger for a long time in the finish with citrus notes emerging after some time. Fine grained tannins drape the fruit, and good acidity keeps things quite lively. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine has a dusty, raspberry fruit aroma that seems to waft out from the middle of a pine forest. In the mouth, raspberry and redcurrant fruit are powdered with dusty tannins that seem to taste of dirt and leather. A hint of red apple skin lingers on the finish. Excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Esk Valley Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light garnet with purple highlights in the glass, this wine smells of wonderfully floral raspberry fruit. In the mouth raspberry and raspberry leaf flavors stay quite floral and pretty, with herbal notes and a sweet aroma even as fine grained tannins give the wine more structure. Expansive and broad while at the same time retaining some delicacy, this is quite a refined wine. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2011 Esk Valley Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light purple in the glass, this wine smells of incredibly floral black raspberry fruit. In the mouth flavors of black raspberry taste as if they've been dredged up from the bottom of a deep, dark cistern wherein they have somewhat petrified themselves. This deep minerality makes the bright fruit seem etched in glass as powdery tannins settle light so many dust motes on the pane. Floral notes accompany the black raspberry through the finish. click to buy.

2010 Framingham "F-Series," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry and wet earth. In the mouth, earthy, juicy raspberry flavors are firmly in the grip of muscular tannins that push them across the palate and through a long finish that has savory notes of herbs and umami. Lovely. 14.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Fromm "Clayvin Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and wet river mud. In the mouth the wine has an almost creamy aspect to it thanks to powdery, mouth-coating tannins that wrap around flavors of cherries, dried herbs and wet earth. Long and beautifully supple in the mouth. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Fromm "Fromm Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of deep stony raspberries and cherries. In the mouth, cherry and raspberry fruit have a deep earthy resonance and bright acidity, surrounded by serious, grippy tannins that need some time to relax. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Greywacke Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a wonderfully perfumed nose of floral, cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth the wine is earthy, and exceedingly silky and smooth on the palate. Raspberry cherry, and stemmy wood flavors swirl amidst a gorgeously slippery silky texture that is powdered with fine tannins. Sexy as all get out. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Jules Taylor Wines Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, plush cherry and raspberry fruit are juicy thanks to excellent acidity, Nice balance, powdery tannins. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Spy Valley "Envoy," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry and savory herbs. In the mouth, juicy and bright cherry and raspberry flavors are shot through with a savory, slightly meaty quality that seems welded to the soft tannins. Notes of cedar and wet earth linger in the finish. Great acidity. 14.5% alcohol click to buy.

2010 Tohu "Rore Reserve," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, raspberry and a hint of brown sugar. In the mouth cedar, cherry, raspberry, and a spicy citrus flavor have a great brightness to them and wonderful length across the palate. As the wine finishes the spiciness increases to a kind of capsaicin heat that is quite interesting. 14.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Tohu "Rore Limited Edition Reserve," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in the glass this wine has a dark, earthy nose of cherry aromas. In the mouth, deep resonant flavors of cherry, and earth are enveloped by dusty tannins. Good acidity, but the dominant character here is wet dirt, which lingers for a while in the finish. Made from Clone 5 fruit only. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Vidal "Reserve Series," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light purple in the glass, this wine smells of cherries, herbs, and the perfume of exotic flowers. In the mouth, cherry and black raspberry fruit are wrapped in a bolt of satiny smooth tannins. A nice fennel note creeps into the finish. Balanced, with excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2010 Clos Henri Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry, earth, and new oak. In the mouth, flavors of raspberry and new oak have good acidity and a nice brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Fine grained tannins linger with the cherry fruit in the finish. click to buy.

2009 Jules Taylor Wines Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light garnet spreading to bright ruby at the rim of the glass, this wine smells of sweet raspberries and fresh green herbs. In the mouth raspberry, earth and leather swirl in a beautiful melange as suede-like tannins wrap around the edges of the mouth. Great acidity keeps the fruit bright while the finish deepens into a smooth, earthy finish. click to buy.

2010 Spy Valley Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of juicy cherry and pomegranate seeds. In the mouth, pomegranate, cherry, and raspberry flavors are clear and bright with a crystalline quality to them thanks to excellent acidity. Nice length. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Staete Landt "Paladin," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of stony raspberry fruit and the deep minerality of a cistern. In the mouth the wine has a green wood/stem quality to it, with raspberry fruit that has a crispness and a hint of green herbs. Good acidity and faint tannins. Tasty. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Tohu "Single Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries and raspberries and wet stones. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful wet stone character with flavors of cherry and raspberry and very restrained tannins. Good acidity and brightness. click to buy.

2010 Blind River Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Brancott Estate "Letter Series - T," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Churton Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Churton "The Abyss," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Clos Henri "Bel Echo," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2007 Clos Henri Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2008 Clos Marguerite Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2007 Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2011 Framingham Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2011 Greywacke Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Hans Herzog Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Lawson's Dry Hills "The Pioneer," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Nautilus Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Nautilus "Four Barriques," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Seresin Estate "Leah," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 TerraVin "Hillside Reserve," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 TerraVin "Eaton Family Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Whitehaven "Greg," Pinot Noir, Marlborough


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2011 Ara "Resolute," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Astrolabe "Marlborough Province," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Framingham Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Te Whare Ra Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Lawson's Dry Hill Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Saint Clair "Pioneer Block 14 Doctor's Creek," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Seresin Estate "Rachel," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Staete Landt "Map Maker," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2011 TerraVin "Estate," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Villa Maria "Single Vineyard Southern Clays," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Whitehaven Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2011 Wither Hills "Wairau Valley," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Wither Hills "Wairau Valley," Pinot Noir, Marlborough


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Allan Scott Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Ara "Select Blocks," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2011 Ara "Select Blocks," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Foxes Island "Renard - Belsham Awatere Estate," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Giesen "The Brothers," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Jackson Estate "Vintage Widow," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Marisco Vineyards "The Kings Wrath," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Saint Clair "Pioneer Block 22 Barn Block," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Saint Clair "Reserve," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Stoneleigh "Rapaura Series," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2011 TerraVin "Hillside Reserve," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2011 TerraVin "Eaton Family Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Villa Maria "Reserve Marlborough," Pinot Noir, Marlborough


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2010 Foxes Island "Belsham Awatere Estate," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Jackson Estate "Gum Emperor," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Marisco Vineyards "The Ned," Pinot Noir, Marlborough


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2010 Auntsfield "Single Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Marlborough
2010 Auntsfield "Road Ridge," Pinot Noir, Marlborough

Central Otago

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Gibbston Valley, Central Otago
When asked the question recently, if money were no object and I was going to buy and plant a vineyard somewhere in the world, I did not hesitate before answering, Central Otago. Not because I believe that I could make the finest wines in the world there, but simply because -- forget the vineyard -- there's no place on earth I'd more want to have a home. Especially if I were filthy rich.

But I'm not filthy rich, and probably never will be, and the wine does matter in addition to the house. Luckily, Otago is firing on all cylinders these days when it comes to wine. It's taken some time for the winemakers of the region to get a handle on the truly massive amounts of UV radiation they get from being down at the bottom of the country's south island -- 11% more than the equivalent Northern Hemisphere latitude (thank you ozone hole) and way more than, say Burgundy. Combine that with seriously crazy diurnal temperature shifts (from say, freezing at night to 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day) and you've got to know what the hell you're doing to avoid ending up with shriveled raisins around harvest time.

Indeed, Otago's Pinot Noirs have historically been very dark, and many of them somewhat chewy, with intense tannins and extract. This, of course, was not a particularly good thing, even when coupled with one of the region's other signature qualities: a deep expression of mineral earth.

Otago Pinot Noirs are still dark, to be sure, and generally easy to pick out of a lineup by color, even amongst other New Zealand Pinots. But Otago winemakers have gotten much better at tannin management, gentle extraction, and ripeness management. While the wines can still be quite intense -- a somewhat unique expression of Pinot Noir that cannot be compared to a benchmark of Burgundy -- they have achieved a great deal more elegance than when I visited Otago almost a decade ago.

And then the 2011 vintage came along. Descriptors I've heard Kiwi winemakers use include: manic, depressive, nail-biting, exhausting, brutal, and downright strange. Plagued by cool rains interspersed with sunshine, the overall vintage was cooler, and ripeness often occurred at lower sugar levels than in previous years. Either that or when people finally got up the nerve to harvest, they simply took what sugars they could get.

And the result? To my mind, the single greatest vintage of Central Otago Pinot Noir I've tasted, and a good lesson to most vintners that thinking a little less ripe will make all the difference. The 2011's I tasted in Wellington in January were electrifying and I firmly believe they will be some of the best wines the region has ever made. And if winemakers are paying attention, a perfect model for what the region should shoot for in style.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5

2011 Akarua Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a sweet floral nose of bright raspberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth the wine has a fantastic floral quality with bright and juicy cherry fruit that is aromatically sweet and beautifully crystalline in its purity. Faint tannins give the wine quite a brightness as its sweet aromas fill the mouth and continue to linger for a long time in the finish. click to buy.

2011 Felton Road "Block 5," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries and wet stones. IN the mouth the wine has remarkable minerality, with cherry and wet stone flavors that take on a crystalline brightness and transparency to them, as if they have been filtered through granite. The wine has impeccable balance and phenomenal acidity. Stunning. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2003 Mt Difficulty "Target Gully," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of red apple skin and cedar. In the mouth, juicy cherry and red apple skin flavors take on a saline, savory, caramelized quality that is utterly fantastic and gulpable. Powdery tannins gauzily drape the mouth as the wine lounges sexily behind their veil. Fantastic. click to buy.

2006 Prophet's Rock Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine is remarkably floral, wafting a perfume of exotic flowers and red fruit out of the glass. In the mouth, the wine continues with this floral overtone, layering in cherry fruit and tart redcurrant. Fine grained tannins wrap around the core of fruit and seemingly tie it to an earthy, deep stoniness that makes up the core of the wine. Juicy acidity keeps the saliva flowing and the wine has a seamlessness to it, even as it lingers in a very long finish. click to buy.

2010 Quartz Reef "Bendigo Estate," Pinot Noir, Bendigo, Central Otago
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth and wet wood, and beautiful rich cherry aromas. In the mouth the wine has a remarkable seamlessness and a fantastic brightness thanks to incredible acidity that makes perfectly ripe cherry flavors a wonderful counterpoint to deeper earth notes that turn herbal as the wine lingers for a long finish. Beautifully balanced and pure. 14.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2011 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a meaty cherry and earth aroma to it. In the mouth the wine offers an incredible umami character of red miso, and meaty notes mixed with earth, red licorice, and raspberry fruit. Fine grained tannins bring a wonderful powdery texture to the whole distinctive package. Great finish. A very distinctive wine. click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5

2010 Akarua Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry, wet earth, and wet wood. In the mouth, the wine is juicy with dark cherry and earth flavors that have a deep resonant quality to them. Powdery tannins wrap around the core of dirt and fruit and linger for a long time in the finish. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Akarua Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry, cedar and wet earth. IN the mouth cherry and brown sugar notes mix with an exotic hint of nutmeg. Smooth and supple tannins envelop the wine and help give it a seamless character as a deep earthiness pervades the finish as a counterpoint to the very juicy fruit. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2011 Burn Cottage Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth, green herbs, and raspberries. In the mouth, earth, green herbs, and raspberry fruit have a deep, resonant depth to them. Fine grained tannins seem to be accompanied by a savory note, even as a hint of funk lingers in the finish. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Chard Farm "Mata-Au," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, spice, and redcurrant. In the mouth cherry and redcurrant fruit have a lush brightness to them, wrapped in a gauzy haze of powdery tannins. Excellent acidity and balance, and a long lovely finish. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Chard Farm "The Viper," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a smoky nose of wet wood and cherry fruit. In the mouth notes of earth and smoke and cocoa powder wrap around a core of raspberry fruit. Supple tannins and bright acidity balance beautifully along with the dark earthy fruit. The wine has a lovely silky texture. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2002 Chard Farm "The Tiger," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of red apple skin and cedar. In the mouth flavors of red apple skin take on a meaty, savory quality as they mix with cedar and earth through a long finish. Delicious. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2006 Chard Farm "The Tiger," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of bright raspberry fruit. In the mouth cherry, raspberry and cedar flavors have a leathery note to them. Fine grained tannins powder the fruit's complexion and notes of red apple skin linger in the long finish. click to buy.

2010 Domain Road Vineyard "Paradise," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit mix with cedar and wet earth. Notes of citrus brightness lingers through the finish thanks to excellent acidity. Restrained tannins brush smoothly against the edges of the mouth. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Felton Road "Block 5," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, wet wood, and crushed green herbs. In the mouth, cherry and sandalwood and wet tree bark flavors are silky on the tongue and transform to notes of green herbs. Extremely fine grained tannins make for a smooth suppleness in the wine. Very pretty. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2006 Felton Road Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of earth, cherry, and black raspberry. In the mouth, leather and earth layer around a core of cherry and raspberry fruit. Fine grained tannins are supple and sweet, as the bright fruit lingers in the finish. click to buy.

2010 Matua "Single Vineyard Cromwell," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherries, earth, and bright, briary raspberry fruit. In the mouth, earthy raspberry briar flavors mix with wet wood while being caressed by supple, rich tannins. Deep, resonant dirt flavors mix with the fruit that is bright and shining thanks to excellent acidity. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Mt Difficulty "Pipeclay Terrace," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earth, cherry, and raspberry fruit. In the mouth, deep earth, leathery raspberry and red apple skin flavors are firmly gripped by leathery tannins. Good acidity and nice length. Very tasty and soulful. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Prophet's Rock Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Light ruby in color, this wine has a delicate nose of cherry and dried floral aromas. In the mouth the wine is equally delicate, with cherry, floral, and earthy notes shining brightly thanks to excellent acidity. Suede textured tannins softly cushion the bright fruit and linger in the finish. click to buy.

2001 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Light ruby with some hint of brick red at the rim, this wine smells of red apple skin, brown sugar and cedar. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful aromatic sweetness to it, as flavors of red apple skin, leather, earth, and cedar swirl in a downy storm of powdery tannins. A wonderful earthiness is the dominant flavor in the long finish. Great acidity. 14% alcohol. Tasted out of magnum.

2010 Rippon Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry and deeply mineral wet stones. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful stony crystalline quality that delivers pure cherry and bright red fruits, while deeper earth. Fabulous acidity crackles with electric brightness through the very long finish. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Rippon "Tinker's Field Mature Vine," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a wonderful nose of floral, cherry, and earth aromas. In the mouth, cherry and earth are enclosed in a blanket of thick dark tannins, but that doesn't keep the fruit from being juicy and bright thanks to excellent acidity. Notes of wet dirt and flowers linger in the long finish. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Terra Sancta "Slapjack Block," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, black cherry and exotic flowers. In the mouth, flavors of cherry, wood and wet earth are nestled into billowy, supple tannins. Great acidity makes the fruit bright and the wine has a wonderful seamlessness to it. Excellent. 14.2% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Terra Sancta "Jackson's Block," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of floral cherries and stony earth. In the mouth bright cherry, wet dirt, and wet wood flavors are wrapped in fleecy tannins. Nice balance and poise. Very tasty. 14.2% alcohol. click to buy.

2011 Terra Sancta "Estate," Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of floral black raspberry and cherry. In the mouth, bright juicy cherry fruit has a tinge of cinnamon to it along with the pungency of cedar. Notes of wet dirt and a tangy redcurrant note linger in the long finish. Faint tannins and great acidity. 14.2% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Two Paddocks "First Paddock," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry fruit. In the mouth the wine is exceptionally juicy, with black cherry and a hint of cassis that crackle with bright acidity. Dusty tannins linger for a long time in the finish along with black cherry fruit that has a mouthwatering freshness. 13% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Two Paddocks "Last Chance," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth cherry fruit has a wonderful silky smoothness to it along with velvety tannins. Notes of raspberry and cherry linger in the finish even as an earthy rumble begins to emerge from deep within the wine. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Valli "Gibbston Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and red apple skin. In the mouth the wine has a citrusy brightness with cherry, orange, and mandarin peel fruit. Juicy bright and lovely. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2006 Valli "Gibbston Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
Light to medium ruby in color, this wine smells of red apple skin, cedar, and earth. In the mouth flavors of cherry and forest floor mix with deeper wet earth and redwood bark. This is a dark brooding wine with a lot of terra inside. Arresting. 13% alcohol. click to buy.

2011 Valli "Gibbston Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cedar, and wet dirt. In the mouth deep wet dirt flavors mix with cherry and raspberry and a hint of green herbs. Cherry, bright and fresh, lingers in the finish. Good acidity, faint tannins. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Rippon "Tinker's Field Mature Vine," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2010 Matua "Single Vineyard Bannockburn," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of earthy cherry and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, flavors of earth and black cherry are wrapped in a blanket of smooth powdery tannins. Good acidity keeps the fruit juicy as it melds with the wine's earthier components. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Chard Farm "The Tiger," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cedar, and wet earth. In the mouth, earth, raspberry, and cherry fruit has a wonderful brightness to it, thanks to good acidity. Woody notes linger in the finish. click to buy.

2010 Pisa Range Estate "Black Poplar Block," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth and black cherry fruit. In the mouth, black cherry and wet wood flavors turn deeply earthy and forest floor as powdery tannins wrap around the edges of the mouth. Good acidity. Deep like a crevasse. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Prophet's Rock Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Cloudy medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of a wonderful combination of wet earth and gorgeous exotic flowers. In the mouth, deep wet earth and bright cherry fruit are tinged with that same exotic floral quality. Lovely, powdery and supple tannins wrap around the core of the wine, while good acidity lets it soar through the finish with black raspberry fruit aromas. 13.7% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Prophet's Rock "Reserve," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a smoky, earthy and floral cherry nose of aromas. In the mouth, thick, aggressive tannins wrap around flavors of cherry, wet dirt and wet wood. But floral and spicy notes emerge in the finish. This wine is not going to be released for another 2 years, so perhaps by that time the tannins will relax a little. Still, it's going to be an excellent wine no matter when you open it. 13.7% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Quartz Reef Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Light to medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cranberry and cherry fruit. In the mouth, flavors of cherry, cranberry, and earthy stay juicy and have a faint aromatic sweetness, even as they are dusted with fine tannins. Bright acidity and excellent length across the palate. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Terra Sancta "Slapjack Block," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Light garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and black raspberry fruit. In the mouth, flavors of cedar, cherry, and wet dirt are wrapped in dusty tannins. A light bitterness hangs in the finish. 14.2% alcohol. click to buy.

2008 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Light garnet in color, this wine smells of perfumed, floral raspberry fruit. In the mouth, raspberry, redcurrant and cedar notes are bright thanks to great acidity. Earthy notes emerge on the long finish as do powdery tannins that gently grip the palate. 13.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Amisfield Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Burn Cottage Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Domain Road Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2011 Matua "Black Grapes Society," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Maude "Mt Maude Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Mount Edward "Morrison Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2008 Mount Edward "Morrison Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2011 Mount Edward "Morrison Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2006 Ostler Pinot Noir, Waitaki, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Peregrine "Karearea," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2003 Pisa Range Estate "Black Poplar Block," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2007 Prophet's Rock Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Rock Ferry Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Te Mara "Ata Mara," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Valli "Waitaki Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Waitaki, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Wild Earth, Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9

2010 Felton Road Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, raspberry, and wet earth. In the mouth flavors of wet wood give way to cherry and wet earth, all dusted with fine grained tannins. Good acidity and length. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Akarua "Rua," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Carrick "Excelsior," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Carrick "Bannockburn," Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Gibbston Valley "School House," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Gibbston Valley "China Terrace," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Mount Edward "Stevens Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Nanny Goat Vineyard Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Northburn Station "Reserve," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Ostler "Caroline's," Pinot Noir, Waitaki, Central Otago click to buy.
2007 Pisa Range Estate "Black Poplar Block," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2009 Rippon "Jeunesse," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Rockburn Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Rockburn "The Art," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Surveyor Thomson "Explorer," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Surveyor Thomson "Single Vineyard," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2012 Terra Sancta "Mysterious Diggings," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Pasquale "Hakataramea," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Thornbury Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago click to buy.
2010 Wooing Tree "Sandstorm Reserve," Pinot Noir, Central Otago click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Drumsara "Ventifacts Block," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
2010 Hawkshead "First Vines," Pinot Noir, Gibbston, Central Otago
2010 Maude Pinot Noir, Central Otago
2010 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir, Central Otago
2010 Northburn Station "Bill's Blend," Pinot Noir, Central Otago
2010 Peregrine Pinot Noir, Central Otago
2010 Pasquale "Waitaki," Pinot Noir, Waitaki, Central Otago
2010 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir, Central Otago
2010 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir, Central Otago


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2010 Hawkshead Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
2010 Hawkshead Pinot Noir, Central Otago
2010 Mud House Pinot Noir, Central Otago
2010 Mud House "Bendigo," Pinot Noir, Central Otago


Nelson + Auckland

Blackenbrook_008.JPG
Blackenbrook Estate, Nelson

Nelson and Auckland are nowhere near each other. Let's get that right out of the way. They're just being lumped together here because there weren't enough wines on offer from either region to merit them being separate.

Nelson sits over the hill from Marlborough at the north end of the country's south island. Slightly warmer, it has become known in recent years for its aromatic grape varieties, notably Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and such. But there are a number of Pinot Noir plantings and producers there, some of which are quite good.

Auckland, on the other hand, sits way up at the top of the north island and has only a few wine producers close to the country's largest city (not counting the very special wines of Waiheke Island, which lies just off the coast). Much warmer, the region is better known for its Bordeaux grape varieties, some of which can be quite compelling.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2010 Seifried Pinot Noir, Nelson
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, raspberry, earth, and a hint of violets. In the mouth, flavors of violets make for an extremely floral wine, with notes of cherry and wet earth wrapped in supple tannins to back up the flowers. Good acidity, but a hint of heat on the finish. 14.5% alcohol. click to buy.

2010 Seifried "Winemakers Collection," Pinot Noir, Nelson
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raspberry, cherry, and earth. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit mixes with suede tannins, and a woody, deep earthy aspect that is quite compelling. Good acidity and balance. 14% alcohol. click to buy.

2009 Neudorf Vineyards "Moutere," Pinot Noir, Nelson click to buy.
2010 Woollaston "Mohona," Pinot Noir, Nelson click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Neudorf Vineyards "Moutere," Pinot Noir, Nelson
2010 Rimu Grove Pinot Noir, Nelson
2010 Woollaston Pinot Noir, Nelson


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2010 Kumeu River "Estate," Pinot Noir, Auckland
2010 Kumeu River "Village," Pinot Noir, Auckland


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2010 Rimu Grove "Bronte," Pinot Noir, Nelson

Comments (9)

Allen Clark wrote:
11.07.13 at 9:05 AM

Wow, that's a lot of tasting. How long were you there? BTW, I believe the conference is only held only every three years, not biannually. Next is 2016... http://www.pinotnz.co.nz/

Alder wrote:
11.08.13 at 8:52 AM

Allen,

Ah yes, that’s correct. Tri-annual it should be.

I was in Wellington tasting these Pinots for three (long) days.

Weston wrote:
11.08.13 at 6:04 PM

Still not sold on burn cottage haven't enjoyed them

Now pyramid valley is good stuff

gary wrote:
11.09.13 at 3:28 PM

Wow. Thanks for the notes.

Kathy Merchant wrote:
11.11.13 at 3:31 AM

Alder, thanks for this great piece. I've been to many of these wineries, but not for 10 years. It's nice to hear how they are coming along. BTW, I met "The Tiger" at Chard Farm -- he died a few years ago. He was by far the most charming cellar door manager in the world!

Sean Spratt wrote:
11.13.13 at 2:14 AM

That is a pretty prolific listing of Pinot! Definitely going to have re-taste the Quartz Reef's after you have rated them so highly...it's been awhile since I have tried their Pinots.

I love Otago Pinots, but on occasion I have found the alcohols can come out-of-balance and leave the wines a little 'hot'.

Sean Spratt wrote:
11.13.13 at 2:17 AM

My comment seems to have been truncated..

My final comment was to see if you noticed any 'hot' Central Otago pinots or if the overall tannin management has made that issue more thing of the past?

Alder wrote:
11.13.13 at 3:00 PM

Sorry about that, Sean. There are still over-ripe Otago Pinots, of course, but most don’t come across as hot so much as raisiny and too rich, at least to my palate. And tannins, of course, can be fierce.

10.31.14 at 12:39 PM

Or, perhaps you're one of those students who desires a
challenge, or even a good addition to your résumé for Grad school.
As with everything else, it is only the mindset of the entrepreneur that
dictates the success and failure of a company. When travelling,
for instance, it would be possible to login to your accounting database
and enter transactions on the road.

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