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Marlborough touted as next big Pinot region

Marlborough is emerging as one of the most exciting regions to watch for New Zealand Pinot Noir, according to a number of the country’s top producers.


Steve Smith MW, founder of Craggy Range, believes the international thirst for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has lead to an interest in the region’s fledgling Pinots.

“Not many producers will admit this, but the success of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has opened the door for Marlborough Pinot Noir.

“Our challenge will be to ensure that the wines are not devalued by producers pushing a high volume, low margin approach,” he told the drinks business.

Boasting 42% of the country’s Pinot plantings, ahead of Central Otago’s 28%, Marlborough is fast becoming a serious Pinot player.

Displaying a bright, red-fruited style, the quality of Marlborough Pinot has improved dramatically in the past few years, bolstered by the strength of “brand” Marlborough.

“Marlborough is coming of age. There’s huge potential for Pinot there, especially in the hillside areas,” wine writer and founder of The Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification Matthew Jukes told db.

Meanwhile, Tamra Washington, chief winemaker of Marlborough-based Yealands Estate, believes the region has a fantastic opportunity to make quality Pinot Noir that will over-deliver at every price point.

“Due to Marlborough’s size, there is huge potential to make many styles of Pinot – from powerful wines full of dark fruit and spice, to feminine, red-fruited wines,” she told db.

Despite its escalating profile, David Cox, director – Europe of New Zealand Winegrowers, is confident that Marlborough winemakers won’t make the same mistake with Pinot as they did with Sauvignon Blanc in 2008 and 2009.

“Plantings and production will be closely aligned with worldwide demand so a balance is retained and prices are kept at the correct level,” he insisted.

Pinot Noir has been instrumental in highlighting New Zealand’s diversity, and is carving out a niche for itself as a solid second to Sauvignon Blanc, despite only accounting for 10% of the country’s plantings compared to Sauvignon Blanc’s 69% monopoly.

In the UK, exports are up 24% on a year ago, with a growing depth of distribution in both the on-trade and off-trade.

While most Pinot Noir vines in New Zealand are under 10 years old, as the vines mature, the wines will develop a greater ability to age.

“I’m confident that the best New Zealand Pinots are at least a 10-15 year proposition. I can testify that they age well,” Smith told db, adding, “I firmly believe that Central Otago, Martinborough and Waipara will be producing the world’s best Pinot Noir, alongside Burgundy, in the next two decades.”

Matthew Jukes agrees: “One or two New Zealand Pinots are already at premier cru level. We’ve yet to see a grand cru wine emerge, but it will come,” he said.

For more on New Zealand Pinot Noir, see the March issue of the drinks business, out next week.

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