The diversity of New Zealand’s Pinot Noir came on centre stage at a SPIT workshop with Liam Steevenson MW, organized by Meiburg Wine Media.
The 12 Pinots showcased at the SPIT workshop
A flight of 12 Pinots from world-famous Central Otago and Sauvignon Blanc-dominated Marlborough, to rising Pinot stars including North Island’s Auckland, and South Island’s Nelson and Waipara were closely examined for their distinctive regional and terroir-driven styles at a SPIT workshop titled “Exploring New Zealand’s Pinot Noir: Latest Trends & Diversity of Terroir”.
Although dwarfed by Sauvignon Blanc in terms of production and exports, New Zealand’s Pinot Noir could be the most exciting wine outside of Burgundy for its diversity and competitive retail price points.
In the past five or six years, New Zealand has seen a streak of consistent stellar vintages, which can rival top Burgundies, says Steevenson, speaking to a room of trade professionals in Hong Kong on Monday.
“The Pinot Noir seems to always deliver year in and year out. And I think it’s one of the most brilliant places for Pinot Noir in the world,” states the Master of Wine, although it only accounts for about 5% of New Zealand’s total wine exports.
Compared with Pinots from other regions in the world, New Zealand’s reds tout “guaranteed quality” and accessible price points, Will Bedoucha, business development manager of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise told dbHK.
“New Zealand wines are known for their attractive prices and exceptional quality, as well as their commitment towards sustainability. The commitment to quality, diversity of climate and the purity of the land across the key wine producing regions mean that few ‘average quality’ wines are exported out of New Zealand,” he explained, noting that all the 12 wines showcased at the workshop were priced between HKD 210 (US$32) and HKD 488 (US$63) retail.
“Whether you pick from a menu at any bar/restaurant; on the shelves of a supermarket/specialist wine store; or even online, any New Zealand wine you pick is always a safe choice,” he concluded.
Aside from well-known Central Otago, a few other regions including Marlborough, Wairarapa, Martinborough, Nelson, Waipara and Auckland are making waves with their distinctive regional, cool-climate Pinot styles.
Liam Steevenson MW
Marlborough, at the northern tip of South Island, is by far the biggest Pinot Noir producer with 2,367 hectares planted with Pinot vines. The Pinots there tend to be “redder and glossier, and on the palate, (they are) very round, and have firm tannins and bright acidity,” Steevenson explained, referencing three of the wines showcased – Astrolabe Province Pinot Noir 2014, Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014, and Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2014.
Across the water to the north, Steevenson noted another important Pinot region – Martinborough, producing wines that are “as close to Burgundy as it gets”. Home to leading producer Ata Rangi, most of the region’s vines are planted in clay soil, making the wines a bit spicier, heavier and broader, he added.
Its neighouring region Wairarapa, however, produces brighter, fresher and less spicy wines compared with Martinborough, the wine expert pointed out when speaking about a Pinot Noir from Paddy Borthwick.
From the South Island, the style of Pinot from the region of Nelson is essentially defined by one single producer – Neudorf, the Pinots (here) show much more pronounced aromatics, smooth and velvety texture, the wine expert commented.
Further south is Canterbury/Waipara, a region that “could potentially be the most exciting place to grow Pinot Noir,” Steevenson stressed. The predominant limestone soils gave the wines more lifted aromatics, complex characters and silky palate, he explained. Two of the representative wineries featured at the tasting were Pegasus Bay and Muddy Water.
Central Otago is the only continental wine-producing region in New Zealand. It has made a name for Pinots with “heavier weight, more structure, more concentration and more richness,” the wine expert added, noting that there has been a dial-back on oak use to produce fresher and more refined reds in recent years.
Felton Road is the quintessential winery in the region, responsible for putting Central Otago on the world map. Prophet’s Rock, an adamant apostle of traditional French winemaking, is making one of the highest altitude Pinots in the region, giving its wines greater freshness and complexity. Another boutique winery in Central Otago producing distinctive Pinots is Mount Difficulty in Bannockburn.
Kumeu River, the only Pinot selected from much warmer Auckland region in the North Island, showed “more fruit, more structure and chalky tannins”.
Below are the 12 wines presented at the tasting:
Astrolabe Province Pinot Noir 2014
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2014
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2014
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2014
Paddy Borthwick Pinot Noir 2015
Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir 2014
Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2012
Muddy Water Pinot Noir 2012
Mount Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2014
Prophet’s Rock Pinot Noir 2012
Felton Road Calvert Pinot Noir 2014
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Pinot Noir 2014