Pinot progress

I’ve just completed my annual Pinot Noir tasting. A total of 275 wines were submitted by wineries in every region south of Gisborne. The best were better than ever and the same applies to the wines at the other end of the quality scale. I was surprised and gratified by the enthusiasm for our most prestigious, if not most prolific, varietal wine during a recent trip through Asia, Europe and the US. Pinot Noir lovers are enthusiastic. They are quick to appreciate exciting wines from emerging regions.

Ten years ago the same tasting attracted a relatively modest 41 wines, although curiously their average price of $41.55 was almost identical to the $41.66 average for the larger, more recent tasting. Ten years ago the most expensive wine (Felton Road) carried a price tag of $65 and only two wines cost more than $50. Today we have eight wines over $100 and another 52 above $50. Now the most expensive wine in the tasting (Seresin Sun & Moon – tastings) costs $130 although Martinborough Vineyards Marie Zelie (tastings) (not in this tasting) beats that with a reassuringly expensive tag of $225.

Pinot Noir prices are not only more expensive today, they are also cheaper, which explains why the average has remained the same. Now we have 39 wines selling for less than $25 while a decade ago there was only one.

Where will New Zealand Pinot Noir be in another ten years? The present rate of progress suggests that we’ll be making better wines than the best in Burgundy but logically we must be approaching a plateau, or at least a more gently sloping incline of rising quality.

How do our wines fare against those of other top Pinot Noir producing countries? Fairly well as it happens. Last week I took part in my favourite annual wine competition, the Six Nations Wine Challenge. When it started twelve years ago the competition was called the Tri Nations Wine Challenge. It featured the very best wines from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Since then Chile, Argentina and the US have joined the party. New Zealand has always done pretty well in the Pinot Noir section and this year was no exception despite very strong competition. The results are confidential until 8th October when all will be revealed on

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough 2012 – $65

One of New Zealand’s leading Pinot Noir makers has produced yet another winner in a moderately challenging Martinborough vintage. Silken textured wine with cherry, plum, mineral and a trademark savoury/herb character. Elegant wine with subtle power evidenced in its very lengthy finish. Good now but even better in five years. – view on

Greystone Pinot Noir, Waipara 2013 – $36

Best value wine in my tasting, this sleek, luscious and quite concentrated beauty is an absolute snip at this price. It has the flavours of damson plums, dark cherries, liquorice and spice and the texture of silk. Deliciously drinkable. – view on

First published in KiaOra Magazine – Oct 2014.

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