Pinot noir passion

Ata Rangi (Photo: Ata Rangi Wines)

I write this from New Zealand where I’ve been reminded (again) of what a good job the Kiwis are doing with pinot noir, but I’m going to sound a note of caution, if not alarm.

The house wine at the outstanding fly-fishing lodge where I’m staying, Owen River Lodge near Murchison in the north-western part of the South Island, is NeudorfTom’s Block Pinot Noir ’14 and Rosie’s Block Chardonnay ‘15. Absolutely gorgeous wines and both remarkable value for money. Both display a sophistication seldom seen in wines of their price levels, as well as wonderful drinkability. Priced at NZD $33, they have nailed the style that suits the price-point.

I’m less convinced some of New Zealand’s icon pinots are nailing their price-points.

Having tasted Dry River 2014, Ata Rangi 2014, Misha’s Vineyard Verismo 2011 and Neudorf Moutere 2012* (Neudorf released the ’12 after the ’13 because it was so big), I’m not sure these wines would convince pinot drinkers they are worth the extra bucks. Lots of extra bucks. They’re all between AUD $60 and $120.

The common themes are deep colour and extra concentration; also extra tannin extraction and, often, extra oak. The resultant wines tend to be dry, tough, oaky and grippy – lacking in pinot charm. I taste and re-taste these wines after the wraps come off the bottles, thinking I must have missed something, and then I keep them for several days wondering if they just need more air. But I’m seldom moved to change my mind about them.

Defenders will probably reply that these wines are built to cellar, that they have track records of ageing superbly (some do, especially Dry River and Ata Rangi) and that time will transform them. Maybe so. Or maybe not.

I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong in a few years’ time.

It is true that many grand cru Burgundies are a little tannic, oaky and firm when young, and they can be transformed by age. But, again, they don’t always ‘come around’ with time. Caveat emptor.

To conclude, I’m enjoying drinking some of the lighter, finer, less extracted, more succulent and delicious new-release pinots, which are invariably cheaper. Here are a few from my latest pinot noir tasting of 90-odd wines, which have been recently uploaded to the app. None more than $45, and all scoring between 91 and 96.

*Neudorf acknowledge the 2012 was a whopper, and their next release 2014, which I tasted, is finer and more nuanced, partly the result of a change in vineyard sourcing.

2 thoughts on “Pinot noir passion”

  1. Warren says:

    Sorry Huon. I thought Bob had written this. Still I think a fair question to put to him! And you in a different way!


  2. Warren says:

    I’m a little confused here Bob. Didn’t you give Ata Rangi 2014 99 points and adding that it will move than likely become a 100 point wine over time? So are you saying the price Ata Rangi are charging for a 99 point wine not worth it compared to the examples you have given above?


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