I’m often asked, “which region makes the best Pinot Noir”. My (safe) reply is usually along these lines: “Well it depends on how you measure quality. Is it the average score of all Pinot Noir tasted from each region or should we compare the top five from each region?”
Most people believe that Sauvignon Blanc should, as they say in France, be “picked, pressed and pissed before Easter”. That is simply untrue. I’ve enjoyed rich, complex Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé that were 20 and 30 years old.
I think we cling on to beliefs formed when corks were the only closure. Screwcaps were a game-changer that more than doubled the window of drinkability for Sauvignon Blanc and, in my view, have increased the potential quality of all wines.
To establish the list of top producers I simply found every Marlborough Pinot Noir from 2012 or later that has scored 95 points or better. It’s a bit tough on good producers such as Hans Herzog and Dog Point because I have only tasted one vintage of each. Obviously the more Pinot Noir labels produced the higher a winery is likely to be on my ranking.
My annual Sauvignon Blanc tasting takes place in another month. I’ve tasted a handful of early release wines and quite a large number of tanks samples – enough to confidently say that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from 2015 promises to be a very special vintage. It could do for Marlborough Sauvignon what 2013 has clearly done for Hawke’s Bay.
Riesling lovers will be shattered to learn that Auburn, this country’s only Riesling specialist, is about to cease production. Founder, Max Marriott, has moved to Oregon to take up a new winemaking position.
I recently installed Spotify on my computer. For a modest monthly fee this very clever piece of software gives me access to a seemingly infinite number of songs, albums and artists. So vast is the choice that I enlisted the help of a menu that groups music by clever titles such as “Air Punch!”, “Young, Wild & Free”, “Yoga and Meditation” and the depressingly titled “Life sucks” featuring tracks such as “Only love can hurt like this” and “Misery”. I needed music to accompany a large Pinot Noir tasting and chose “Smooth Morning” described as “A soft start to your morning – no fast beats, screaming or shouting allowed”. It was perfect.
An international wine magazine is planning a tasting that will feature the best Chardonnays outside France’s Burgundy region. They plan to find out whether any New World wines can compete, and give the same fine wine experience as a top Burgundy. I was asked to submit the names of ten Kiwi wines that might give the French a run for their money.
After four days tasting, discussing and thinking about Pinot Noir can you guess what I drank on the fifth day? No, it wasn’t beer or a chilled glass of Riesling. Those particular pleasures were narrowly beaten by a desire to have yet another glass of … Pinot Noir.
Pinot noir winemakers are either the most sophisticated and intellectual winemakers on Earth, or the most confused. After attending the two recent celebrations of pinot noir, a four-day event in Wellington and a two-day event on the Mornington Peninsula, and several associated events such as a couple of days in Martinborough and the Wairarapa, and a side-tasting of Ted Lemon’s Littorai wines from California, your correspondent is still in shock.
Five organic Marlborough wineries recently got together to form a group with the catchy name of Mana (Marlborough Natural Winegrowers). They are Fromm, Huia, Hans Herzog, Te Whare Ra (TWR) and Seresin. I tasted 53 of their wines. Collectively they are a cut or two above the Marlborough average. Does that mean that using organic winemaking and grape-growing methods produces higher quality wine? Possibly. But it might also indicate that these five wine producers are more quality-conscious than most. It’s hard to prove one way or the other.