New Zealand Pinot Noir

A companion piece to last week’s scotch whisky post, this week I’m going to talk about another “adult beverage” I enjoy on a regular basis – wine.

There’s a ton of different kinds of wine and over 600 wineries – just in the country of New Zealand. Yes – in a country of just four million people (and something like 60 million sheep, but most of them probably aren’t partaking). God only knows how many wineries there are in the world over.

But today I’m going to focus on my favorite varietal of wine from New Zealand – Pinot Noir.

In 2012, I was fortunate enough to take a trip to the land down under Down Under, and went to three of the wineries listed below and tasted some terrific wine. One that surprised me was the Sauvignon Blanc – I generally don’t dig on whites (which are often oaky to the point of being wooden), but the New Zealand version is much fruitier and crisp than your average white. The center of the kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is generally Marlborough, which is where this picture was taken (unfortunately not on the best of days weather-wise).


But back to the point – Pinot. Pinot Noir is a tough variety to create. It can only be grown in a few areas of the world, but when it is done well, it creates some of the best lighter, fruitier wine. It often also has the benefit of early drinkability. This is particularly evident with the New Zealand versions, which generally are available two to three years after vintage.

My favorite area within New Zealand is Central Otago, located in the south central area of the south island. It produces some outstanding Pinots with its hot dry summers, cool autumns and later harvests. But it also is home to some of the most stunning scenery in New Zealand and in the world.

central otago

In addition to Otago and Marlborough, I also Waiheke Island, a small wine region located in the Hauraki Gulf, about a 35 minute boat-ride from Auckland. Most Waiheke wineries are boutique and smaller in nature, and it’s very difficult to find labels like Mudbrick and Jurasic Ridge here in the US. But, as you can see below, it’s a terrific place to spend some time.

waiheke island

While this is not meant at ALL to be an exhaustive list, here’s five of my favorite New Zealand pinot producers. I’ve included tasting notes from their respective websites, along with their most recent pinot vintage.

Auntsfield Estate (Marlborough, South Island)
2011 Single Vineyard Pinor Noir
Dark cherry, blueberry and black plum aromas are complimented by more savoury aromas of cassis, tea leaf, floral notes of dried rosemary, dried spices and forest floor notes. The palate of this wine shows a rich silky texture which is full and concentrated. Interwoven flavours of spice, dark fruit and savoury characters are revealed by a succulent and fine tannin structure. The structure of this wine is tight, yet rich and full with seamless length.

Carrick (Central Otago, South Island)
Unravelled Pinor Noir 2012
Notes of herb, exotic spice, tobacco, and red fruits interlace together to form a complex aroma in the glass. This wine shows fine textured depth, the fruit and tannins provide a wonderfully balanced wine that is accessible in its youth but will continue to give generously for the next 5 years. A serious wine coming from the 1996 ‘’Le Chat’’ and 1994 “Cairnmuir” vineyard plantings

Peregrine (Central Otago, South Island)
Peregrine 2011 Pinor Noir
The 2011 Pinot Noir is an elegant wine showing aromas of dark cherry, florals and spice. Ripe berry fruit and wild herb characters combine on the palate with fine tannins giving wonderful complexity and length.

Sherwood (Waipara, South Island)
Sherwood Signature 2012 Pinor Noir
The fruit was harvested in excellent condition over a three week period starting mid April, 2012. The harvested fruit was tipped directly into open top fermenters and cool soaked for up to six days. The cap was hand plunged three times a day during the indigenous fermentation and skin contact lasted for an average of 24 days. The fruit was then pressed and put into oak barrels for nine months for malo-lactic fermentation and maturation. The wine was then blended, lightly fined with egg whites, filtered and bottled. The 2012 Sherwood Signature Pinot Noir displays rich plum and earthy tones on the nose. The palate has a sweet entry, which builds in the mouth, and is well supported by fruit and oak tannins.

Villa Maria (Marlborough, South Island)
2011 Cellar Selection Marlborough Pinor Noir
A perfumed bouquet of red and dark cherries, plums and spice notes. Fruit driven and elegant, with long layers of flavour, full-bodied and well-balanced with fine, grainy tannins. This wine is concentrated and rich – an elegant Pinot Noir with finesse and complexity. This wine can be enjoyed now but with careful cellaring will continue to develop for another five to eight years.