NZ pinot noir - Wine tasting 2011

Making pinot noir is often likened to the pursuit of the Holy Grail. How close to the sacred object are our producers getting, asks John Saker.

by John Saker | Cuisine issue #149 | Wednesday, 7 December, 2011

Matua Valley Origins Pinot Noir 2010 (Marlborough) $18 -3
Smartly priced, and what’s more, every bottle sold of this new label
from Matua helps support wetland preservation. Medium in weight, with bright spicy fruit and good length, this would go well with cold cuts at lunch. [I]

Mt Difficulty Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 $44.95 -4
One of Central Otago’s great labels delivers a wine that is not the most elegant in the line-up, but arresting for its powerful, masculine personality. Lifted, vibrant perfume is the prelude to a rich berryfruit salad, bright and spicy, clean, focused and compact.

Muddy Water Pinot Noir 2009 (Waipara) $40 -3
Though Muddy Water was bought earlier this year by neighbouring winery Greystone, this wine was made under the old regime by the long-serving Belinda Gould. It is a lovely expression; richly scented, deep, complex, nicely balanced. Put it on the table alongside a venison casserole. [D]

Nautilus Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 $38.50-$42.50 -3
After a curtain-raiser of smoky, spicy oak aromatics, the main event provides dark and red poised fruit, elegantly
supported by a line of lean acid. Pure and light in style, this fine pinot from an accomplished Marlborough winery would be a great match for veal marsala.

Olssens Slapjack Creek Pinot Noir 2009 (Central Otago) $85-$90 -4
A sibling of our top wine, this is Olssens’ flagship pinot expression. Vivid crimson in colour, in the mouth
a boisterous crowd of juicy, tangy black and blue berryfruit flavours clamour for attention. Slightly gritty tannins
add textural interest.

Rockburn Pinot Noir 2009 (Central Otago) $38-$45 -3
Rockburn pinots invariably offer a sensual aromatic experience, and this is no different with its soft, velvety
florals. Fresh acidity with cherry flavours and a twist of tamarillo come through in the mouth, which is just a little
light on length. Try it with chargrilled gourmet burgers.

Rockburn Pinot Noir 2010 (Central Otago) $35-$44 -4
Enticing floral fragrances, with a toasty edge, set the tone for this latest effort from winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis. Beautifully ripe fruit sounds off in the mouth and it crackles with energy. There was some discussion on whether the oak had been given too much say.

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough) $35.50-$37.50 -4
There is something of the attention-seeker here. The oak spice (cloves, nutmeg) speaks with a loud voice; the fruit that sits underneath is a big dark, cherry-ripe kiss. It’s a big, warming wine that will please those who like their pinots bold and strong.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 15 Strip Block Pinot Noir 2010 (Marlborough) $31.50-$33.50 -4
A becoming wine in which oak and fruit play an aromatic duet, and the dark ripe fruit (with just a hint of dried herb) is set against a soft texture. Another 2010 that has yet to knit together – give it another year or two.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 22 Barn Block Pinot Noir 2010 (Marlborough) $31.50-$33.50 -3
This modern-style wine doesn’t unfold gradually but rather shows its hand immediately – a wave of sweet red
berry notes with a coating of oak spice. Ideal to serve with a casual summer meal of lasagne and salad.

Sileni Estate Selection The Plateau Pinot Noir 2009 (Hawke’s Bay) $32 -3
The only Hawke’s Bay pinot among our top wines is grown on Sileni’s elevated Plateau Vineyard in Maraekakaho. It received consistent approval across the panel for its effusive floral aromatics, solid wall of red and dark fruit and a
dab of earthiness.

Stoneleigh Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 $26 -3
This label perennially offers great value and delivers real quality, regardless of price. The latest version is a perfumed, plummy charmer, showing a strong tannin presence. [E]

THE Terrace Heights Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (Marlborough) $29.95 -4
“A big cuddly teddy bear”, declared Ben Glover in reference to the sweet dark florals, ripe fruit (blueberry and cassis) and enveloping texture of this engaging wine. Slip a bottle (discreetly) into the teddy bear’s picnic hamper to have with ham and egg pie and plum chutney.

Tiki Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 $35 -3
This wine reflects Tiki’s multi-region, single-vineyard, natural-winegrowing philosophy, with grapes sourced from the Gibbston Valley. It’s delicate and focused, with lots of cherry sweetness. Just what the doctor ordered to go
with a smoked salmon fettuccine. [H]

Tohu Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 $27.95-$29.95 -4
Balance, that much-sought-after quality, is a feature of this wine. Sweetness is balanced by savoury notes; acids and tannins are in equilibrium; the fruit and oak are well managed. A touch of warmth on the finish was noted.

Triplebank Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2010 (Marlborough) $29 -3
Awatere Valley pinots aren’t always as polite and well mannered as their Wairau cousins. This one shows typical swashbuckling acidity, punchy savoury fruit and a general rough-around-the-edges demeanour. The result is a less obvious but very likeable wine. [E]

Valli Bannockburn Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 (Central Otago) $55-$65 -4
Grant Taylor strikes yet again with the 2008 edition of his Bannockburn pinot, which is indeed a beauty – alluring fruit beneath a veil of mocha. “Shagpile tannins”, noted Ben Glover in reference to the soft round texture. A fine pinot to pull out on special occasions.

Valli Bannockburn Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 (Central Otago) $55-$65 -4
Whole-bunch herbal funkiness sets the aromatic tone. Put this wine in your mouth and expect a big upfront surge of dark fruit woven through with oak spice. It still has some settling down to do, but will always be a very outgoing pinot.

Valli Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 (Central Otago) $55-$65 -4
In the Valli from the valley (the Gibbston, that is), you’ll find a dense, dark river of fruit. Savoury soy notes mingle with sweet berry and tea leaf, while the edgy acidity keeps the flow fresh and lengthy.

Vavasour Awatere Valley Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough) $27.99-$29.99 -3
“Lurking power,” enthused Gary Baldwin, enjoying this pinot’s lithe, almost ethereal structure that wraps itself around the ripe, red fruit. There’s a herbal twist amid the stewed berry notes, and plenty of length. A lightish style to suit a crayfish bisque. [C]

Vidal Reserve Series Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough) $25-$30 -4
Winemaker Hugh Crichton is quietly proud of the pinots he produces in Hawke’s Bay. The fruit for this wine comes from Marlborough, hence its expansive perfume and round, juicy elegance. There’s a hint of stalkiness,
yet great overall balance.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Southern Clays Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough) $55-$60 -4
Another thriller from Villa. An incoming tide of ultra-ripe dark fruit, all sweet cherries and chocolate, sweeps across the palate, propelled by dancing acidity. This is a wine to put away for a few years and bring out to share with fellow pinot lovers.



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