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Monday, July 1, 2013

New Zealand’s New “Darling” Varietal



Mention New Zealand wine and most think immediately of Sauvignon Blanc.  But, the Kiwis are making more and more Pinot Noir…and it’s becoming better and better.  The world is taking note.  Pinots from this part of the world are winning awards and accolades from the globe’s most important wine critics.

Pinot Noir is quickly advancing to become New Zealand’s new star.  The country has just hosted a huge Pinot conference-slash-love-fest in its capital of Wellington on the north island to celebrate the grape.  The event has become so popular that it’s now New Zealand’s largest wine event with approximately 500 attendees, many of whom are international dignitaries in the wine world.  Moreover, there’s a separate Pinot Noir Festival on New Zealand’s south island near Queenstown.

Currently there are over 10,000 acres of Pinot Noir planted in New Zealand.   The north island’s Martinborough wine district historically has been associated with the varietal’s highest quality, however, a recent blind tasting of Kiwi Pinots showed that five of the top ten wines came from the south island’s Central Otago region, just outside of Queenstown. 

How does a New Zealand Pinot differ from a Burgundy?  Typically, a New Zealand Pinot is more fruit-driven.  Many Pinot producers in New Zealand leave their fruit on the vine much longer than is either possible or acceptable in Burgundy’s vineyards.  This means the Kiwi version serves up heavier textures, more intense plum flavors, higher alcohol levels… but also lower acidity than its French counterpart.  Actually, the New Zealand version is more Syrah-like in structure---full bodied. That being said, New Zealand does offer a wide array of Pinots that are vibrant, yet restrained in character. You will also find Kiwi Pinots that are not overly manipulated, over-extracted or over-oaked. They have lovely fruit, naturally, given the climate. And, as the vines and the industry mature, they are developing more and more depth and complexity.

The Wine-Knows harvest tour to New Zealand in 2014 will visit all the important wine regions that are producing Pinot Noir.  Here are the top 5 blind-tasted Pinots, listed in order of their ranking as published in Cuisine Magazine (the Kiwi version of the USA’s Food & Wine):

1.     Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010

2.     Tatty Bogler Pinot Noir 2010

3.     Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir 2010

4.     Valli Bendigo Pinot Noir 2010

5.     Ceres Composition Pinot Noir 2010

If you’re coming with us in March 2014 to New Zealand, you will have the opportunity to taste most of  these.  If you can’t wait until then, search for them online at www.Wine-Searcher.com.
 

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