Pinot Noir can be a beguiling mistress for wine makers and consumers alike, she can get under your skin like no other wine. Some of the world’s greatest wines are made from this grape variety, however she can also be a petulant child and needs to be handled with skill and care to extract the very best qualities.
The area of Côte de Nuits in northern Burgundy, France, is the home to arguably the most famous, and expensive Pinot Noir produced, Romanée-Conte, and wine producing regions around the world refer to Burgundy wines as the benchmark for great Pinot Noir.
Winemakers in New Zealand have been making Pinot Noir for many years with varying amounts of success, some average and some spectacular. The location a wine is produced in has a significant impact on the flavours of the finished product and in my opinion Pinot Noir is one of the wines most expressive of its terroir; wines produced in various regions, sub-regions and even from individual rows within vineyards can have wildly different flavours and characteristics.
New Zealand winemakers who embrace these differences are producing Pinot Noir wines that stand up with the very best in the world, maybe not the $1,000+ a bottle Romanée-Conte but certainly with wines produced in neighbouring vineyards in Burgundy.
I have tasted a range of recent release Pinot’s over the last few weeks and here are my thoughts on some from the South Island:
Gunn Estate 2013 Marlborough Pinot Noir RRP $
This is a well-made lighter style pinot noir with soft cherry and charred oak flavours. With a touch of spice and alcohol heat in the finish this is a good wine at the price point.
Harakeke Farm 2012 Pinot Noir RRP $25
The very low crop 2012 vintage that finished with an exceptionally long and warm autumn has delivered a delightful Pinot Noir at Harakeke Farm. The aromas are quite dense with rich cherry and plum aromas that are reflected in the flavours, along with layers of toasted oak, and spice to add complexity while the freshness in the finish comes from just the right amount of acid. This is exceptional value for money and I think deserves a price tag closer to $35.
Lowburn Ferry 2011 Skeleton Creek Pinot Noir RRP $45
The Gold Medal at the Sydney Top 100 and Champion ranking in the 2013 Winestate Wine of the Year awards speak volumes about this wine. With aromas of red cherry and spiced oak along with flavours that are rich yet elegant this is a dangerously easy wine to drink.
Lowburn Ferry 2012 Home Block Pinot Noir RRP $55
Also from Central Otago and also with a number of gold medals tucked under its belt the aromas are packed with intense fruit and charred oak tones. While the base flavours are sweet cherry the structure comes from some sharp acidity in the mid palate. A delight to drink now or enjoy over the next three to four years. This is another five star wine from this reliable producer.
Rockburn 2012 Pinot Noir RRP $50
The tasting notes for this wine (7 gold medals) say “Our “hands-off” approach delivers a pure expression of Central Otago to your glass; an expressive nose and deeply fruited palate displaying vibrant notes of boysenberry, black cherry and mocha, and supple, silky tannins leading into a very long finish. As always this wine shows classic Rockburn elegance, integrity and balance.” There is nothing more for me to say other than buy some now, you won’t regret it.
Rockburn 2012 ‘Ten Barrels’ Pinot Noir RRP $96
This is a wine packed with understated power and I think I committed infanticide when I opened it, now is far too soon to be drinking this wine. It has all the hallmarks of great pinot – floral aromas, succulent ripe fruit, complex mocha and toast characters, a touch of acidity for freshness and talcum-fine tannins. While it isn’t as forward as the previous wine the components will come together over the next two years. A top flight wine.
Neudorf 2012 Moutere Pinot Noir RRP $54
From much closer to home this wine has been a favourite of mine for many years and this edition reaffirms that. This wine has flavour characters that evolve from dark cherry with lashings of liquorice to savoury oak and firm but elegant tannins. While the aromas and flavours have an overlaying savoury tone rather than big and fruity the balance is exquisite making it another five star wine from this consistently outstanding producer.