New Zealand Pinot Noir (Nov 2017)

If you invite producers around the country to send wines for a Pinot Noir tasting, stand by for a rush of wines from Central Otago and Marlborough.  Over 80 per cent of all entries in our latest tasting flowed from the two regions, followed by Pinot Noirs from Hawke’s Bay – a far bigger producer of Pinot Noir than most wine lovers realise – Wairarapa and Canterbury.

Pinot Noir is New Zealand’s most internationally acclaimed red-wine style, enjoying lively demand on the local market and overseas.   Martinborough, in the Wairarapa (initially) and Central Otago have enjoyed the highest profile, but well over 45 per cent of the country’s total Pinot Noir vine plantings are now clustered in Marlborough.  Given that region’s huge output of ‘entry level’, modestly priced, drink-young Pinot Noirs, based on more heavily cropped vines, Marlborough now produces  more than half of all New Zealand Pinot Noir.

About 1000 Pinot Noirs are crowding the shelves, including a multitude of distinguished reds in the $40 and above category.   But can you buy a decent, satisfying Pinot Noir for less than $30?

The good news is that intensifying competition between the wineries is producing better and better Pinot Noirs in the lower price brackets.  If you prefer not to pay over $NZ20, rather than a Pinot Noir, it’s typically wiser to select a Merlot from Hawke’s Bay.  But if your budget stretches to the $NZ25 to $NZ30 category, you can definitely find some classy, rewarding Pinot Noirs.

Central Otago enhanced its glowing reputation for Pinot Noir in this tasting, with the highest average rating of all regions.   But Marlborough wasn’t far behind, underlying the superb, show-stopping quality of the top Pinot Noirs from the clay-based sites on the region’s southern flanks.