Pinot Noir (November 2019)

There can be no doubt about New Zealand’s most popular red-wine variety. In the 2019 vintage, the country’s winegrowers harvested 5625 tonnes of Pinot Noir grapes, dwarfing the crops of Merlot (1133 tonnes), Syrah (441 tonnes) and Cabernet Sauvignon (221 tonnes).

The new 2020 edition of the Buyer’s Guide features reviews of over 500 Pinot Noirs. There are countless labels on the shelves, as producers launch second, third and even fourth-tier labels, as well as single-vineyard bottlings (and others under ‘buyer’s own’ and export-only brands you and I have never heard of.)

Nearly half of the country’s total Pinot Noir plantings are in Marlborough, whose greatest reds, grown mostly on clay-based sites in the Southern Valleys, are widely underrated. The variety is also well established in Central Otago and the Waitaki Valley of North Otago (27 per cent), Wairarapa (9 per cent), Canterbury (7 per cent), Hawke’s Bay and Nelson.

Overseas, Central Otago’s strikingly perfumed, lush Pinot Noirs enjoy the highest profile, and 45 per cent of the entries in the tasting came from the deep south, followed by Marlborough (18 per cent) and Hawke’s Bay (18 per cent).

In terms of vintages, 30 per cent of entries flowed from the 2017 vintage, ahead of 2018 (24 per cent) and 2016 (24 per cent). When buying Pinot Noirs from Central Otago, keep an eye out for the 2017s. From the lightest grape crop in the region since 2012 – even smaller than the 2008 vintage – Central Otago’s 2017 Pinot Noirs are notably dense, ripe and age worthy.

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