Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Local pinot trumps $7000 a bottle wine

Winemaker Paul Mason celebrates with a rare bottle of the 1998 Reserve pinot noir. Photo / Supplied
Winemaker Paul Mason celebrates with a rare bottle of the 1998 Reserve pinot noir. Photo / Supplied

Demand has soared for a North Island pinot noir crowned best in the world, but don't expect to get your hands on a bottle - even its makers are struggling to track it down.

Martinborough Vineyard's 1998 Reserve came first in a blind tasting of the world's finest wines in Pasadena, California.

Burgundy wines dominated the competition, taking three of the top five spots. But even the most prestigious, a $7000 bottle of 1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache, was trumped by the $200 Martinborough wine.

The vineyard's winemaker, Paul Mason, said local and international inquiries had poured in since the win.

However, Martinborough Vineyard had only 10 bottles remaining in its cellar, and is now trying to buy it back for $500 a bottle to replenish the stock. Only 300 cases were made.

"It's stirred a bit of interest," he said. "Unfortunately that's one wine we had very little of.

They do come up at auction occasionally, but it's certainly not something you're going to see on a retail shelf anywhere."

Mr Mason was not even aware the wine, made by former vintner Larry McKenna, had featured in the contest.

"I just read about it on Twitter the following day when one of the tasters was blogging about it."

He later discovered it had been entered by an American distributor, who had been asked to provide his two favourite New Zealand wines.

The high-profile recognition was confirmation for Wairarapa growers of what they had believed for years - that New Zealand was one of the finest New World pinot noir producers.

Martinborough Vineyard sits on a terrace which is known for its deep, free-draining alluvial soils, and ideal climate - cool and crisp, with a rain shadow and a long, warm ripening period in autumn.

The long, dry, summer of 1998 was regarded as one of the very best periods for pinot noir grapes in Martinborough.

The Pasadena competition was based on the 1976 Judgment of Paris, in which a California wine caused a sensation when it was chosen ahead of revered French wines.

Twelve judges tasted 20 pinot noirs from New Zealand, the United States, France, Germany, and Australia.

- NZ Herald

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