John Hawkesby

John Hawkesby is a wine writer for Canvas Magazine.

Kiwi pinot takes on world

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Marlborough is a flag-bearing region delivering pinot noir that can take on the world. Photo / Supplied
Marlborough is a flag-bearing region delivering pinot noir that can take on the world. Photo / Supplied

With New Zealand's sauvignon blanc no longer enjoying the revered international position it once held, we need to turn our attention to the next big thing.

That would be pinot noir. Hovering just beneath the fashionable wine radar for some time, our pinots are now ready for their turn on the world stage.

In the last year I have visited wine retailers, merchants, producers, sommeliers and restauranteurs in 16 cities from Copenhagen to Venice. All have the same questions regarding our pinot noirs. How good are they? What style or country are they most similar to - North American (most notably Oregon) or Burgundy? What areas of New Zealand produce the best pinots and are they value for money?

It is with considerable pride and honesty that I am able to wax eloquently on the glories and rise and rise of our pinot noir. This is not jingoistic gibberish but a genuine belief that most of our premium producers of this fragile, challenging grape have really hit their straps.

Part of the charm of our pinot noir is that they straddle both New and Old World styles. Put this down to geography, clone selection and also viticulture and versatility.

There are some world-class winemakers here who know exactly how to deal with this tricky varietal and who have experienced hands-on vintages in some of the world's great pinot-producing regions. They have vision, expectations, skill and unwavering commitment to excellence.

Playing into our hands is a level of disenchantment with some French Burgundies. At the very top they are simply the best, but elsewhere it's a minefield with very uneven quality. Who wants to be continually disappointed having paid through the nose for what we assumed to be a magnificent drop?

Consistency of quality is the key, coupled with a reasonable price.

Growing pinot noir north of Taupo is like trying to hold back a rising tide with your hands - don't bother.

Central Otago, Waipara, small pockets of Nelson and Marlborough and Wairarapa are the flag-bearing regions with the latter in particular being able to deliver pinot noir with less bright forward fruit and more of an Old World earthy, truffle-like flavour.

For now, New Zealand pinot lovers have never had it so good.

Recommended

2010 Kupe by Escarpment $85
This is seamless and sublime. Possibly Martinborough winemaker Larry McKenna's finest moment. Not cheap but excellence carries a price - feel the love.

2009 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir $44
A perfect example of an outstanding Central Otago pinot that delivers astonishing value for money. It's a winner of copious international awards. A complex, powerful, supple, gorgeous wine.

- NZ Herald

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