Ray writes to ask for recommendations of the best Pinot Noirs to drink when he visits New Zealand in early 2020.
Where do I start?
We are spoilt for choice in New Zealand Pinot Noir today because the quality has risen astronomically in the past 10 years.
Not only in Central Otago, where style and quality vary as dramatically as the spectacular scenery. Top Pinots are now made in Marlborough, Martinborough and Canterbury as well as the jaw droppingly beautiful deep south.
This column features a bunch of the best from Otago but this is the tip of a very long iceberg of top notch New Zealand Pinots, which I will write more about in coming weeks. I’ve been travelling (perhaps a tad too much), which has held me up on finishing and posting my usual Friday Wines of the Week, due to judging stints at various wine shows around the country.
So, on the eve of the next one (the annual Hawke’s Bay Bayley’s Wine Awards) here, without further ado, are six new Pinots that hit high notes.
Six top new Pinot Noirs (more to come)
2017 Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir $45
The Misha in this increasingly well known brand is co-owner Misha Wilkinson, who celebrated 11 years of winemaking in Central Otago with her 2017 wines. It was a tricky year but it’s turned out stunning wines, not least due to smaller quantities than usual from many producers.
This powerful Pinot is made from grapes that were cold soaked for 7 days prior to fermentation, which included an incredibly modest 6% of whole bunches to add structure without overtaking the fruit flavours. The wine was on skins for 24 days, post ferment, to maximise colour. It was then pressed to tank briefly before being moved into French oak hogsheads; 300 litre barrels, 28% new, where it aged for nearly a year and was filtered before bottling.
It’s modest in colour (medium to pale ruby) with a seductively silky mouthfeel, fruit forward flavours held in beautiful balance thanks to subtle oak influence, which makes the wine taste smooth, full and long on taste.
Four new Chard Farm Pinot Noirs
Chard Farm is one of the oldest wineries in Central Otago. It’s situated in the stunning Gibbston Valley where a small percentage of its grapes are grown. There are now four single vineyard wines in its stable, the latest of which are featured here. Each one expresses a different aspect of Central’s dramatic southern climate and growing conditions.
2017 Chard Farm Central Otago Viper Vineyard $74
The Viper Vineyard Pinot is my pick of the single vineyard wines from the 2017 release from Chard Farm. It may be light in colour but its flavours more than make up for it with their silky, elegance, vibrant acidity and balance of beautiful fresh red fruit flavours. Here’s a Central Otago Pinot Noir that combines lightness with intensity and a long finish.
2017 Chard Farm Central Otago Mata-Au $45
Light in colour and big on flavour, this is one of three sub-regional expressions of Pinot Noir made by Chard Farm and is fruit driven with freshness driving the flavours and a lingering, grippy finish – it’s youthful and will age for up to and very possibly beyond five years.
2017 Chard Farm Central Otago The Tiger Pinot Noir $74
The Tiger is named after the late ‘Tiger’ Thomson (no relation to yours truly, although I’d be proud if he was). Tiger was the cellar door manager at Chard Farm until well into his later years and he was a charmer, just like this wine, which ironically tastes like the most youthful of the new Pinot line up. It has a medium body silky texture, high acidity and long finish with spicy, smoky flavours and very good aging potential.
2017 Chard Farm Mason Vineyard $74
The Mason Vineyard is an exciting new acquisition for Chard Farm at Parkburn and it’s the only vineyard in the Chard stable with clay soils. It’s been planted for 19 to 20 years and is a site that appealed so strongly to winemakers Rob Hay and John Wallace that, in their own words, “We liked the vineyard so much that we bought it.”
It’s easy to taste why. Savoury and full bodied, this wine stylistically complements the Chard line up with its savoury spicy flavours.
2017 Chard Farm Central Otago River Run $33
A vibrant young wine with a great and long life ahead. River Run Pinot Noir is made from a blend of grapes grown in various sub regions in the vastly spread out Central Otago area. It drinks well now and can definitely age and mellow for up to eight years, possibly beyond in cool dark cellar conditions.