I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would write about wine as an essential service in a time of global lockdown but life throws all sorts of weird and sometimes even wonderful things at us.

In this case, Covid-19 is the weird and wine is the wonderful. It’s an essential part of a wine writer’s ‘job’ to report on new releases and here are two interesting Pinot Noirs that landed on my tasting table (aka my desk) this week. Both come from North Canterbury with one from 2018 and the other from 2019. The vintages and the wines are extremely different in style.

My pick of this pair is the youngest wine from the 2019 vintage, which also happens to be a reserve wine, meaning it has had more hand work in its production and also comes from a superlative year. It also needs  more time to soften and relax into itself, and it has the structure to reward those with willpower to cellar it for seven or eight years. It’s great to taste another delicious South Island Pinot Noir from the 2019 vintage, which is hitting high notes all round in terms of top quality 2019 Pinot Noirs from the South Island, of the wines I’ve tasted so far. If this is any indication, there’s a lot more to look forward to from 2019. Bring them on.

18.5/20 (gold medal)

2019 Main Divide Te Hau Reserve Pinot Noir $32.95
Te Hau Reserve Pinot Noir is named after Henry Te Hau Tapu Nui o Tu Donaldson, an ancestor of the Donaldson family who own Pegasus Bay Winery today. This wine and that region are consistent favourites of mine, due to the depth of flavour and robust structure, which comes from earthy flavours and smooth but noticeable tannins (not always a strong feature in Pinot Noir). These qualities come from windy springs (which reduces grape and bunch size), to hot summers (which aid ripening) and long autumns, which enhance ripeness. This reserve wine is not made every year but every time it is produced, the style and quality punch significantly above the price tag, which is relatively humble, given the great concentration of flavour, dry taste and full body in this wine.

The 2019 vintage in North Canterbury was unsettled in spring and a smaller crop ripened earlier than usual in settled weather conditions. This wine will reward cellaring for another six to seven years.

17/20 (high bronze medal)

2018 Main Divide Pinot Noir $24.99

This new release of Main Divide comes from a very hot summer with some rain followed by dry autumn conditions. The wine was aged in oak (35% new) after fermentation with plunging twice daily to extract structure. It’s a good quality Pinot Noir and tastes youthful now, so will benefit with time, softening and maturing into an even more approachable wine.

The Main Divide wines are the introductory range from Pegasus Bay Winery in Waipara, North Canterbury. They are named after the Southern Alps, which form the backbone of the South Island.