Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


How high can you go on a bottle of wine? $175, anyone?

What is the most expensive thing you have eaten consumed? And did you see the value in it?

The most expensive wines are often such labours of love that they do not even make it to the commercial bottling line, but remain either in barrel or in a small bottle run for family and friends of the producer. It is always a privilege to try wines such as those, which happens infrequently but regularly enough to be a reminder that the best winemakers love creating something special, even if it doesn't always find a footing in the marketplace, due to low volume, high price and so much time spent ageing that it wouldn't make sense (or cents) to try and sell it.

This week, one of New Zealand's most talented winemakers (this writer's description - not any PR sold to me) has released an exceptional bottle of Pinot Noir from Te Kairanga winery in Martinborough. 

The wine is the 2020 Te Kairanga WPF Pinot Noir. It is named after William Patrick Foley II, the owner of Te Kairanga Wines, which is one of the oldest wineries in the Martinborough district. The retail price is $175 a bottle and while this will make some eyes water, the wine is an impressive drop.

This is the first release of WPF and it is hard to think of a better vintage from which to make it. The 2020 harvest is most strongly remembered as the covid year. Lockdown happened right in the middle of harvest and threatened to completely curtain any vintage at all that year but when the Government announced that wine was an essential service and the sun shone for an endless, dry autumn in east coast regions of New Zealand, the result was impeccable quality in the bottle, particularly for red wines from Martinborough, the Wairarapa, Hawke's Bay, Marlborough and North Canterbury.

Here is my tasting note on WPF. It's pricey but if you want something special, this is a keeper.


2020 Te Kairanga WPF Pinot Noir RRP $175

Te Kairanga's home vineyard Pinot Noir is 100% Abel clone (the most revered Pinot Noir variant in New Zealand) and all grapes in this smooth, dry, powerful and elegant Pinot Noir were hand picked with 82% destemmed into two tanks for fermentation. The remaining 18% were fermented as whole bunches, with stems and stalks intact to add structure and depth to the dark fruit flavours of ripe cherry, red plum and velvety fruit aromas, underpinned by bold but balanced acidity. The wine was aged for 13 months in old French oak and bottled without fining or filtration. This means it is a vegan wine but like the best wines, its makers are not marketing it that way.

Te Kairanga's WPF Pinot Noir continues the impressively high standard of Pinot Noir that winemaker John Kavanagh and viticulturist Dave Shepherd have set.