Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


NZ Pinot Noir quality rising

Central Otago Pinot Noirs come in all shapes and sizes from light, fresh and fruity to deep, dense and full bodied because the diversity of this southernmost wine region in the world is enormous. Far from being a one trick pony, Central has at least four distinctive sub regions for grape growing, which is reflected in the wildly different styles of wine that come out of this vast area. In reality, there are more than four nuances and the areas include the Gibbston Valley (home to the earliest wineries in the modern days of Central wine), Bannockburn, Cromwell, Pisa, Lowburn and Northburn through to Wanaka in the north west and Alexandra in the south east. They range from dry and arid semi continental climates (most of them) to places with a hint of maritime influence, which is felt in Wanaka’s vineyards due to the lake and strong westerly winds that blow through.

Wine of the week

The wine of this week is Coal Pit Pinot Noir, a small scale wine made entirely from estate grown grapes on a sloping hillside, 12 hectare vineyard in Gibbston Valley, Central Otago. Soils here are schist on warm north facing slopes and Pinot Noir clones planted are a mix of 115, 10/5, 777 and 5. Some vines here date back to the original plantings in 1994 and remain on their own roots while others are now grafted. The Coal Pit Winery is owned by Rosie Dunphy, who bought the vineyard in 2001 and built a winery onsite in 2007. She named the Tiwha Pinot Noir in tribute to her late father. The Coal Pit winery name pays homage to the early pioneers and gold miners in the region.

2019 Coal Pit Tiwha Pinot Noir $56

This Coal Pit Pinot Noir is an outstanding expression of wine from the cool, late ripening Gibbston Valley where grapes are typically the last to be picked in the entire Central Otago region. The 2019 vintage was drier than usual and all grapes in this wine were hand harvested, 30% of which were added as whole bunches to the  ferment with wild yeasts and about a month of skin maceration time to extract colour and structure in the wine, which was aged in French oak for 10 months with 28% new oak.
The cool climate, elevated hillside vineyard and small production are key ingredients that go into making Coal Pit Tiwha Pinot Noir a wine that stands out from the crowd with its earthy robust style and delicacy. It is the classic iron fist in a velvet glove.

The artwork on the Tiwha label is by Chris Heaphy and the original painting hangs inside the winery tasting room.