Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Wine of the week… a whole bunch love affair

It’s been a New Zealand Pinot Noir week here in Martinborough with a deluge of new releases and aged wines from producers to show how well this great red wine can taste, both as a young wine and when aged. There is no question that New Zealand Pinot Noir is growing in quality as well as in a diverse range of styles, with many winemakers opting to use a portion of whole bunches in their ferments in lieu of high proportions of oak during the wine’s maturation. I like the inclusion of whole bunches in Pinot Noir. When done well, they can add structure and complexity, without detracting from fruit character the way that high volumes of oak can. Whole bunch inclusion is also an interesting way of expressing the vintage. Cool years don’t lend themselves to as much whole bunch fermentation as warm ones because stalks and stems are more likely to have a green component. Luckily, New Zealand winemakers have had a string of relatively warm summers and autumns over the past five years, with only the odd glitch (don’t mention 2017). The other thing I am enjoying about New Zealand Pinot Noir right now can be summarised in one word: Marlborough.

It’s the country’s biggest wine region by a crazily long stretch (home to 24,037 hectares of the country’s 38,680 hectares of vines) and it’s far and away weighted towards Sauvignon Blanc with approximately 70% of its vineyards but Pinot Noirs from here are hitting high notes of great flavour more than they did even five years ago. And not only as youthful, drink-me-now wines but also as serious, structured reds worthy of aging in a cellar. Here’s one.

Wine of the week

2019 Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Pinot Noir $45.99

Musician and winemaker Kyle Thompson (no relation; his name has a ‘p’) made this Pinot Noir with grapes from the Delta region in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys, adding 8% whole bunches into the ferment to add structure and complex flavours. The wine was aged in oak for nearly a year, a low-ish 25% new oak with the balance being older seasoned 225 litre French barriques. Full bodied, deeply coloured and super refreshing with a flavour combo of red fruit and spice. This is a zingy young wine which drinks deliciously well now but will certainly reward aging for up to five years, possibly beyond.