Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Where can I find a good Pinot Noir? Six top drops

“I find Pinot Noir a bit of a mixed bag and it’s not always easy finding a good one – can you help?”

It’s a common question from readers of this blog, friends and family, and it's a question that is usually answered with a “Yes and sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but it nearly always relates to price. Pinot simply isn’t cheap to produce so it’s rarely going to deliver excellence at a low price, despite a slowly growing range of very good wines under $25 and, occasionally even around the $23 mark.
If you’re willing and able to dig a little deeper for Pinot Noir, here are six wines that will provide an outstanding experience.
All available now, albeit in small quantities. Prices are all in New Zealand dollars.

Six top Pinot Noirs
2020 Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir RRP $58

A beautiful young Pinot Noir from a great year, 2020, which is drinking exceptionally well even in its youth; flavours of silky black cherries are smothered in firm, supply muscly tannins which support the ripeness and depth of flavour.
Approachable now and it can age for at least a decade.

2020 Felton Road Calvert Pinot Noir RRP $71

Calvert Vineyard is an interesting block of land in Bannockburn where grapes tend to ripen more slowly than on their neighbouring sites. This leads to a sleak and silky Pinot Noir with character and approachability in its youth as well as the ability to age. It is a slightly lighter style in body but powerfully pretty in flavour with its lingering finish.

2020 Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir RRP $93

Vignerons Nigel Greening and Blair Walter produce the exceptional Block 3 Pinot Noir from a sloping hillside on their Elms Vineyard in Bannockburn. The elevated site, their growing knowledge of the grapes grown there and a responsiveness to what Mother Nature supplies (and doesn’t) each year leads to this velvety red with its refreshing bright acidity that characterises Pinot Noir. 

2012 Pegasus Bay Aged Release Pinot Noir RRP $70

How often do any of us have the opportunity to drink a 10 year old Pinot Noir which has been cellared in ideal conditions (cool, dark and undisturbed)? Truth be told, not very often so here’s a great chance to do just that with this newly launched Aged Release from Pegasus Bay’s winery cellars.
It’s a stunning wine from a cool year and made entirely from hand picked grapes grown on site at the winery in the Waipara Valley in the heart of North Canterbury. About 10% of the wine was fermented as whole bunches, which adds structure to an already impressively full bodied, dark and smoky Pinot Noir. Drinks beautifully now and can still evolve positively for the next four to five years.

2012 Pegasus Bay Prima Donna Aged Release Pinot Noir RRP $130

Pinot Noir is the Prima Donna of grape varieties, say the Donaldson family, who make this wine from a blend of their best barrels of Pinot each year. This aged release is now 10 years old and still has plenty of time up its full bodied, darkly delicious sleeve. Flavours are of ripe black plum, softened by aged spices such as cardamon, nutmeg and cloves, all intermingling beautifully in an earthy, complex Pinot with a powerfully full body and smoky complexity marrying with deep earthy flavours. This wine drinks beautifully and can age for longer.

2020 Wild Earth Pinot Noir Earth and Sky RRP $65

Earthy by name and by nature. This is a superb, deeply coloured, densely flavoursome and youthful Pinot Noir from Wild Earth wines in Bannockburn. Winemaker Quintin Quider uses grapes grown on three separate vineyards in Bannockburn to make this wine; all were hand picked and fermented separately to retain their different expressions of site variation. Overall there was about 15% whole bunch fermentation, which enhances the fragrant floral fresh aromas in the wine. It was aged for 12 months in French oak, 22% new which is in gorgeous balance here, supporting the impressive structure and full body of this lovely young wine.