“Pinot Noir is the princely grape variety of red Burgundy. Cheaper wines typically display light, raspberry-evoking flavours, but great Pinot Noir has substance, suppleness and a gorgeous spread of flavours: cherries, fruit cake, spice and plums.
Pinot Noir is now New Zealand’s most internationally acclaimed red-wine style. The vine is the second most commonly planted variety overall, ahead of Chardonnay and behind only Sauvignon Blanc. Almost 45 per cent of the country’s total Pinot Noir plantings are now in Marlborough (where up to 10 per cent of the vines are grown for bottle-fermented sparkling wine), but the variety is also well established in Otago (27 per cent of the country’s plantings), Wairarapa (9 per cent), Canterbury (8 per cent), Hawke’s Bay (6 per cent) and Nelson (4 per cent).
Yet Pinot Noir is a frustrating variety to grow. Because it buds early, it is vulnerable to spring frosts; its compact bunches are also very prone to rot. One crucial advantage is that it ripens early, well ahead of Cabernet Sauvignon. Low cropping and the selection of superior clones are essential aspects of the production of fine wine.
Martinborough (initially) and Central Otago have enjoyed the highest profile for Pinot Noir over the past 25 years. As their output of Pinot Noir has expanded, average prices have fallen, reflecting the arrival of a tidal wave of ‘entry-level’ (drink-young) wines.
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