New Zealand is making more good value Pinot Noir than any other country, Matthew Jukes says on the publication of his third Classification of New Zealand Pinot Noir.
Jukes, one of the UK’s best-known wine critics, and Australian wine journalist Tyson Stelzer have published the classification for the last three years.
Awards are based on an average rating of the five most recent vintages. Entire ranges are tasted, but it is the producers’ estate wines which set the standard, not the most expensive reserves or single-vineyard wines.
Only three wineries have been awarded five stars: Felton Road and Mt Difficulty from Central Otago, and Ata Rangi from Martinborough.
In the four star category are Bell Hill, Craggy Range, Dry River, Escarpment (which was awarded five stars last year), Martinborough Vineyard, Pegasus Bay, Peregrine, Rippon and Pyramid Valley.
Two of those – Peregrine and Rippon – are from Central Otago, the region of the South Island which first popularized New Zealand Pinot but is considered by many to have suffered from too many producers jumping on the bandwagon.
Jukes said he first decided to do a classification after tasting some ‘really poor’ Pinots from Otago in 2004.
The problem, he told decanter.com, was ‘too many rich people investing in the region’ and making expensive ‘trophy’ wines from young vines. ‘It was a bit of a mess.’
Now New Zealand can rightly claim to make the best good value Pinot in the world, Jukes reckons – and this is from a dozen different regions in which ‘the geographical and micro-climatic differences are beginning to make themselves felt.’
The critic, who writes the annual ‘60 Best New Zealand Wines’, stresses that ‘there is a valid reason for shopping in all territories’. He cites the plummy, spicy wines of the best Otago producers, the more delicate Pinots of Craggy Range in Hawkes Bay, or the ‘muscular, leathery’ style of Dog Point in Wairau Valley, Marlborough.
The regions now cementing their reputation for great Pinot are Martinborough and Marlborough: at a Decanter panel tasting in September 2008 they took five of the seven top awards.
But there are other regions worth watching, Jukes says, like Waitaki Valley in North Otago.The ‘very competent’ wines he tasted are not commercially available and so didn’t make the Classification.
Above all, New Zealand Pinot Noir is in excellent health. ‘Three years ago I had a bit of a rant and told producers they weren’t as good as they thought they were. This year I said they were progressing at an exponential rate.’
The 2010 Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification
Te Whare Ra*
* Asterisk denotes estates for which the critics have yet to taste five vintages
Written by Adam Lechmere