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New Zealand reds beyond Pinot Noir: Panel tasting results

High scores reflect impressive standards being reached in New Zealand’s roster of ‘other’ red varieties, most notably Syrah, the Cabernets and Merlot.

Christine Marsiglio MW, Freddy Bulmer and Roger Jones tasted 60 wines with 9 Outstanding and 32 Highly recommended.

New Zealand reds beyond Pinot Noir: Panel tasting scores

60 wines tasted

Exceptional 0

Outstanding 9

Highly recommended 32

Recommended 15

Commended 3

Fair 1

Poor 0

Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit their latest-release still red wines made from any varietal or blend except those including Pinot Noir, from any region around New Zealand.

New Zealand’s reputation in the wine world is often dominated first by its pungent Sauvignon Blancs, followed by its elegant Pinot Noirs, yet this tasting underlined the brilliance of a category for which the nation deserves to be better celebrated. Red grapes in New Zealand that are not Pinot Noir represent less than 5% of all plantings (New Zealand Winegrowers, 2022).

However, the wines we tasted here performed exceptionally well, with an astounding 15% rated as Outstanding.

Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores from the New Zealand reds beyond Pinot Noir panel tasting

‘The Syrahs from Hawke’s Bay are very good,’ said Freddy Bulmer. ‘Perhaps this could be the future of the region rather than Bordeaux varieties?’ This sentiment was reflected in the results, with most of the top-scoring Syrahs emerging from either Waiheke or Hawke’s Bay, although no consistent superiority was detected from the latter’s famed Gimblett Gravels sub-region.

New Zealand’s Syrah – notably not named Shiraz, to reflect its more French-influenced style – has pronounced peppery notes, floral undertones and an elegant profile, bearing a striking resemblance to the expressions from the northern Rhône. Bordeaux varieties have a distinct fruit plushness characteristic of sunnier climates, yet an elegance not often found outside their Gallic homeland.

Drawing such distinctions is somewhat controversial these days, as there is a growing debate about the validity of comparing New World and Old World styles. However, Roger Jones felt it keeps winemakers everywhere from resting on their laurels. ‘Competition and comparison is good for all regions – it pushes everyone to do better.’

See all the New Zealand red wines from the panel tasting

Beyond its world-renowned Pinot Noir, New Zealand’s red wines deserve a broader recognition. Based on this line-up, the country’s Syrahs in particular, along with Bordeaux varieties, display a particular vivacity and charm, demonstrating great depth from such a small wine nation.

Not all wines performed perfectly, but if you’re looking to expand your horizons, the wines noted here are a great place to start.

New Zealand reds beyond Pinot Noir panel tasting scores

The judges

Christine Marsiglio MW is a wine communicator, educator and judge currently working as director of education for Wine Folly. A Master of Wine since 2019, she previously worked as a wine educator and program manager at the WSET school in London.

Freddy Bulmer is a wine and beer buyer for The Wine Society, responsible for its New Zealand range as well as Australia, Austria and Eastern Europe. A DWWA judge, he began his career in wine working for independent wine merchants in Yorkshire.

Roger Jones is the retired former owner of The Harrow at Little Bedwyn restaurant in Wiltshire. He is now a wine writer, judge and consultant with a particular interest in the hospitality trade, as well as helping charities. He is a DWWA judge, with a focus on New World regions.

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