Recently drunk: five impressive Kiwi Pinots

black estate pinot

While I’m here in New Zealand, as well as tasting wine I’m making an effort to drink some too. The challenge for writers and critics is to be relevant to readers. Most readers open a bottle of wine and drink it. They don’t line up 60-100 bottles in bags and then taste and spit small samples, which is the way most critics work. It’s clearly necessary to taste and spit, but this needs to be calibrated regularly by actual drinking of wine, because that’s reality. So here are five recently drunk Pinots that, in their own way, each impressed.

Black Estate Netherwood Pinot Noir 2014 North Canterbury, New Zealand
This wine was drunk around midnight on New Year’s Eve, so I think I’d have to revisit it to be sure of this note. But I loved it. It has beautiful leafy detail to the supple cherry and raspberry fruit, and it’s really elegant and focused with nice structure and fine spiciness. This is really delicate and appealing. 94/100


Villa Maria Taylors Pass Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. From a vineyard on the north bank of the Awatere river, where the silty loam soils of varying depths over river gravels usually produce a ripe expression of Pinot Noir. With a few years under its belt, this has some mellow, quite complex savoury spicy notes over plum and cherry fruit on the nose. On the palate there’s a faint twist of mint and dried herbs as well as lush, warm black cherry and plum fruit. There’s fruit sweetness here and a bit of evolution, and it’s mellow and harmonious. Just beginning to shed its primary fruit a little, this is drinking very well now. 93/100

The Darling Pinot Noir 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
This organic Pinot Noir is from Southern Valleys and Antipode Estate Vineyard. 13% alcohol. Fresh and with some savoury complexity, combining notes of herbs, tar and earth, as well as cherries, plums and subtle leafy hints. This is a restrained, savoury style with lots of interest. 92/100

Folding Hill

Folding Hill Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely focus here: some sweet, lush cherry fruit with a smooth, silky core. And there’s fine spiciness and some thyme and sage notes in the background. Lovely purity and balance here: ripe but showing finesse. 93/100

grava pinot noir

Grava Pinot Noir 2015 Martinborough, New Zealand
This is a new producer to me. It’s made by Alistair Gardner from a vineyard on the gravels in Martinborough (Grava is Spanish for gravels, and he’s spent a decade making wine in Spain). Smooth and finely spiced with nice sleek cherry and raspberry fruit and some fine-grained tannins. Harmonious and balanced with a nice contrasting damson note on the finish. Finishes warm and spicy. 93/100

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