A notoriously fickle grape to grow, but at the hands of a master, can be turned into wines that are delicious, fruity and endlessly expressive. With International Pinot Noir Day just around the corner, what better time to crack a few bottles and get reacquainted with this little beauty of a varietal.
Here in New Zealand it is the delicate, complex and often feminine style of Central Otago Pinot Noir that has resonated the most with consumers both here and around the world in recent years. The high diurnal temperature range of the deep south suits this grape by providing perfect ripening conditions during the warm summer days but cool nights help to preserve and capture the pureness of those flavours to be harnessed in the resulting wines. The real beauty of Pinot Noir from this region is the depths of complexity they achieve, mean not only do these wines age well, but as they do, they develop a whole array of secondary flavours and characteristics that morph them into more savoury realms.
Unfortunately with fame often comes money, and that money is all in the price tag that Central Otago Pinot Noir can now demand. Luckily (for you!) we have been working very closely with our winemaking partners to bring a range of bespoke Pinot from Otago to market that captures the essence of all we love about this region without it having to cost an arm and a leg. This range includes the lovable Flower Boy, full of red fruit flavours complemented by a clean dry finish and hints of acid, to the hand-picked Single Vineyard Anthem wines with complex aromas of fruits and nuts all topped off with a silky smooth palate.
Despite Otago being the hero region for this grape it is actually Marlborough that has the most land dedicated to plantings of this varietal. These wines are often light, easy-drinking styles that are fruit driven and very approachable but lack the complexity to age beyond a few years. A good portion of the Pinot Noir planted in Marlborough also goes into the production of New Zealands answer to Champagne - the Methode Traditionelle wines such as Cloudy Bay Pelorus produced by the makers of Veuve Cliquot, the classic Deutz that has adorned many a Kiwi Christmas table or the everyday tipple for the bubble lover - Lindeaur Special Reserve.
However, when it comes to quality, Central Otago should not get all the glory when talking about New Zealand Pinot Noir - smaller regions like Martinborough in the Wairarapa region make exceptional wines from this grape. It's warm climate suits a beefier style that results in grippy tannins and more savoury flavours that when managed well in the winery can make for wines that will cellar well for a decade and beyond.
Looking to the wider world we can also not forget to pay homage to the spiritual home of Pinot Noir - Burgundy. Similar in climate to Central Otago, it is home to some of the most prestigious Pinot in the world, the Premier and Grand Cru's. But the savvy wine shopper can also get their hot little hands on plenty of quality wines that represent this region without having to break the bank.
By far and away though my favourite use of the Pinot Noir grape is as an integral part of Champagne, along with its counterparts Chardonnay and the lesser known Pinot Meunier. What Pinot Noir brings to the Champagne style, particularly with Rose Champagne, is a savoury meatiness and depth of flavour that is nothing short of luxury in a glass. Perhaps that explains the success and attraction with some of the big name brands like Veuve Clicquot and Bollinger. These Pinot-dominant blends take all that is good about this unpredictable and sometimes troublesome grape, give it a playful dance partner like Chardonnay, wave your wand and give it some bubbles and what you get is pure magic!