New Zealand is host some of the world’s most southerly grape-growing regions. At at a latitude of 45º south, Central Otago has a climate similar to the world’s great Pinot Noir producer Burgundy, France where you’ll find the world’s most expensive wines.
While the wines produced in Central Otago are getting worldwide recognition with some clear distinctions like the crisp acidity of the Pinot Gris, like Burgundy there are distinct ‘appellations’ within the region. Take the aromas of violets and the earthy forest floor sensations typical of the Gibbston Valley Pinot Noirs and compare these to the Pinot Noirs of Lowburn/ Bannockburn that are darker in colour with fuller, sweater fruit notes, for example.
These nuances go a lot further though, heading further north we discover even greater distinctions within these varietals, where the difference in climate and terroir ar leading to quite unique interpretations of these famous grapes of Burgundy.
Mount Michael Pinot Noir
2015 Bendigo, Central Otago
Mount Michael Pinot Noirs are a bit of a favourite of mine. The winery is situated in Bendigo and Lowburn regions of Central Otago, an area that has produced some of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noirs over the years, with this little winery holding its fair share of Gold Medals too. The winery is owned by Anne Dunston who happens to be one of New Zealand’s youngest winery owners. The popularity of their wines is rapidly growing in recent years with the enthusiasm Anna brings to the brand.
This wine is the younger sister of their award winning Bessie’s Block Pinot Noir and offers incredibly good value at and lower price point. It is also the older sister of their recently launched Mountaineer (another great wine at an even better price).
The aroma is of ripe blackberries, subtle oak and mocha, the colour is pale garnet. The grapes for this wine were selected from a single vineyard in Bendigo, grown in stoney ground that retains the heat late into the afternoon. This allows longer and deeper ripening of the fruit, delivering the powerful wine with voluptuous berry flavours and lovely earthy notes on a savoury back palette. Deep colour that strikes you on pouring the first glass. With subtle tannins and great length, the wine makes the perfect accompaniment to venison or duck.
Rockburn Pinot Noir
2016, Central Otago
One of the major players in the Central Otago region and producer of some of the most outstanding Pinot Noirs and Pinot Gris, Rockburn takes its name from the rugged, rock-strewn, burn-scarred landscape surrounding the winery.
Their Pinot Noir is part of their core range and reflects the intense varietal characteristics of Central Otago – a pure expression of Central Otago to your glass. The 2016 Pinot Noir just picked a gold medal at the NZ Wine Awards recently as well as taking out Gold in the Sydney International Wine Competition. This is the perfect place to start a journey around some of New Zealand’s outstanding Pinot Noirs
Using minimal handling, and letting nature run its course, has delivered aromas of violet and a deep dark fruit palette with vibrant notes of red and black cherry, rich mocha and silky tannins leading into a very long finish. With its roots in such a unique picturesque landscape of lakes and mountains, you can just picture this with a meal of wild rabbit or venison on the table, or just try it with a nice juicy steak on the BBQ.
Saint Clair Vicar’s Choice Pinot Noir
Saint Clair Family estate is a is owned by the Ibbotson family, pioneers in the Marlborough wine industry since the late 70s. Established in 1994, having produced grapes for other winemakers with the desire to take the wine making through to the finished product. Named after the early settlers of the land James Sinclair and modified to the present name ‘Saint Clair’.
The vicar’s choice range choice range gained its name from a local pastor that was quite partial to the Saint Clair selection. This Pinot Noir is a delightful example of what is typically a Marlborough styled Pinot Noir. A lot lighter in colour but with an abundance of flavours that have lead to the burgeoning success of the marlborough Pinot Noirs.
Sweet dark red fruit with mixed spice and black olive notes, the palate is bright and silky with juicy sweet fruit, mellow and lingering. The savouriness of the wine is the perfect foil for the natural sweetness of a lamb neck chop casserole cooked with thyme and Pinot Noir.
Shaky Bridge Pioneer Series Pinot Noir
2017, Central Otago
Named after an iconic bridge nearby in the Alexandra subregion of Central Otago, this winery was first established back in the early 70s by the Grant family who still own the Vineyard today.
Shaky Bridge was one of the first vineyards to plant Pinot Noir grapes in the Central Otago region. Grapes from these vines, now over 30 years old, have been used in the production of this outstanding and extremely well priced Pinot Noir.
This wine featured recently in the New World Wine Awards. Awards set up to give you a guide to the best wines available on the supermarket shelves. All wines in the competition are under $25 and judged by a leading panel of wine connoisseurs; this was voted by the judges as the champion of the whole competition. With very dark dense black fruits with vanillian sweetness and flavours of violets, black plums, black cherry and chocolate. Intense but with a soft mouthfeel and silky tannins. A long clean precise finish made this wine a knockout with the judges. For the perfect match, serve with charcoal grilled lamb rack marinated in garlic, rosemary and olive oil.