Pinot noir top tipple, say experts and exports

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013

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Pinot noir is the stand-out variety on the wine scene, with exports of the drink made from black Vitis vinifera grapes doubling in the last decade.

The red wine is big business to New Zealand. The value of pinot noir sold to overseas drinkers hit $122 million last year, up from only $19m a decade ago.

It is the second most popular variety after our star sauvignon blanc, with pinot noir vines planted on upwards of a million more hectares than chardonnay.

A four-day festival dedicated to the tipple was launched on Wellington's waterfront yesterday, with 500 people attending. Pinot Noir NZ 2013 spokesman Robert Brewer said the industry in New Zealand had evolved since the first three-yearly event in 2001.

"Pinot noir is so important to New Zealand because it shows that we can make serious red wine alongside our fantastic sauvignon blanc.

"This year we have separate venues for the separate regions, that's a sign of the coming of age [of] regionality and saying to the wine world that New Zealand produces premium pinot noir."

The terroir, a French word winemakers use to sum up the combination of soil, weather, vine quality and winemaker passion, seems suited to creating the variety.

Brewer described the New Zealand climate with its dry autumns and cool nights as a "marvellously unique and compelling" environment to make pinot noir in.

At the industry festival, almost 300 wines of the light-to-medium bodied red wine are showcased to the aficionados. More than a third of the attendees are professional wine buffs from international media.

"We get the gliteratti of the wine world, the writers and trade representatives who really make a difference to New Zealand wine sales."

Carterton's Gladstone Vineyard has been making pinot noir since 2000, exporting to the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and parts of Asia. Its winemaker Alexis Moore said the event was significant for the New Zealand industry to highlight the quality of pinot noir grown here.

"People are taking note of the quality of the pinot noir that comes from New Zealand, as a real cool climate region for producing pinot noir grapes. We have the potential to produce really amazing wine and people are starting to acknowledge that in the last 10 years."

In the Wairarapa region total wine production quadrupled in the last 10 years with 20 new vineyards in business since 2003. There were 4.3 million tonnes of all types of grapes crushed in Wairarapa last year up from 1.3 million a decade ago.

Karl Johner makes wine under the label Weingut Karl H Johner in his native Germany and at Johner Wines in Wairarapa.

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"I call myself an ambassador for New Zealand wine in Europe," he said, exporting 60 per cent of the pinot noir made at his New Zealand property to Europe, where he then sends it to countries including Switzerland, Holland, Denmark.

"New Zealand pinot noir is absolutely becoming more popular. Outside New Zealand, the country is known more for the whites. One day it will be at least as popular as sauvignon blanc, but you don't want sauvignon blanc to be beaten. Rome wasn't built in a day, neither is New Zealand pinot noir."

- The Dominion Post

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