Pinot noir tops say experts and exports

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 07:05 29/01/2013
Pinot noir
DIEGO OPATOWSKI/Fairfax NZ

FOOD TIME: Amy Hopkinson and Leslie Renald, on the front row, enjoy themselves and the fare at the Pinot Noir NZ 2013 festival at the Wellington Waterfront yesterday.

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Pinot Noir is the standout 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 more than 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 glitterati 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."

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.

He exports 60 per cent of the pinot noir made at his New Zealand property to Europe, and from there he sends it to countries including Switzerland, Holland and 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." 

Contact Jazial Crossley
Wellington business reporter
Email: jazial.crossley@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @msbananapeel

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- The Dominion Post

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