New Zealand produces some fantastic pinot noir and the world is witness to that, but it could be even better, we were told at an international pinot noir symposium in Wellington this month, if winemakers who tell us good wine is made in the vineyard relinquished even more control and really let the vineyard do the talking.
The suggestion was made by United States wine writer Matt Kramer, who said, although maybe not in the same words, that if you want two plus two to equal five, then you must try things that are different, maybe collectively picking the various clones of pinot noir, for instance.
It was all food for thought for the New Zealand producers, who strutted their stuff for pinotphiles, wine writers, buyers, and experts from around the world, who also had plenty to think by the end of the week-long event.
This year, the focus was on regionality, rather than pinot noir in general. It allowed producers from the various regions where the variety is grown in New Zealand to interact with the punters and to tell their own stories.
Which is important given that these regions are in various stages of development and the wines that they produce show different characteristics.
For example, it allowed better understanding of the Marlborough region thanks to producers being able to showcase on a one-to-one basis wines with a much greater depth of flavour than before.
Likewise, wines from the 2010 vintage in the Waitaki region, where some of the things the experts suggest we should be doing appear to have occurred quite naturally.
The interaction also allowed Central Otago to demonstrate the subregional characters that have emerged in what are generally acknowledged as very classy wines, mainly thanks to the advancing age of the vines and others because winemakers are doing what people like Kramer think they should be doing.
Whichever, it seems generally agreed that there were no poor wines on display from Central Otago, which speaks volumes for the strength and the reputation of pinot noir from the deep south.
There also seemed this year to be much wider agreement that we should be worrying less about the the style and substance of the wines produced in Burgundy, the spiritual home of pinot noir, and celebrating the styles we are creating here for what they are.
We should also be attempting to close the gap which exists between the cost of New Zealand pinot noir and Burgundy, which in terms of quality to price is absurd. On this basis, our wines are worth much more, which, hopefully, will be corrected.
It is a situation perhaps best summed up by actor Sam Neill, a pinot producer, who said in an interview at the symposium: "I think of us as being the bastards of pinot noir.
"We're like the illegitimate child, unacknowledged by our parent [Burgundy], unwanted and ignored, but we don't care.
"My guess is it makes some people in Burgundy a little anxious, but there's no need to be, because we don't want to make Burgundy. We want to make our own pinot noir." As we do and should.
Here are some examples from Central Otago:
Mt Maude 2010 Pinot Noir, about $30
Fruit from the home vineyard in Wanaka was blended with grapes from three other subregions of Central Otago to produce this classy, complex wine. A fragrant, berried wine with hints of chocolate, spice and an elegant earthiness.
THE BEAUTY OF AGE
Rippon 2010 Mature Vines Pinot Noir, about $55
To qualify for this label, wine much be made from fruit off vines at least 15 years old. This excellent example of this enticingly spiced wine showcases the purity of the pinot fruit grown on the banks of Lake Wanaka.
It is long and fine.
Two Paddocks 2010 Central Otago Pinot Noir, $45
This pinot noir from Sam Neill will keep you going until the release in April of a couple of more expensive single vineyard stunners. A soft and savoury blend of Gibbston-Earnsclough fruit, it is delightful drinking.
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