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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > NEW WORLD: Pinot Noir, New Zealand

Winner Details

New  World: Pinot Noir – New Zealand

One or two reservations, but overall this was a good, solid performance from the Kiwis with this most finicky of grape varieties

Sommeliers love Pinot Noir. And with New Zealand the undisputed king of the grape outside the gold-filled slopes of Burgundy, this is always an eagerly anticipated set of flights.

In fact, perhaps the high expectations explain why our tasters tend (perplexingly) to be somewhat underwhelmed here year after year. Because there’s certainly a lack of logic to an eminently respectable medal count (including a record three places on the Gold List) and the kind of mumbling and moaning we were hearing in the early rounds.

The feedback from The Vineyard Group’s James Hocking was fairly typical. ‘I kind of expected that to be amazing,’ he said. ‘There were some very good wines, but there was a lot of variation; a lot of insipidness as well.’

Variation and insipidness, you could argue, go with the territory when it comes to Pinot Noir. But perhaps more worryingly for the overall health of the category, money wasn’t any guarantee of quality. There were decent wines at lower prices, and some shockers further up. If there’s one thing New Zealand really doesn’t want to copy from Burgundy, it’s that lack of connection between price and quality.

About half of the country’s medals went to Central Otago, though until the less successful wines were sent packing the response here was also fairly muted. It even attracted that dread sommelier word ‘disappointing’.

This might be slightly harsh, but it was certainly something of a curate’s egg of a flight, with the region’s naturally exuberant fruit character tending to tempt winemakers into going rather heavy on the wood-use. ‘In general, they either had too much oak or not enough fruit,’ said The Folly’s Foni Tsouvallas.

Fortunately, there were high spots, with the medal winners showing what The Ritz’s Tobias Brauweiler described as ‘good varietal expression, freshness and silky texture, and good use of oak’.

Consultant Robert Giorgione neatly summed up the Invivo as having ‘good structure, good fruit and real regional style. At the price this counts as a great wine.’

Frédéric Jean-Yves Billet of Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa, meanwhile, thought the Rockburn ‘ticked all the boxes, saying “Central Otago Pinot” in character – it’s a great wine for introducing people to Otago Pinot and saying “this is what it’s all about”’.

It was interesting to see four Marlborough wines picking up medals (including a Gold for Spy Valley). There’s a growing feeling in NZ that the world’s Sav capital is starting to realise its potential with Pinot, and these results more or less bear that out.

‘There was a marked reductive character in the Central Otago wines; they were also a bit extracted, and the fruit didn’t always stand up to the tannin. Some winemakers were trying too hard.’
Natasha Hughes, team leader

‘Money doesn’t count in this case. I’m pretty sure most people are still demanding New Zealand Pinot for the brand rather than for the quality.’
Marco Feraldi, St James’s Hotel and Club