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Winner Details

New World: Pinot Noir, New Zealand

2014: Gold 4 Silver 2 Bronze 7 Commended 5
2013: Gold 3 Silver 6 Bronze 2 Commended N/A
Must-list status: 85%
Overall SWA performance 2014: B-

For Australia with Chardonnay, so too New Zealand with Pinot Noir. What the Kiwis do today, the rest of the New World does tomorrow. Winemakers want to be with it, and Pinot Noir wants to be it.

Yet such high expectations bring their own problems. This is regularly a part of the competition that attracts more use of the sommeliers’ favourite word – ‘disappointed’ – than any other, with frequent grumbles about too much oak and wildly varying quality.

The latter, you could argue, comes with the territory when you’re talking about a fickle creature like Pinot Noir, but it was heartening to see fewer complaints this year about extraction and wood use. Indeed, one of the stars of this flight – the Mount Difficulty – was singled out for its elegance.

‘It’s nice to find a wine from this region, at this price, that hasn’t resorted to over-extraction and oak. This is fragrant, elegant and supple,’ said The Tate Group’s Hamish Anderson.

At £40, it’s the most expensive Gold Pinot we’ve had in this competition from outside Burgundy, and proof that (a) New Zealand can compete up the price levels and that (b) sommeliers are happy to reward them when they get it right. Partly because the world of Pinot has its own crazy economy. As Hamish Anderson (again) said of the Julicher Estate, ‘In the scheme of good Pinot Noir from around the world, I don’t think £19 is very expensive.’

It was interesting that, despite the success of the terrific Mount Difficulty, the most popular flights overall tended to be from Marlborough and Martinborough, where the fruit was usually less turbo-charged and pricing generally a tad more reasonable.

That said, with just three medal winners under £10 (two of them from Vavasour – well done chaps), this is starting to look more and more like a £40-and-over part of the wine list. 

From the Tasting Teams

‘I like that smoky, earthy quality that some of these had.’ Maxwell Allwood, Alimentum

‘The comparison with Burgundy is more meaningful now than it was four years ago. There wasn’t too much over-extraction – I think they’re picking earlier and getting the aromatics.’ Nigel Lister, team leader

‘The pricing [of the Central Otago wines] would definitely trigger a heart attack.’
Gergely Barsi Szabó, Bread Street Kitchen