New Zealand is a relatively young wine industry and best known for their aromatic and racy Sauvignon Blancs. In many ways New Zealand Pinot Noirs are reminiscent of the early ventures within Willamette Valley, Oregon. New Zealand Pinot Noir has evolved considerably in the last several decades to become serious competitors on the world stage. This grape has become New Zealand’s second most widely planted varietal. New Zealand has a northern and southern island spanning nearly 1,000 miles and separated by mountain ranges encompassing 11 winegrowing regions. Glaciers, active volcanos, and rolling hills are situated on seismic plates. These grapes benefit from the maritime climate, long hours of sunlight and breezes from the South Pacific Ocean.
Vineyards originated in New Zealand as far back as 1819 from cuttings brought over from Australia. A few individuals have been credited with planting vines for commercial sale, but it was the Marist religious order of the ”Society of Mary” that established vineyards in Hawke’s Bay. They founded Mission Estate Vineyards and planted the first Pinot Noir in this region. Phyloxera and Prohibition then took their toll on the wine industry. The modern era of Pinot Noir winegrowing in New Zealand began in the 1970’s in the Canterbury region followed by plantings in Wairarapa/Martinborough, Central Otego, and Marlborough. Nick Nobolio of Nobolio Vintners in Auckland produced the first commercial bottling of Pinot Noir in 1973. Today, Marlborough accounts for the largest share of Pinot Noir vineyards in New Zealand. These wines are pure and elegant in expression with wild cherry and red raspberry notes.
For the average consumer the regional diversity of New Zealand Pinot Noir is of little concern, but for those who are passionate about Pinot Noir realize that the varying soils remain critical to understanding this grape. Martinborough Pinot Noir can offer depth, spiciness and sturdy tannins while Pinot Noir from Central Otego with its semi-continental climate, are aromatic with vibrant red berry fruit with elegance. Local growers are convinced in following their own direction rather than trying to emulate the wines of Burgundy, France.
Originally, we had hoped for a more comprehensive representation of New Zealand Pinot Noirs, but were unable to make a connection with the producers.