Regional pinot noir, NZ-style (Jan - 2010)

Three new Exhibition wines demonstrate the delicious distinctions emerging from New Zealand's premium grape-growing regions. Pierre Mansour explains.

The Te Muna vineyard, source of The Exhibition Martinborough Pinot Noir

That New Zealand produces world-class pinot noir now goes without saying. The extent of its success with this most pernickety of varieties is further shown by the emergence of more wines showing clear regional differences.

As with all grapes, the choice of vineyard site is the key to success but, with a grape like pinot noir (which is notoriously difficult to get right), this decision is even more critical.

Covering a distance of 1,000 miles and spanning latitudes 34° to 47° south, New Zealand has a huge diversity in climate and soil type. The point about pinot noir, perhaps more so than any other red grape, and in a similar vein to riesling for white wines, is its ability to communicate the characteristics and subtle nuances of aroma and flavour of a specific site. As sense of place is at the heart of what makes good wine great, it is no surprise that New Zealand winemakers are working hard to grapple with pinot noir to make red wines to match its world-beating sauvignon blancs. The fruits of their labour are now paying off to the extent that we are now not just talking about good New Zealand pinot noir, but good Marlborough, Martinborough, Nelson and Central Otago pinot.

At The Society, we are so convinced of these distinctions that we have selected pinot noirs under the Exhibition range from three prime regions: Martinborough, the source of our original Exhibition wine, Marlborough and Central Otago. We offer them together for the first time in this month's New Zealand offer.

Martinborough on the North Island is characterised by old alluvial gravels and a relatively mild climate moderated by westerly winds which slow down vine growth. This long season combined with comparatively older vines and low yields results in a denser, fuller style of pinot with a wonderful dark fruit and savoury character. This wine is made for us by pinot experts Craggy Range.

Marlborough, just across the Cook Strait on the South Island, has a similar climate but with more sunshine and cooler nights. These help build and maintain the vibrant red-fruit flavours and succulence so typical of the region. A supple structure makes them especially appealing in their youth.

"I am a great fan of the pinot noir grape, as the wine produced from it varies so much as you go round the world. Here it comes with a gobful of fruit and refined punch which lasts long in the mouth. I love the subtle differences between this and the pinots from Martinborough, Nelson and Central Otago. Buy the lot and enjoy comparing them." - Member Aidan Tolhurst (commenting on the website on 11th November 2009)

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