What are NZ’s most ageworthy Pinot Noirs?
Following on from our similar discussion of Australian Pinot Noir, it’s probably just as interesting to compile a list of New Zealand’s most ageworthy Pinots, particularly given that Pinot Noir is now NZ’s red grape of choice (or at least that is the international perception).
This list then attempts to identify the 10 kiwi Pinots most likely to improve and develop best in the cellar for 8 years plus. Unlike the Australian lineup there is no old school vs new school here, largely due to the relatively short history of Pinot Noir in NZ. As a result, I think this list will also change dramatically in the next ten years or so, whilst the Australian version will probably change much less.
Again, all these wines are picked on reputation and are very much my own choices – if I haven’t tried them, they aren’t on here.
(If you don’t know what I’m on about, best start here for context).
Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir
One of the pioneers and a natural choice for this list. Pure, classic, powerful expression of Central Otago Pinot. The Calvert (and Block 3) Pinots could safely have their own listing here too, but I think the Block 5 has the firmest, most ageworthy structure.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
Another natural choice and perhaps NZ’s best known Pinot on the global stage. It’s a big wine, no doubt, but that only helps it’s cellar credibilities. It’s also one of the only wines on this list that hasn’t been diluted by the single vineyard/icon wine push. There is a second label (the Crimson, a friendly early drinker) but this still remains the top wine. Latest vintages proudly top class.
Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir
The Prima Donna may well live longer, but this is the wine that the winery has made its reputation on. I’ve had 10yr old+ examples that are still drinking well, and I’d say it is typically one of my favourite Kiwi Pinots. Excellent recent releases. The Donaldson’s are nice people too.
Dry River Pinot Noir
Iconic wine that is as famously hard to get hold of as it is famous. Not cheap either. Still, it’s a wine of serious brawn that never lacks precision.
Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir
One of the Martinborough originals, this has had a few wobbly recent releases, but when it’s on song it is right up there with NZ’s best. I actually prefer this over the Ata Rangi most of the time, largely due to it’s extra ‘pinosity’, but it can’t match the Ata Rangi’s consistency. Will live and live too (check out this vertical).
Neudorf Moutere Pinot Noir
I’ve left this as just the ‘Moutere’ as that’s the wine that made the reputation. Along with the Pegasus Bay, this is my favourite NZ Pinot and is similarly ageworthy. In fact, it can be somewhat of a hard wine in it’s youth, so cellaring is almost obligatory.
Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir
This is Larry ‘McPinot’ McKenna’s baby, produced off the oldest close planted vines in his Te Muna terrace vineyard. It’s simply a fantastically balanced Pinot, which is why it can claim to be so cellar-worthy (though admittedly I think other wines on this list will live for longer). Even the standard wine is a winner
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir
Here simply by weight of results. Many people might scoff at Cloudy Bay’s ageing credentials, but this deceptively soft Pinot really does have the stuffing to age. Recent releases haven’t quite matched the wines produced at Kevin Judd’s peak, but the potential is still there.
Rippon ‘Mature Vine’ Pinot Noir
I’m referring here to the two ‘mature vine’ Rippon Pinots, though the reputation has been built on a single estate wine. Rippon are one of the oldest Central Otago producers and have simply been doing it better for longer. Seriously well structured wines that are often forgotten when people are writing lists of ‘NZ’s best’.
Carrick Pinot Noir
Firmly structured Pinot that absolutely needs bottle age to be enjoyable, to the point where some recent vintages have been simply too tannic and structured to be really drinkable. In good vintages it will live for a decade plus.
I’ve left plenty of challengers off this list (Mt Difficulty, Olssens, Pyramid Valley to name just a few), so who would be in your top 10?