What started about four decades ago as an experimental project in New Zealand, has today converted Pinot Noir into the country’s second most grown varietal. In the 1970s, Pinot Noir vine-cuttings from Burgundy’s Domaine de La Romanée-Conti’s La Tâche Grand Cru were found hiding in a rugby player’s boots in the quarantine area at the New Zealand airport. Around the same time, soil scientists identified resemblances in conditions at Martinborough with Burgundy, indicating that Pinot Noir was destined to find its second home in New Zealand’s cooler pastures.
NEW ZEALAND’S LOVE WITH PINOT NOIR
The country that had become synonymous with crisp and grassy Sauvignon Blancs has been repositioned by its Pinot success and proved to its critics that it isn’t a one-hit wonder. The fruity, ethereal and hauntingly perfumed reds from this finicky varietal have become a greatly desired by true Pinot Noir connoisseurs.
The origins of Pinot Noir are dubious and highly debated, but are known to be from the general zone of northeastern France or southwestern Germany. What’s assured is that its parents were wild vines. A family on its own with Pinot Gris and Blanc, its well known and successful siblings, Pinot Noir is said to be the parent of many other varietals. Chardonnay, Gamay, Melon de Bourgogne and Auxerrois being a few to name. Its inability to ripen consistently, and the ever-charged debates of what its real expression is, the right heaviness for Pinot, should it be rested in oak or not, and if Burgundy is after all grape’s true holy grail has drawn more eyes than turning away heads. It’s hard to say if there’s any varietal ever that has found more glory and passionate followers than Pinot Noir!!
FACTORING PINOT NOIR’S SUCCESS IN NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand’s success with Pinot Noir is thanks to multiple factors. Firstly, it’s the country’s cool climate and intense light that ensures better ripeness for the varietal than anywhere else. Pinots here are packed with lush fruits, layers of complexity, velvety textures, and sophistication. Then comes the consistent water-retention ability of the soils in Marlborough, Central Otago, Waiparra and Martinborough, that aids the varietal in retaining its acidity, and purity of flavours. And lastly, it is the expanse of styles that the country offers. Those from Martinborough offer complexity, savouriness and good structure. Central Otago’s hot days and cool nights accentuate the perfume and plush sweet fruitiness in its wines. Waiparra Pinots are driven by spicy character and dark fruits. While Marlborough delivers subtle, linear and raspberry-laden drops. This guarantees that any Pinot lover will definitely find at least a handful of Pinot Noir wines to fall for.