Pinot Noir is a finicky grape. It only grows in the right climate, with the right soils and the right care. Perhaps because it is so difficult is why it is so loved. Pinot Noir hails from Burgundy, a region known for crafting the most collectible and sought-after wines from this varietal. Not only does Pinot reign in Burgundy, it is also essential in Champagne, where it is one of the three main grapes in creating sparkling wine. Pinot Noir mutates easily and so there are many different clones floating around in different wine regions.
Other than Burgundy, Pinot has been successful in areas like Oregon, California and lately, New Zealand – the Central Otago region to be exact. Burgundian Pinot Noir typically offers flavors and aromas of red fruit, summer pudding and baking spices. As the wine matures – and great Burgundies are able to do so for years – the flavors become more like the earth the wine comes from- mushrooms, truffles – and the wine gains tremendous complexity. Pinot Noir from the new world like Oregon and California typically exude stronger fruit intensity. Some are able to reach a high level of complexity, structure and age. Others are wonderful for drinking now with a myriad of foods. Many may wax poetic about this grape, the reason being that Pinot Noir produces an amazing contradiction in wine – something so delicate and subtle, yet powerful and mesmerizing.
In the past few decades, New Zealand has earned a solid place on the global wine market, particularly with the popularity of its Sauvignon Blanc. But red wine lovers should take note; in addition to the zingy and zesty white grape that put New Zealand on the map, this coastal country has steadily mastered the craft of another popular grape: Pinot Noir.
Taking advantage of the cool climate, mild rainfall and free-draining soils, New Zealand vintners have found ideal locations for growing Pinot Noir. The resulting wines offer a yin and yang of Old World earth and elegance, and New World fruit ripeness. New Zealand Pinot Noir is clearly Pinot Noir, with a purity of fruit and elegant structure.
The most successful Pinot Noir regions in New Zealand include Martinborough, which lies on the southern tip of the North Island, Marlborough, on the northern tip of the South Island, and Central Otago, the only continental climate region of the country, nestled in the southern hills on the South Island. Take note of Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury as well – the Pinot from these regions continues to grow. The coastal regions of Martinborough and Marlborough produce Pinot Noir full of bright red fruit and vibrant acidity. Down in Central Otago, Pinot Noir takes on a deeper flavor, with a savory texture and layers of complexity. They can be enjoyed now or evolve in your cellar. As a whole, New Zealand Pinot Noir is ideal for the dinner table; with its excellent acidity and gentle structure it pairs with a number of dishes.
Once Pinot Noir lovers discover this region, they find themselves drawn to the quality and value offered in the wines. These are the kind of wines that beg for another sip, linger on your palate and make you wish you had another bottle.
Talented ukulele player, animal and nature lover, winery proprietor, and accomplished actor, Sam Neill is a super cool guy. His winery in Central Otago, New Zealand, is called Two Paddocks, and these small production wines made by rock star winemaker Dean Shaw are top-notch examples of what can be achieved in this most southernly wine region in the world. I met Sam and Dean in New Zealand earlier this year, and while I was already a fan of Sam’s acting career, I immediately became a raving fan of the Two Paddocks wines.
Kia Ora! (Maori greeting literally meaning “be well,” but more commonly used to mean “Hi”)
On a wine trip to New Zealand earlier this year, I fell in love. No, I didn’t meet Mr. Right, but I did fall for the wine region of my dreams! New Zealand is most famous in the US for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and while it fully deserves that fame, there’s so much more to love across both islands.
There is a belief among wine cognoscenti that grape vines must suffer before they can produce great wines. In the Willamette Valley of Oregon, not only does that happen, but everyone in the wine business undergoes an annual pain called, “The Harvest.” Is Mother Nature going to be good to us, or will we be left to our own devices and suffer unruly weather? Unlike other regions in the world, such as Australia and the Napa Valley in California, the Willamette Valley proves unpredictable, and provides vintners with unhappy grapes from difficult vintages. While all wine growing regions suffer good and bad years, Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley, just like the varietal in Burgundy, paints a picture of extreme variance.
It seems to me that Oregon Pinot Noir wines are becoming more and more popular everyday. Larger wine companies are taking interest and buying up properties that were once thought of as novelty. Foley Family Wines recently purchased the Four Graces Winery, following the in-roads that Kendall Jackson and Louis Jadot laid out with their recent purchases. And this got me thinking… what does anyone really know about the Willamette Valley in Oregon? Continue reading Somme Things I Think About: Oregon Wine→