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Notes from New Zealand, 2011

text and photgraphs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on New Zealand 2011.


Journalists and international guests of the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration are lucky enough to be invited to a private event before the start of the festivities proper, in which the Central Otago wine makers show their generosity of spirit by staging a large tasting of Pinots from other New Zealand regions.

Because of flight timings I had to arrive late for this, catching only the last 35 minutes of a three hour session. Knowing I could not cover all 50 wines in the line-up, I decided dip into some supplementary wines from the regions I would visit on this trip, mainly Canterbury/Waipara. Apologies to Marlborough, Martinborough, Nelson and other Pinot regions.

Marlborough wines

Seresin, Raupo Creek Pinot Noir 2008
Beautifully fragrant stuff, with sweet fruit and a certain meaty, bloody allure. The palate is filled with sweet fruit and there is fantastic, natural concentration here. Very appealing and has a really bright, tight edge of tannin to it that keeps it very long and focused. 93/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Canterbury/Waipara wines

See all stockists of Canterbury Pinot Noir on wine-searcher.

Sherwood Estate, Heritage Pinot Noir 2009
Waipara. Nicely schisty and mineral, with a tight oak structure, a touch of cedar. Firm, but fleshy, again a certain earthy rawness at this stage but has nice length and a spicy, full, fruity core with good tannins and acidity to balance. 90-91/100.

Muddy Water, Pinot Noir Hare's Breath 2009
Waipara. A touch of smoky minerality here, a nice level of oaky spice and coffee in the background. On the palate there is perhaps a touch too much oak/too little fruit? Certainly at this young stage it has a touch of rawness, but good component parts. 89/100.

Waipara Hills, Pinot Noir 2009
Waipara. Nice, attractively fruity nose with some exotic, incense nuances and on the palate, loads of easy-to drink, appealing tannins and very silky structure. This is such lovely quality commercial stuff, staying quite lean but harmonious, and super slick without being at all vulgar. 89-90/100.

Greystone, Waipara Valley Pinot Noir 2009
Waipara. Spicy, full red berry nose, very forward and juicy, perhaps a slightly lemony sharpness about the acidity that is a little awkward, though I like the juiciness of the fruit and the softening touch of oak helps ease out the finish. 88/100.

Pegasus Bay, Pinot Noir 2008
Waipara. Very refined minerality again here, capturing lots of fresh, lightly earthy character and brightly focused raspberry fruit. The palate is gripped by very tight acidity and plenty of tannin, as well as that juicy fruit. Deliciously energetic and a smooth, deep fruit structure beneath, and tastes very youthful. Terrific tang and verve. 92/100.

Pyramid Valley, Earth Smoke Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
North Canterbury. Extremely pale colour, verging on tawny at the rim. Fantastically soft, coffee and leafy, truffly damp undergrowth. The palate has very soft structure, delightfully delicate and pure, the wine definitely feeling mature and if I'd to guess, with considerable age. An intriguing wine that I need to understand more after I visit them. 90/100.

Kaituna Valley, Kaituna Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
Canterbury. Fine smokiness and flinty quality, lots of ashy minerality. Tight, nice quality of oak here too, with plenty of red fruit coming through. The palate has real sweetness of fruit again; a silky, full texture and plenty of dark, sweet oak, but the spice and acidity of the structure is enough to balance and this is big, sumptuous, but beautifully done. 92/100.

The Crater Rim, Omihi Rise Pinot Noir 2007
Waipara. A slightly oxidised, slightly dried blood character here, but lots of iron filing minerality as well as obvious ripeness. The palate has delicious flesh and weight, that open, briar and chocolate richness and huge sweetness of fruit really filling out. Delicious, and has energy about it, if the acidity perhaps not just as harmonious as some. 90-91/100.

Black Estate, Pinot Noir 2007
Waipara. Dominated by herbs, spices and much earthier and more mineral and older wood tones, the cranberry-dry fruit settled nicely in. The palate has lovely tang and freshness. There's coffee and a touch of liquorice, but the sweetness inherent in the mid-palate fruit powers through, leaving this deep and flavourful. 92/100.

Mountford Estate, Pinot Noir 2007
Waipara. Natural cork. More restrained than the Bell Hill for sure, with a smoky mineral quality, briary notes and a sense of cool restraint. The palate has deliciously sweet and focused fruit: there's that restrained feeling again, the gently earthy and smoky tones, nicely balanced acidity and the tang of the cherry skin fruit and brisk tannins. 91/100.

Bell Hill, Pinot Noir 2007
North Canterbury. Beautiful nose, nicely vegetal Pinot aromas of rhubarb and beetroot, but delicious truffly notes too and masses of ripe, luscious berry fruit over a chocolaty background. On the palate the sweet fruit sings out, masses of chocolaty, ripe berries and plum, great structure too with refined tannins and a silky weight of fruit clearly delineated by the acidity. 94/100.

return to New Zealand 2011