A tale of two New Zealand Pinot Noirs

The wines of New Zealand are probably well-known via different ways depending upon where you are in the world. For instance, when living the US, everyone knew of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but few knew about the Pinot Noir being made further down the South Island in Central Otago. From what I gather, wine drinkers in the UK have known about both for some item, although the Sauvignon Blanc still reigns supreme in terms of quantity due to the price and the immediately approachable aspect to it.

Marlborough Sauv Blanc has never done much for me and it’s one of those wines I’ll regularly pass up, although most would be remiss to avoid the region altogether as they’ve been branching out in to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as exploring this bandied-about concept we all know and love, “terroir”. Despite this, if I’m going to shell out for new Zealand Pinot Noir, I usually look to Central Otago which has become the de facto classic region for the grape.

Make no mistake, Central Otago wines are not bargain-priced wines, although they won’t split open your wallet and laugh at you like Burgundy or pretty much anything you’ll find in Oregon and California. But I was a bit curious to put another region against Central Otago just to see how they matched up. I went with Wairarapa. Why? Because I have little experience with it as NZ Pinot isn’t often found in Spain and I’ve heard about it here and there but have not had much chance to taste it. I was also curious to see something of a North Island-South Island match up as Wairarapa is at the very bottom of the North Island.

Despite the vintages being the same, the differences were very palpable. If I were to define one over the other, I’d say the Central Otago was more defined and elaborate while the Wairarapa shorter and more short. Admittedly, this wasn’t the best year to really rate up as 2012 was something of a shorter growing season, but it’s what I had access to at the moment. Naturally, as in all things wines, more tastings will be needed to see what more can shake loose.

As a side note, For anyone looking to get more details, I highly recommend the New Zealand wine website which I find to be one of the best for any industry body.

Mt. Difficulty – Roaring Meg 2012
Central Otago zone. Immediately bristly red fruit, fresh strawberries, light red currants, some blue fruit, licorice, clove, spicy, moist rose petals. Medium plus acidity, medium finish, red fruit dominated, quick and light on the palate. Quite wild and non-linear for New World.

100% Pinot Noir 14% 22€

Matahiwi Estate – Mt. Hector 2012
Wairarapa zone. Red cherry, coffee, chocolate cedar, earthy, forest floor, more broody, menthol eucalyptus. Medium acidity and alcohol, medium minus finish, very exact and boxed in. Don’t expect to go much of anywhere.

100% Pinot Noir 13% 16€