This tasting was based around my experiences at Pinot 2017, a three-day event which was held in Wellington a couple of weeks ago. First held in 2001, this 4-yearly event aims to showcase New Zealand Pinot Noir to the world. Described as “the best Pinot Noir event on the planet”, it brings together media, trade and wine lovers from all over the world. This year the event was themed around Turangawaewae’, or ‘a sense of place’ which can be related to the commonly used term of ‘terroir’. New Zealand Pinot Noir is now making its own mark on the world as a distinct style that can only come from New Zealand, much in the same way as Sauvignon Blanc has already done. Notions that NZ Pinot Noir should reference Burgundy are being left behind.

Following informative, entertaining and at times emotional presentations from keynote speakers each morning, the afternoon session featured ‘road trip’ tastings around the various regions. With something like 360 wines available to taste over the three afternoons, this was more an ‘over-view’ of what each region and vintage offered. Generally speaking the standard was uniformly very good with a number of highlights. The many yet to be released 2015 wines on show will bring a lot of pleasure to consumers – a small vintage quantity wise resulting in quite rich, full bodied styles.

The Pinot Noir grape seems to bring with it much cerebral associations and the thinking behind to growing and making of the wines is at the forefront of the future direction of our whole wine industry and ultimately, agriculture. There is a growing emphasis on a holistic approach to the continued care of the land, people, sustainability, organics. No longer is this just a philosophic approach, but there is much associated research happening that is reinforcing this and helping understand why and how Pinot Noir (and other wines) can reflect that sense of place. Rex

The wines were chosen for this tasting to show style and regional characters.

We wish to thank PinotNZ 2017 for allowing access to a series of ‘road-trip’ videos made especially for Pinot 17. These are now also available to view on-line via

Junction Possession Pinot Noir 2014 $29.99

Jo and John Ashworth established their vineyard on the Takapau plains in Central Hawkes Bay after John discovered the delights of Pinot Noir whilst touring with the All Blacks in France (many will also remember John as front row forward for Canterbury in the 1980s) Still very much a small family operation with son Leith making the wines. This 2014 is quite a light colour, but has real palate presence soaking in the 40% new oak yet still quite ‘pretty’. This wine won Gold ANZWA 2015.

Julicher 99 Rows Pinot Noir 2013 $23.99

A long-time favourite at Vino Fino, this is from Te Muna Road in Martinborough. At Pinot ’17, Wim Julicher had the 2008 vintage of this on show as well and it was tasting amazingly well, confirming my belief that this is quite a serious wine. Typical meaty, savoury Martinborough flavours along with black fruits.

Abel Pinot Noir 2015 $24.99

Named after the Abel (also known as the gumboot or Ata Rangi) clone. Grown on the clay soils of Moutere in Nelson. Usually blended into other wines, this vintage the grower thought this deserved a special bottling and was therefore vinified and bottled separately. Darkly coloured, dark spiced plum, even a hint of liquorice with a silky, supple palate.

Lawsons Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 $23.99

Whilst there are a few ‘iconic’ Pinot Noir producers in Marlborough, one of the marketing realities for Marlborough Pinot Noir producers is that they sit in the shadow of Central Otago. Because of this, they have to work harder on delivering quality and produce wine at a lower price point for it to sell, especially in the local market. This is a prime example. From two vineyards in the sought after clay soils of the Waihopai valley. Delicious cherry berry flavours on a spicy, supple palate. Seriously over-delivers on the value/quality front.

Fromm Cuvée H Pinot Noir 2015 $59.99

A brand new release and label for Fromm, named after winemaker of 25 years, Hätsch Kalberer. This is a special selection of all their single vineyard wines – Clayvin, Fromm, Quarters, Churton and Yarrum from the 2015 vintage and is “the best pinot we can make and represents everything we love in fine Pinot Noir.. a complete and refined Pinot”. Dark and deep and whilst there is fruit sweetness, there is also a nice layer of earthiness and grippy fine tannins. And yes the price is correct – whilst being a ‘flagship’ Pinot for Fromm have priced it lower than the single site Clayvin and Fromm’s.

The Bone Line Waimanu Pinot Noir 2014 $36.99

The Bone Line vineyard on the western side of the Waipara Valley was previously known as Waipara West. Even in Christchurch, the wines have flown under the radar a bit, but the recent vintages have taken the wines to a new level. Made under the guidance of winemakers Jeff Sinnott and Paul Goodege, this has bright, ripe fruits and some sense of minerality that must come from the minerally rich soils and fresh acidity. There is good drive through the palate finishing nicely rounded.

Ostler Carolines Pinot Noir 2013 $48.99

Waitaki Valley Pinot Noir is always distinctive. Jim Jerram’s limestone laden Ostler vineyard (also made by Jeff Sinnott) has amazing aromatic purity that leaps out of the glass. 2013 was a nice warm year in the Valley and the taste of sweet ripe fruits comes through as well. Still quite youthful, this will slowly evolve. A special wine.

Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir 2014 $30.99

From a single vineyard at Earnscleugh, near Alexandra. This is so typically Central Otago – you can taste the thyme and cherries! Plenty of weight and pleasantry on the palate. A crowd pleaser.

Akarua Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2015 $34.99

One of the most awarded labels from Central Otago, this is from several vineyard blocks along the Bannockburn rise, with a mix of clones. This highlights the power and strength of the 2015 vintage wines. This has power and impact. With a wine like this, although very enjoyable now, it has so much potential to develop in the bottle over the next 3-5 years.