Seeking an Identity
New Zealand pinot noir has come a long way over the past 10 years, continuing to improve each year, but because the grape is a newcomer to this country, a group of New York-based tasters consider it still to be “seeking an identity”. In a recent tasting of 20 bottles of New Zealand pinot noir the panel agreed this was just the beginning of the journey. Young vines, growers often say, are like teenagers, ungainly and impetuous in their growth, offering grapes that make bright, fruity but relatively simple wines. As vines reach an age of 20 years or so, they become more self-regulating, and the wines have a greater chance to show complexity and depth of character. The benefits of experience and age are realized only with patience. Meanwhile, the pinot noirs the group tasted offer plenty of enjoyment right now. The panel’s No. 1 wine, the 2007 Rippon from Central Otago, was lovely, graceful and structured. No. 2 was the 2008 Stonecrop from Martinborough. Like the Rippon, it was elegant and balanced, with mineral, fruit and oak flavours, lacking only the purity and focus of the Rippon. The No. 3 wine, the 2008 Waipara Springs, was fresh and agile, a wine best for knocking back, perhaps, but delicious nonetheless, and at US$16 it was also the best value.