With 463 wineries producing 119 million liters annually, New Zealand wines have come a long way since the first Sauvignon Blanc was harvested in Marlborough a mere 30 years ago. Mild, fruity whites are what the country is most associated with, but the long-held perception that New Zealand’s terroir isn’t suited to reds has finally been overcome by a number of wineries producing world-class Pinot Noir. The silt-loam soils of New Zealand yield a Pinot Noir somewhere between the robust Australian reds beloved of influential American critic Robert Parker and the more complex Bordeaux wines.
Some Kiwi wineries have even taken on the Australian stranglehold on Shiraz, or Syrah as it’s sometimes called. In the Hawke’s Bay area of New Zealand’s North Island, Craggy Range has produced some wonderful Merlots and Syrahs that were launched in the U.S. to much acclaim last year. On the South Island, other wineries are winning plaudits for their reds.
CHARD FARM Established in 1987, Chard Farm, tel: (64-3) 442 6110, is one of the oldest wineries in the Central Otago region, and its Finla Mor Pinot Noir 2002 is one of the best we have tasted. Fragrant and full bodied, it has a warm, generous palate with concentrated fruit flavors and a long finish. Order it online, for $23 a bottle, at http://www.chardfarm.co.nz.
MT. DIFFICULTY This producer, along with neighbors like Amisfield and Carrick, is part of a group of small but acclaimed Bannockburn wineries, situated about 45 minutes outside Queenstown. Mt. Difficulty, tel: (64-3) 445 3445, is particularly known for its single-vineyard wines, and offers samples in a café with dramatic views of the area’s old gold mines. Its award-winning Pinot Noirs are listed at mtdifficulty.co.nz.
PEGASUS BAY An hour outside Christchurch, this well-known Waipara winery, tel: (64-3) 314 6869, is owned and run by the Donaldson family. “Seven family members still talking to each other,” jokes younger son Ed Donaldson, who looks after sales and presides over the tasting room. Pegasus Bay’s Pinot Noir 2002 won a maximum five stars from Australia’s Winestate magazine, and a “highly recommended” rating from the U.K.’s Decanter. Read more at pegasusbay.com.
NEUDORF VINEYARDS Established on slopes overlooking the Moutere Valley in 1978, Neudorf Vineyards, tel: (64-3) 543 2643, is fast winning a reputation for its excellent rosé and Pinot Noir alongside its staple Chardonnay. Neudorf’s Pinot Pack — comprising half a dozen of its very fine 2002 and 2003 bottlings — costs $175 and can be ordered online from neudorf.co.nz.