Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

Regional Wines of Wellington recently ran two pinot noir tastings,  under the general heading:  Are They Worth Cellaring:  Pinot Noir.  The first week comprised wines under $30,  and the second week wines over $30.  The tastings were presented by Geoff Kelly,  and were designed to complement his occasional short articles for the Regional Wines website,  titled Worth Cellaring.

Pinot noir continues to be the red wine of choice,  perhaps because it can be so fragrant and delicious,  perhaps because it bridges the gap beautifully between white wines and 'serious' red wines.  Rosé,  which in theory should do that job,  usually fails to be satisfying.  Thus pinot noir provides the perfect pathway to move from enjoying white wines to appreciating reds.

Procuring good advice on which ones to buy,  however,  is not quite so straightforward.  If one peruses the results from worthwhile wine judgings,  or Cuisine magazine,  and then compares their findings,  it is extraordinary how little overlap there is in the same wine receiving multiple endorsements – gold medals for example.

Therefore we are very much on our own.  In assembling these two tastings,  we first decided that $30 was a good dividing line between affordable pinot noir,  and something more special for an occasion.  We then listed the 2013 Air New Zealand results,  the 2014 Easter Show results,  and the latest Cuisine pinot noir review,  for their gold medal or equivalent wines.  Only three wines had gold in two of those,  and no wine won through in all three.  We can't assume the same wine was entered in all three,  but nonetheless the implication is that judging pinot noir is not too consistent in New Zealand yet.

There are hundreds of New Zealand pinot noirs now.  To select 12-only for each of these two exercises is therefore invidious.  Our selections include wines which have won gold more than once.  We then listed the wines which sell most at Regional Wines,  and for the expensive set some labels which everybody wants to taste but maybe can't afford on their own,  and then there was the desire to make sure that each pinot noir district was represented somewhere in the two flights.  We also put in Michael Cooper's 2014 red wine of the year,  since he has a consistency of approach which is admirable,  and his choice this year is a very affordable pinot noir.  In the under $30 flight there are a couple just under $20,  but not the cheapest in case tasters felt they would let the exercise down.  Even so,  it is great we can now buy serviceable pinot noir for less than $20.

Clearly everybody can't be there,  and we can only murmur apologies to those not represented.  Some wines such as Felton Road are so well known for their quality,  that they were omitted.  In checking through the ranking of which wines actually sell at Regional,  the staggering single factor to emerge was how the pinot noirs from Marlborough are coming up through the ranks.  This trend will only consolidate,  now they are well on the way to getting pinot noir on the right sites down there.  And,  they tend to be affordable.

We hope you will come to both of our pinot noir Worth Cellaring evaluations,  with the thought to tuck away a few half dozens.  Like all New Zealand wines,  pinot noir is released far too young.  The quality of bouquet,  smoothness of taste,  and general pleasure at table,  is vastly enhanced after even three years in a cupboard or under the stairs.

[ Paragraph for the under-$30 wines Invitation ... ]
Note that under $30 doesn't have to mean ordinary.  No less than three of the candidate wines,  2012 Greystone,   2012 Lawson's,  and 2011 Villa Maria,  have won gold medals (or equivalent) in either the Air New Zealand Wine Awards,  the Royal Easter Show,  or the Cuisine judgings.  The Villa Maria won gold in both the 2013 Air NZ and the 2014 Easter,  which must mean something,  and the Greystone was judged the top pinot noir of them all,  in last year's Air New Zealand.  Wooing Tree's 2012 Beetlejuice like the Villa wine also won gold in both those very formal judgings,  but regrettably is sold out.  We have to use the 2013,  which the proprietors feel is up to the same  standard.

[ Paragraph for the over-$30 wines Invitation ... ]
Whereas many of the under-$30 wines are entered in Shows,  a number of the more expensive ones are not.  The reasons for this are various,  but once a winery has been in production for 10 or 12 years,  the feeling may grow that wine judgings can be a lottery,  and that anyway,  the proprietors know better what style they seek than the judges (since it is assessed blind),  so they are best placed to decide whether the wine is fit to release under  their premium label.  [ Note some of the wineries in our tasting have a luxury wine 'above' this premium label. ]  Accordingly,  wineries may use judgings to establish a profile in their earlier years,  and then withdraw.  Hence we do not have much track record (for the venues used) for most of these wines.

Introduction to the Tastings proper:
In the preamble to these two highly enjoyable tastings,  I mentioned that I had cellared my first case of grand  cru burgundy from the 1969 vintage,  a great year in Burgundy,  and it was a wine from a vineyard which still remains stellar in my view,  yet underrated:  1969 Drouhin Clos de la Roche in Morey-Saint-Denis (Cote de Nuits).  My goal in such a statement was to introduce the notion,  inconceivable to too many (still) in the New Zealand wine industry,  that a New Zealander not in the practical winemaking side of wine could actually know something about pinot noir the grape,  and burgundy the winestyle.  

So in these introductions,  we talked about the notion of the pinot noir winestyle,  that in the good ones it is a wine of florality,  complexity and delight on bouquet,  and soft sensuous and often subtle yet essentially satisfying beauty on palate.  We contrasted it with the more authoritarian firm aromatic flavours and character of good cabernet,  with its need for greater new oak to complement the stronger flavours of the bordeaux grape varieties.  We went on to discuss the fact that beauty in bouquet for pinot noir is a function of not over-ripening,  that bigger and riper and darker is not better in pinot noir (as too many in the industry mistakenly believed in the 1990s,  continuing through to this century),  that the quality of pinot noir must never be judged from its colour,  and that great pinot noir sustains the beauty of its bouquet right through the palate.  Thus the palate must be long and supple in its fruit / oak charm and beauty,  but it does not need to be strong,  at all.  We mentioned that in evaluating the wines,  we should seek what pinot aficionados call 'layers' of texture as well as flavour,  noting this is a pretty abstruse concept.

Basically we are seeking beautiful sweet floral smells and flavours,  where the florality permeates the palate,  and the whole lasts and sometimes even expands in the mouth.  We mentioned that leaving aside the florals (in their hierarchy from fresh sweet pea → buddleia → rose → lilac  → violets and boronia) that simple pinot noir might smell of red currants,  strawberries and raspberries to a degree,  but quality pinot noir smelt of red grading to black cherries,  sometimes with an elusive aromatic quality hard to define,  but enticing.  We then discussed the concept of over-ripeness,  that the key beautiful floral aromas are simply lost in over-ripening in hot climates (why good pinot noir cannot be grown north of Martinborough (or maybe Masterton),  or much south of Beaune),  and that when the wine reaches the black cherry stage,  be on guard,  for it may all too easily pass to black plums,  and that is over-ripe for absolute pinot noir beauty,  with its increase in size,  but the loss of florality,  varietal quality and complexity.  

We also raised the question of the perceived Central Otago pinot noir style,  and remarked that it has been caricatured by pinot-producers from other wine districts,  perhaps out of self-interest,  as tending to wines which are a bit too big and fruity,  though nobody would dare say jammy.  There does seem to be some  evidence emerging that Otago winemakers are now aiming for a less ripe,  less alcoholic and less dark wines.  Such a move will certainly increase florality and therefore beauty and complexity,  but great care will be needed to not at the same time introduce leafyness and stalkyness.  That risk is exacerbated by including stems in the ferment – the whole bunch approach – yet this technique is indisputably part of some of the greatest pinot noirs in the world.  The ripeness of the tannins in the stems (and seeds) is critical,  and that seems to be a function of a climate critically appropriate to achieving full physiological maturity of flavour in pinot noir.  Loosely speaking,  such climates show greater continentality.  The goal of such moves is to close the gap on the winestyles found in the Cote de Nuits,  which by general agreement is home to the most complex expressions of pinot noir in the world.  Comments will be found throughout the wine reviews on the extent to which all these goals were met:  certainly some of the perils were well illustrated.

Two Conclusions from both Tastings:
Dry extract:  It used to be said that New Zealand wines didn't keep.  This harks back to the dishonest days of the wine industry,  when water was added to already vastly over-cropped grapes,  and wine standards bore little relation to world wine practice.  Indeed many New Zealand wine practitioners were substantially ignorant of,  and uncaring about,  the standard-setting wines of the world.  Wines in those days had dry extracts in single figures,  or the teens if you were lucky.  In contrast,  in this tasting,  two of the wines have achieved the near-utopian goal of a dry extract exceeding 30 g/L,  against residual sugars of less than 1 g/L.  This is exceptional for cool-climate viticulture.  Several more wines were in the highest 20s.  In terms of the the present exercise,  this moves our pinot achievements ever closer to the yardstick premiers and grands crus wines of Burgundy.  These wines will cellar.

Vintage:  for chardonnay,  our greatest wines in Hawkes Bay come from the cool years,  like 2004 and 2012.  Likewise,  for pinot noir,  it is likely that our most floral,  aromatic and internationally fine wines will also come from the cooler years,  for most of our pinot districts are fractionally warmer than Burgundy.  The 2012 Greystone,  2012 Lawson's,  and 2012 Pisa Range,  represent three widely-spaced South Island areas,  yet all are wonderful.  Whether or not Martinborough will fit this pattern is yet to be seen.  2012 was a particularly late and cool season,  for them,  and beyond a certain point cooler will not always be better.

Wines Tasted by District:  (* = Under-$30)    

2011 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2011 Escarpment Pinot Noir
*2012 Martinborough Pinot Noir Te Tera
*2011 Palliser Estate Pinot Noir Pencarrow

*2011 Astrolabe Pinot Noir Province Series
*2012 Clos Henri Pinot Noir Petit Clos
2011 Fromm Pinot Noir Clayvin Vineyard
*2012 Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Noir Reserve
*2011 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Marlborough Cellar Selection

*2011 Blackenbrook Wines Pinot Noir St Jacques
2011 Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere
*2011 Te Mania Pinot Noir


2011 Black Estate Pinot Noir
*2012 Greystone Pinot Noir

2010 Ostler Pinot Noir Caroline's
2012 Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn
2012 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard
2011 Peregrine Pinot Noir
2012 Peregrine Pinot Noir
*2011 Peregrine Pinot Noir Saddleback
2012 Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block
*2013 Terra Sancta Wines Pinot Noir Mysterious Diggings
2012 Valli Pinot Noir Gibbston Vineyard
2010 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir
*2013 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir Beetlejuice


In the following reviews,  the introductory 'admin' section in italics comprises the background material handed out to participants in each tasting,  now with more wine detail added.  The main text is my review.

2012  Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn
2011  Astrolabe Pinot Noir Province
2011  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2011  Blackenbrook Pinot Noir St Jacques
2011  Black Estate Pinot Noir
2012  Clos Henri Pinot Noir Petit Clos
2011  Escarpment Pinot Noir
2011  Fromm Pinot Noir Clayvin
2012  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard
2012  Greystone Pinot Noir
2012  Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Noir Reserve
2012  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir Te Tera
2011  Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere
  2010  Ostler Pinot Noir Caroline's
2011  Palliser Estate Pinot Noir Pencarrow
2012  Peregrine Pinot Noir
2011  Peregrine Pinot Noir
2011  Peregrine Pinot Noir Saddleback
2012  Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block
2011  Te Mania Pinot Noir
2013  Terra Sancta Pinot Noir Mysterious Diggings
2012  Valli Pinot Noir Gibbston Vineyard
2011  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Marlborough Cellar Selection
2010  Wooing Tree Pinot Noir
2013  Wooing Tree Pinot Noir Beetlejuice

2012  Greystone Pinot Noir   18 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $29   [ screwcap;  NB this wine squeaked into the under-$30 tasting due to the price at Regional Wines,  but is more commonly in the mid-$30s.  The Greystone vineyard was established by the Thomas family on the slopes of the Teviotdale hills,  Waipara Valley,  in 2004.  Their winemaker is Dominic Maxwell.  The vineyard has become highly-regarded early in the piece.  This wine is their mainstream pinot,  there is also a quite expensive Reserve.  It is hand-harvested from four clones on sloping sites,  wild-yeast fermented with a long cuvaison for pinot,  then spends 12 months in 30% new French oak.  This is the wine that was awarded the Trophy for best pinot noir in last year's Air NZ judging – a correctly awarded Trophy if ever there was one.  It has been awarded scores ranging up to 96 points by NZ winewriters,  so we have an interesting assessment before us.  The wine analysis is of critical importance to the future of New Zealand fine wine,  and those who think our pinot noir cannot compete with Burgundy proper,  for this wine has a dry extract of 30.6 g/L against an RS of 0.4 g/L.  These are grand cru numbers,  outstanding for cool-climate viticulture;  www.greystonewines.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  above midway in depth.  Bouquet epitomises what the grape variety pinot noir is all about,  sweet haunting even caressing florals touching on violets,  roses and boronia,  then clear cherry fruit and gentle near-invisible oak.  Palate emphasises the caressing thought,  soft,  velvety,  seductive even,  so  one wonders if it has quite the tannin structure for longevity.  The fruit ripeness is pinpoint,  red grading to  black cherry with attractive acid balance.  Total style is unarguably Cote de Nuits,  and this wine is a real charmer.  It is so rich that the fruit sweetness continues right through to the tail,  and the wine thus seems sweet to the finish,  but the analysis denies that.  At this traditional level of fine-wine-making,  sensory evaluation reaches its limits.  In its total harmony and stylistic veracity,  it pretty well matches all the over-$30 pinot noirs.  It does not seem as rich and grand cru-like as the Pisa,  but in both practical terms and classical European analysis terms this Greystone is for the moment the definitive New Zealand pinot noir.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe 12 on that dry extract.  GK 06/14

2012  Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block   18 ½ +  ()
Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $54   [ screwcap;  The estate was established in 1995 on the west side of Lake Dunstan and below the Pisa Range,  by Warwick & Jenny Hawker.  The initial vision was to be a pinot-only vineyard,  but that has changed a little.  Viticultural practices are conservative,  all fruit is hand-harvested,  and they are moving towards organic production.  The single-vineyard Black Poplar Block wine was introduced in the 2000 vintage,  and quickly became a wine to take note of.  It is made by Rudi Bauer,  but Larry McKenna also now has an input.  It includes the fruit from the oldest vines,  planted in 1995.  There is an unspecified whole-bunch component.  It spends c.10 months in French oak,  33% new.  RS well under <1 g/L;  www.pisarangeestate.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  below midway in weight.  This wine demands a splashy decanting,  a couple of times is best,  to then reveal a deeply floral bouquet in which violets,  darkest roses and boronia can be seen – and more easily the next day.  Even on bouquet,  this wine smells rich,  and as soon as you taste it,  ohmigod,  this is what grand cru burgundy is all about – in texture.  Fruit is pure black cherry,  and it maybe hovers on over-ripeness,  just a hint of plum.  It gets away with it,  and retains 'pinosity',  but there is a delicate balance between complexity and ripeness / over-ripeness.  More is not necessarily better,  in ripeness,  as several of these wines show.  Length of cherry palate,  and the role of oak,  are perfectly judged.  The fruit stays more black cherry in mouth,  but it is the fruit weight that is staggering.  This is one expression of what great pinot noir,  and grand cru pinot noir,  should be like.  All too often,  even grand cru pinot is not of this quality,  however.  This is a wine to cellar with absolute confidence.  It is not as immediately appealing as the Greystone,  or perhaps even the Peregrine,  but it will overtake those wines around year five,  and triumph in the long run.  One has to concede it is ripe-year burgundian,  but it is burgundian.  Pisa Range is becoming one of the great pinot noir wineries in Otago.  With more emphasis on florality in the wine,  perhaps from picking a little earlier,  perhaps from an increased whole-bunch component,  or maybe both,  this will become a famous site.  This is the most serious pinot noir in the set,  and one could hardly cellar too much.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  maybe 15.  GK 06/14

2011  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   18 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $72   [ screwcap;  Ata Rangi is one of the founder vineyards,  and arguably the most highly-regarded winery in the Martinborough (and Wairarapa) district,  perhaps because there have been no pompous claims about their wines,  no prestige-priced wines,  just constant quiet attention to detail,  as exemplified by winemaker Helen Masters.  And their top chardonnay (Craighall) can be as fine as their pinot noir.  Clive Paton bought the first land in 1980,  following on the 1978 DSIR report on the suitability of the district for pinot noir by the then Soil Bureau's Dr Derek Milne (the author's conviction later to find practical expression in the Martinborough Vineyard original partnership).  Ata Rangi has over a dozen clones of pinot noir planted,  including a high percentage of the now-local and highly regarded Abel clone.  This wine includes Abel,  plus Dijon clones,  and a 10% whole-bunch component.  Vine age extends to over 30 years,  thus some of the oldest pinot noir vines in New Zealand.  The wine has 12 months in French oak,  25% new.  Dry extract is a commendable 29 g/L against <1 g/L RS.   Note that we are tasting the 2011,  which will shortly give way to the cool-year 2012;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  right in the middle for weight.  From first opening,  this wine is intensely fragrant,  with rose,  daphne and boronia florals grading into clear-cut cherry fruit,  red cherry more than black,  and thus contrasting with the Pisa wine.  In the daphne component there is the slightest hint of pennyroyal,  perhaps a tell-tale for a Martinborough source in blind tastings.  In mouth the pinot quality of the wine is superb,  soft yet fresh even crisp red grading to black cherry,  perfect oak shaping but in no way dominating the wine,  and great length of fruit and flavour.  The fruit lightens back to red-dominant in the aftertaste,  which is very burgundian,  and it seems drier than the seductive Greystone.   And yet … that hint of mint just takes the wine out of Burgundy,  so we must celebrate this as great new world pinot noir.  Is this the best Ata Rangi pinot noir yet ?  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe 10.  GK 06/14

2012  Peregrine Pinot Noir   18 +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ Stelvin Lux;  Peregrine Winery produced its first wine in the 1998 vintage,  yet it quickly became one of the most highly-regarded Otago producers.  It reflects the passion of Lindsay McLachlan and Greg Hay.  The Peregrine-owned vineyards are organic.  Winemaker is Nadine Cross.  They have three tiers of pinot noir,  one (The Pinnacle) a trophy wine.  This wine comprises 60% Bendigo fruit,  27% Pisa,  13% Gibbston,  all hand-harvested.  There is a 5% whole bunch component.  It spends 10 months in French oak,  understood to be c.35% new.  RS <1 g/L,  dry extract not available;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  youthful,  midway in depth.  In some ways this is the most perfect pinot noir bouquet in the set,  since it shows the precise aromatic quality that lifts the Cote de Nuits wines above those of the Cote de Beaune.  I associate this factor with the boronia floral concept.  But there is rose and daphne too,  and a hint of vanilla (from new oak).  Fruit quality is red more than black cherry.  In mouth despite smelling vanilla,  the floral complexity permeates the palate,  a key factor in great burgundy wine styles,  and the quality of fresh red grading to black cherry is delightful.  This is potentially a beautiful wine.  If it had a little more concentration,  and the tannin structure of the Ata Rangi,  it could well be the top wine here.  At the $40 mark,  it provides a great introduction to the concept of pinot noir florality,  beauty and complexity.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Noir Reserve   18 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  Ross and Barbara Lawson have been growing grapes in Marlborough since 1980.  The move to their own winery started in 1992.  Winemakers are Marcus Wright and deputy Rebecca Wiffen.  They are particularly noted for their aromatic varieties,  but other wines now share the limelight.  This is the mid-priced pinot in the range.  It is made from mainly burgundian clones of pinot noir,  all grown on older soils,  and tending to low crops.  It is hand-picked,  all de-stemmed,  extended macerations,  about a third wild yeast ferments,  9 months in oak with 25% new,  RS <1 g/L,  dry extract not available;  www.lawsonsdryhills.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  fractionally more youthful than the Greystone,  just above midway.  Bouquet is surprisingly close in style to the Greystone,  the floral component similarly grading right through to boronia,  though a touch more aromatic presumably from the slightly more apparent oak.  Palate is plump,  black cherry to a greater degree than the Greystone,  lovely freshness,  richness and balance,  the oak continuing  slightly more apparent,  finishing dry.  Attractive wine,  and such a contrast with Marlborough 10 years ago.  This affordable wine is therefore an 'on-guard' warning to producers in other districts,  who are accustomed to higher prices than $28 for their pinots.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Fromm Pinot Noir Clayvin   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $78   [ cork;  The Fromm winery and vineyard dates in concept from the late 1980s,  and in practice from 1992,  when Swiss wine man Georg Fromm set out with Swiss winemaker Hatsch Kalberer (then at Matawhero) to create an antipodean vineyard reflecting European practices rather than new world.  The emphasis has been on closer planting than standard New Zealand practice,  lower yields,  and all hand-harvesting.  Hatsch now has an associate winemaker Adam Balasoglou.  In recent years Georg has been joined by two other Swiss  partners,  who now have more active day-to-day involvement.  All vineyards are now certified organic,  dating from 2013.  The website does not appear to give any information on individual wines,  but Adam advises the wine is all hand-picked fruit,  wild-yeast fermentations with up to 30% whole berries,  long cuvaison for pinot noir up to four weeks,  then 16 – 18 months in larger barrels with only 10% new.  RS is well below 1 g/L,  dry extract not available;  www.frommwinery.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  below midway.  This wine stands out in the set as epitomising red cherry pinot.  It smells of roses including tea-roses,  without the aromatic complexity of boronia.  The fruit quality is all red,  a hint of strawberry and raspberry but centred firmly on red cherry,  and thus contrasting beautifully with the 'cooler' red fruits of the Te Mania.  In mouth it is identical,  and there is a soft succulent charm to the wine which along with the red fruits,  speaks clearly of Pommard.  The oak component is very gentle,  serious Pommard might have a greater oak structure in the wine,  but the exact quality of the red pinot fruit without acid or stalk is exciting – hence the high score.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Wooing Tree Pinot Noir   18  ()
Cromwell,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ screwcap;  Wooing Tree is a family-owned vineyard led by Steve Farquharson.  The land was bought in 2002,  and the vineyard established by highly-regarded viticulturist Robin Dicey.  First vintage was 2005,  so this winery too has come a long way in a short time.  Winemaking is contracted to VinPro,  and their house winemaker is also Peter Bartle.  Our 2010 vintage has won gold medals in both the Air NZ Wine Awards 2012,  and the Royal Easter 2012,  yet has not sold out – an interesting commentary on the diminishing role of judgings in New Zealand wine affairs.  It is made from 5 clones of pinot,  all hand-picked.  There is 5 – 10% whole-bunch in the ferment.  It spent 10 months in French oak 34% new,  with no fining but medium filtering.  Analysis data not available;  www.wooingtree.co.nz ]
Older pinot noir ruby.  This wine needs a couple of splashy decantings,  to reveal a bouquet which is a little  different.  The wine is at the stage of passing from primary flower and fruit notes to more evolved secondary aromas,  where the components meld together into the burgundy wine style.  Accordingly the oak is a little more apparent on bouquet.  In mouth however the texture is velvety,  the oak is not overly apparent,  and charming older cherry flavours dominate,  but showing some age,  perhaps a little over-developed for its relative age,  a hint of drying to the finish.  Pleasing though.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere   17 ½ +  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $63   [ screwcap;  Neudorf is to Nelson as Ata Rangi / Martinborough Vineyard / Dry River are in Martinborough,  and analogous to two of those (with the DSIR connection),  was started by Tim Finn then in the Agriculture Dept.  First land in the Moutere Hills was bought in 1978,  fractionally ahead of the Martinborough people.  Proprietors Tim and Judy Finn have a great following,  with a similar profile to Ata Rangi,  quiet achievers famed for their pinot noir and chardonnay,  but with thoughtful complex sauvignon and riesling on the side.  Annual sunshine hours are high,  but the rainfall at c.950 mm annual is seriously greater than competitor Marlborough's (or Martinborough).  Year to year variation is therefore greater.  Present winemaker is Todd Stevens,  following on from the long-serving John Kavanagh,  who took the wines to a very high standard indeed.   Wines are presented in three tiers,  a bistro Tom's Block,  the main Neudorf,  and the oldest vines as the Home Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This wine is hand-picked from 7 clones of pinot,  wild-yeast fermented,  12 months in French oak 29% new,  and bottled neither fined nor filtered,  RS <1 g/L,  no dry extract available;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is a hard wine to come to grips with.  The bouquet initially charms with clear florals and mixed red and black cherries,  and one is excited and expecting great things in mouth.  It may just be the stage the wine is at,  but in flavour it immediately seems less exciting at this moment,  yet there is plenty of fruit.  It is tannic at the moment,  so the fruit seems dark,  and one wonders if there is some over-ripeness. Richness is pretty good,  so I suspect this wine simply needs to condense some of its tannins,  to emerge more beautiful than now.  Visit again in three years,  say.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe 10.  GK 06/14

2012  Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn   17 ½ +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ screwcap;  The initial Akarua land on the east flank of the Bannockburn district was purchased in 1995 by the Skeggs family (of seafood fame),  and has since been added to.  With c.50 ha available,  their website claims them to be the largest family-owned vineyard in Central Otago,  with the goal of being one of the best.  Planting is 70% to seven clones of pinot noir.  Winemaker is now Matt Connell,  his first vintage 2009.  In their discussion of sustainable vineyard and winery practices,  they note that:  “45% of a winery's carbon footprint is due to its use of glass bottles.”  No doubt this is a claim up for debate,  but if true it will increasingly weigh on the consciences of people like Craggy Range,  with their outrageously heavy 'prestige' bottles.  The Akarua pinot noir range starts with Rua just under $30,  the standard Akarua just under $50,  and the newly introduced Siren premium wine at $100.  Matt is also keen to establish a reputation for methode champenoise,  and has enlisted the assistance of Dr Tony Jordan of Victoria,  Australia,  who first set Hunter's Wines on the path to their fine MiruMiru bubbly.  Our tasting wine is from vines averaging 15 years age,  has no whole-bunch,  spends 10 months in small French oak 30% new,  and the RS is <1 g/L;  www.akarua.com ]
Tending big pinot noir ruby,  above midway,  fresh.  Bouquet is a whole size bigger than some of these wines,  but there is immediately the worry that it is all a bit dark,  dusky florals,  black cherry grading to black plum,  is it too ripe for absolute finesse ?  In mouth it is touch and go,  there are black cherries but yes,  it is plummy too,  just a hint of 'merlot' maybe.  Oak handling matches the fruit weight,  contributing to the whole wine being on the burly side for beautiful pinot noir.  Worth cellaring though,  for it may well fine down as it loses tannin,  and the concentration is good.  [ The merlot reference is merely analogy. ]  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Palliser Estate Pinot Noir Pencarrow   17 ½ +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $26   [ screwcap;  Palliser Estate is set up as a public company,  and has been on the scene since the later 1980s.  Chief winemaker Allan Johnson is a long-established part of the firm,  with deputy Pip Goodwin.  The wines come in a premium stream as Palliser Estate,  and the more affordable Pencarrow series.  The firm is now sizeable,  and the wines are widely known and well-regarded,  but they have never quite captured the Martinborough limelight.  Their methode champenoise adds interest to the wines of the district,  and their Riesling is widely encountered.  This pinot noir is made from 6 clones of pinot,  with a 0.5% whole-bunch component,  in mostly wild-yeast fermentations.  It spends 9 months in oak,  with 24% new,  the dry extract is 29 g/L,  and the RS <1 g/L;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  right in the middle for depth.  This bouquet too shows the elusive boronia quality of florality,  indicating near-perfect ripeness at picking.  It seems to have a greater integration of fruit and oak than some of the wines,  the aromatic cherry fruit being convincing.  Palate is not quite so vibrant and exciting  however,  the wine is a little tannic and you would think the oak older than the specs say.  The finish shows the older oak a little more.   All told,  the balance and richness are attractive,  the wine is clean,  and like all good pinot noir it is more-ish.  Pretty good for a second wine !  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Marlborough Cellar Selection   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  Founded in 1961,  little needs to be said about Villa Maria,  except their Cellar Selection wines can sometimes offer premium value in a less-oaked style at affordable prices.  This is one such,  having won gold medals in both the Air NZ last year,  and the Easter this year.  It is made from Awatere Valley and Southern Valleys fruit from older terraces,  yet despite the volume is all hand-picked.  It is 100% de-stemmed,  includes wild-yeast fractions,  and spends around 10 months in barrel,  18% new.  RS is well under 1 g/L,  dry extract not measured;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
A lighter and fractionally older pinot noir ruby,  the second lightest.  Bouquet is little more gassy first-opened,  breathing to a more integrated wine with a thought of gentle Spanish tempranillo arising from the fragrant oak,  and all beautifully clean.  Smelling more deeply brings out red fruits and English tea-rose florals.  In mouth the wine springs into its own,  very much a Drouhin Beaune kind of wine,  supple,  red fruits all through,  the oak nearly vanillin but gentle,  lovely.  It is not as rich as the Pencarrow,  but it is more charming now.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Escarpment Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $51   [ screwcap;  Escarpment Vineyard was established on Te Muna Road in 1998,  as a partnership between Larry McKenna and the Kirby family of Victoria,  Australia.  Prior to that Larry had led Martinborough Vineyard to distinction in the district.  Since 2008 Larry has had Huw Kinch as deputy winemaker.   Wines are presented in three series,  the bistro Edge series,  The Escarpment wines proper,  and then 5 individual vineyard wines designated the Insight Series.  Some of the latter are drawn from the oldest pinot noir vineyards in the district.  They vary considerably between themselves,  so we are using the Escarpment wine,  as a collective statement about Larry's pinot aspirations.  It is the wine of a fairly typical year,  hand-harvested,  with 55% whole-bunch (contrasting with most NZ practice),  11 months in French oak 25% new,  with an RS <1 g/L and a dry extract of 25 g/L;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  just below midway.  Bouquet is complicated,  with many factors showing.  On one side there is a maceration carbonique suggestion and a cool nearly leafy quality grading into simple sweet pea / buddleia florality,  yet there is an aromatic richer and darker side too,  moreso than some of these wines.  The thought does arise,  though,  I wonder if it is stalky.  Having checked all the bouquets,  when you come back to this wine in tasting the palates,  it is not as dark as expected,  but there is a hint of stalk in mixed fruits,  cherry dominant.  I would expect this wine to mature into flavours including the 'forest floor' note much loved by pinot-chatterers,  and if it loses a little tannin it could become exciting rather than complicated.  When one later finds that this is the wine with 55% whole-bunch in the fermentation,  everything clicks into place.  It illustrates that the stems must be critically ripe.   Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Black Estate Pinot Noir   17 +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  The original Black Estate vineyard was established in 1993 / 94.  Since 2007 it has been owned by the Naish family,  with daughter Penelope Naish general manager,  and her husband Nicholas Brown the winemaker.  They draw grapes from three vineyards,  including now the former Daniel Schuster vineyards at Omihi,  and lease that winery.  The desire is to move to organic status.  The present wine comes from the home vineyard on the main road.  It is hand-harvested,  includes a 13% whole-bunch component,  and 10% of it is foot-trodden.  It matured in French oak for 16 months,  but only 3% of the oak is new.  Not fined or filtered,  RS well under 1 g/L,  and dry extract 28 g/L.  The oak handling should be of particular interest,  therefore;  www.blackestate.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  above midway.  Bouquet is quiet alongside the Escarpment,  a milder version of a similar winestyle,  suggestions of tea-rose florals,  more obviously red fruits dominant,  but you have to work at it.  In  mouth it has more to say,  supple red fruits grading to a black cherry palate,  a little more oak and tannin than the Escarpment,  but still not quite singing,  more straightforward good pinot.  Concentration is good,  and this is another wine which may look quite different in a couple of years.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe 10.  GK 06/14

2011  Astrolabe Pinot Noir Province   17 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $28   [ screwcap;  Astrolabe wines are the creation of winemaker Simon Waghorn,  now with quite a team.  Simon has become famous for his several series of sauvignon blancs,  the standard Province label of which is often the industry reference wine for the variety,  each vintage.  This wine draws fruit from 7 clones of pinot noir spanning most wine districts in Marlborough,  with an emphasis on even ripening in the vineyard,  and location on older terrace soils.  Fruit is hand-picked,  de-stemmed,  wild-yeast fermentations,  10 months in French oak from Burgundy coopers 25% new,  with <1 g/L RS and dry extract of 26 g/L;  www.astrolabewines.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  below midway.  Bouquet is unconvincing when first opened.  It benefits enormously from decanting,  to reveal quite floral and vanillin aromas reminding of buddleia and cherry ripe,  on straightforward fruit suggesting cherries.  There is the faintest hint of mint.  Palate is well in style for pinot noir,  red grading to black cherry fruit,  aromatic oak,  appropriate weight.  There might be a couple of grams residual sugar extending the aftertaste pleasantly [not so].  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Peregrine Pinot Noir   17  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ Stelvin Lux;  Peregrine Winery produced its first wine in the 1998 vintage,  yet it quickly became one of the most highly-regarded Otago producers.  It reflects the passion of Lindsay McLachlan and Greg Hay.  The Peregrine-owned vineyards are organic.  Winemaker is Nadine Cross.  They have three tiers of pinot noir,  one (The Pinnacle) a trophy wine.  This wine comprises 47% Bendigo fruit,  36% Pisa,  17% Gibbston,  all hand-harvested.  There is a 5% whole bunch component.   The wine spends 10 months in French oak,  understood to be c.35% new.  RS <1 g/L,  dry extract not available;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby,  the second lightest.  This is a totally different wine from the 2012 Peregrine,  being light,  fragrant,  some rose florals,  on red currant / strawberry / raspberry fruit.  But unlike the Ostler and the Grasshopper,  there is very little leaf or stalk,  it instead sharing some qualities with the Fromm,  but in a slightly pinched way.  Palate is a little unusual therefore,  all red fruits,  yet not too short or unduly stalky,  clearly varietal but at this stage a bit incomplete as red wine.  Finish is dryer than the same-vintage Saddleback.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  [ This wine was not in the presented set,  the 2011 having run out,  so the 2012 was substituted at the last moment,  after this bottle had been decanted.]  GK 06/14

2012  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir Te Tera   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $29   [ screwcap;  Martinborough Vineyard is one of the original founder vineyards in the district,  dating from 1980.  It is currently under offer from Foley Wine Estates.  Following pioneer winemaker Russell Schulz,  it has had a distinguished series of winemakers,  Larry McKenna,  Clair Mulholland,  and now Paul Mason.  Te Tera is the company's most affordable  pinot,  but it is still hand-harvested,  and bone-dry.  All fruit is de-stemmed.  The wine spends 9 months in oak,  9% of it new.  Website is curiously lacking in wine info,  analysis not available;  www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  below midway.  Bouquet is lightly floral,  towards the buddleia end of the floral spectrum,  but with hints of sweetness.  Fruit quality is very much in the red summer-fruits spectrum,  strawberry particularly,  another wine in the simpler Beaune-district style of Burgundy.  Palate and dry extract are weightier than the clearly paler Te Mania,  but the wine is similarly not quite perfectly ripe,  putting it squarely in Savigny-les-Beaune.  Correct wine,  as the English say,  but tending straightforward.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2010  Ostler Pinot Noir Caroline's   16 ½ +  ()
Waitaki Valley,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $52   [ screwcap;  I imagine this will be the first Waitaki Valley pinot seen in careful evaluation for many of us,  and I for one am keen to see how it stacks up.  The district has had enthusiastic reviews and promotion,  and even though the annual rainfall is below 600mm,  it is not quite as continental as Central Otago.  Soil parent materials are however high in limestone,  thus sharing a positive feature with parts of Waipara.  The vineyard has been developed by Jim & Anne Jerram,  and Anne's brother winemaker Jeff Sinnot,  a graduate of Roseworthy.  First commercial vintage was 2004,  so the vines have now reached an important milestone.  The website is a little hard to follow,  but there is noteworthy praise for this exact wine,  from Matt Kramer,  who is a luminary amidst the often-commercial writings of the American Wine Spectator.  He describes this wine as reminding him of:  “a fine Chambolle-Musigny”.  The wine is made with all wild-yeast fermentations,  part is barrel-fermented and whole-bunch,  it spends 12 months in French oak 20% new,  and like the Greystone has an exemplary (and rare in New Zealand) dry extract of 30.6 g/L,  with RS <1 g/L.  The winemaker considers it the best Caroline's yet;  www.ostlerwine.co.nz ]
Older and darker pinot noir ruby,  the deepest wine.  Bouquet is highly fragrant,  clean,  but complicated  rather than convincing,  and you can immediately see why to quick inspection that Matt Kramer might have made a comparison with Chambolle-Musigny.  The Cote de Nuits represents an absolute knife-edge of achieving ripeness and complexity versus under-ripeness,  contrasting with even fractionally warmer climates such as Cote de Beaune.  Florality is a function of cooler viticultural climates.  There is a volume of bouquet,  but the complexity of the floral notes includes buddleia and roses rather more than any convincing suggestion of boronia.  And it does include leafyness,  on red fruits only,  so one asks oneself:  which will win in mouth.  And on inspection,  the flavours are less satisfactory,  red cherry dominates but there is rather much red currant,  and both acid and stalk peep through.  I suspect there are a couple of grams of residual to seduce the taster,  too [not so].  Due to the wonderful dry extract,  the nett impression is highly burgundian,  but that is not necessarily all positive,  for in Burgundy in many years,  one wishes for a little more ripeness and warmth in the system,  for the wine to be thoroughly pleasing.  I think I should draw attention to the staggering array of endorsements this wine has received,  but for technical reasons I can not give a working link in this review format.  See:  file:///home/geoff/Downloads/Caroline's%202010%20Word.pdf  These collectively persuade me I should buy this wine for future study,  and perhaps re-evaluation,  to see if that stalkyness mysteriously attenuates.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  maybe much longer on that dry extract.  GK 06/14

2011  Peregrine Pinot Noir Saddleback   16 ½ +  ()
Otago,  New Zealand:  13%;  $23   [ screwcap;  Peregrine Winery produced its first wine in the 1998 vintage,  yet it quickly became one of the most highly-regarded Otago producers.  It reflects the passion of Lindsay McLachlan and Greg Hay.  The Peregrine-owned vineyards are organic.  Winemaker is Nadine Cross.  They have three tiers of pinot noir,  one a trophy wine,  and Saddleback is the introductory and extraordinarily popular one.  This wine is 58% Gibbston district,  the balance Cromwell Basin,  all hand-picked,  de-stemmed,  10 months in oak thought to be about 20% new,  RS <1 g/L,  dry extract not available;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  just above midway.  In this wine,  which has become almost the national de facto pinot noir benchmark for the New Zealand consumer (meaning if a pinot noir is better than this wine,  it is really worthwhile),  there is an eloquent varietal bouquet combining some florals and clear summer-fruits,  buddleia  and strawberries again,  but clearly more cherry than the Te Mania.  In mouth however it shortens up,  the ripening profile being cooler than the Te Tera or the wines marked more highly,  with a stalky note in the red fruits.  Again,  this character is typical of Savigny-les-Beaune,  and nobody could doubt the variety or winestyle.  Just a little more ripeness is  needed,  for good results in the cellar,  however.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Valli Pinot Noir Gibbston Vineyard   16 ½  ()
Gibbston,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13%;  $66   [ screwcap;  Grant Taylor is the founder and driving spirit of Valli wines,  named for an ancestor.  He is one of the most highly-regarded and highly-qualified pinot noir producers in New Zealand,  yet is quiet and almost retiring.  Following 14 vintages in California,  he was appointed winemaker for Gibbston Valley Wines from 1993 to 2006,  and at the same time consulted to nearly a dozen other Otago wineries,  plus an Oregon start-up winery.  All this while he had in mind a vineyard of his own,  and in 1998 established Valli at Gibbston,  the coolest viticultural area in Central Otago,  and the wettest,  with rainfall around 600mm.  Grant's vision for Otago pinot embraces producing wines from each of the main districts,  single vineyard wines from Gibbston,  Bannockburn,  Bendigo,  and the new Waitaki Valley district (see the Ostler).  This has to be a wonderful goal,  one facilitating much greater understanding of the viticultural potential of the entire Otago wine district,  yet like the proprietor,  the wines sail a little under the radar,  despite some notable overseas successes.  The Gibbston vineyard was planted in 2000 at 4050 vines / hectare,  denser than the NZ average,  but still only half the norm in Burgundy.  In 2012 the vineyard achieved 910 growing degree days,  highlighting the enormous contrasts between the viticultural sub-districts of Otago.  For contrast the Bannockburn wine achieved 1190 GDD,  the Bendigo wine 1207,  and the Waitaki Valley wine 880.  These are profound differences,  which impact considerably on the quality and 'pinosity' of the wine.   Our wine is hand-harvested  @ 3.6 t/ha (1.4 t/ac),  includes a 30% whole-bunch component,  spends 11 months in French oak 34% new,  and the balance first-and second-year.  Not fined or filtered;  www.valliwine.com ]
Quite deep pinot noir ruby,  the second deepest.  Initially opened,  the wine is distressingly reductive,  so I gave it the worst-case treatment,  pouring it splashily from one jug to another 10 times,  and leaving it out in a jug to air while the other wines were decanted.  But by the time of the tasting four hours later,  it was still very grumpy.  If pinot noir is about florality and beauty,  H2S and its congeners are a no-no.  The next day,  one can see wonderfully rich and complex fruit suggesting the best fractions of the wine may have shown pleasing florality.  The whole goal of including a 100% Gibbston Valley wine in the tasting was to (hopefully) display the flowers associated with pinots from the most burgundian climate in Central Otago,  soil parent materials aside.  In mouth the wine is impressively rich,  absolutely of grand cru quality in that component.  It is therefore regrettable that by including a reductive component,  the wine has been so flawed.  I doubt it will blossom,  but inspection at the 10-year point could prove me wrong.  Meanwhile,  any winewriter who recommends this wine without qualification is either unthinking about the beautiful floral side so essential to fine pinot noir,  or (more likely) is blind to sulphide.  If you have a normal palate with respect to reduced sulphurs,  use this wine to calibrate winewriters,  and learn from it.  Cellar 10 – 15 years,  out of curiosity.  GK 06/14

2011  Te Mania Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $23   [ screwcap;  Te Mania was established by Jon and Cheryl Harrey in 1990.  It is near Richmond,  on the Waimea Plains.  Winemaker now is Steve Gill,  who did time at Dry River before moving to Greenhough.  Steve is in fact winemaker for Appleby Vintners,  which appears to be a consulting winery owned by the Te Mania people.  This is their second-level pinot,  but it is organic,  from 4 clones of pinot noir all hand-harvested,  some wild-yeast ferments,  50% of the wine spends 13 months in French oak 5% new,  dry extract is 29 g/L,  and RS 2.4 g/L;  www.temaniawines.co.nz ]
This is the surprise wine of the tasting,  the colour (the lightest by far) being exactly like some of the Rousseau village burgundies,  but merely good rosé by New Zealand standards.  The bouquet opens with air to be in the light red fruits spectrum,  redcurrant and strawberry not quite reaching red cherry,  and buddleia florality grading to light rose,  so you suspect under-ripeness.  But in mouth the ripeness is the surprise,  all the fruit is clearly in the red fruit spectrum,  red currant and strawberry grading to hints of red cherry,  subtlest oak,  and not stalky.  Just.  There is much more fruit than expected too,  and at first I was inclined to mark it borderline silver,  but no.  It  does exemplify the remarks made in the introduction that pinot noir quality must never be assessed on colour.  Cellar 2 – 6  years.  A burgundian wine on that dry extract (though inflated by the RS),  but cool-year small-scale.  GK 06/14

2012  Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard   16 ½  ()
Alexandra,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $33   [ screwcap;  Grasshopper Rock is unusual in the NZ milieu in that it is a single-variety vision to excel with pinot noir.  It is a partnership of five couples,  founded in 2003.  Right from the start,  the wines did well,  reflecting conservative cropping rates,  good flavours and richness,  and affordable prices.  Throughout the one main wine has been made by VinPro,  with Peter Bartle currently their lead winemaker (since 2010),  and prior to that Carol Bunn.  Being in Alexandra,  the vineyard is amongst the southernmost in the world.  Six clones of pinot noir are grown.  Rainfall averages 300mm per annum.  2012 though initially cool in Central Otago finished on a better note than most districts in New Zealand,  with a longer dry interval.  This wine had c.10  months in French oak,  30% new,  and has a dry extract of 29 g/L,  RS well under 1 g/L;  www.grasshopperrock.co.nz ]
Lighter pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the over-$30 wines.  Bouquet share some attributes with the Ostler,  in  being beautifully clean,  and highly fragrant,  but ultimately lacking critical ripeness.  The florals here are all at the buddleia end of the spectrum,  some rose,  again only hints of boronia,  though the fruit is clearly varietal.  Again one is fearful the taste will be incomplete,  and so it proves,  red  currants,  raspberry,  some red cherry,  but total acid up and a stalky underpinning.  Actual fruit weight and concentration is good,  and this will evolve into an interesting and clearly burgundian wine,  but more as Savigny-les-Beaune than anything more noble.  Given some of the lovely earlier Grasshopper pinots,  I wonder why they picked at this point,  before a suggestion of black cherry developed in the fruit ?  Perhaps in 2012 the crop was too heavy to achieve appropriate ripening.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2011  Blackenbrook Pinot Noir St Jacques   16 +  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  14%;  $18   [ screwcap;  Blackenbrook wines come from Daniel and Ursula Schwarzenbach,  both of Swiss background.  Daniel has qualifications in microbiology as well as oenology and viticulture.  He has been much influenced by Olivier Humbrecht,  winemaker at Domaine Zind-Humbrecht,  Alsace.   This wine is made from 9 clones of hand-picked pinot noir,  grown on the lower Moutere Hills in somewhat more closely spaced vineyards than NZ norms.  It spends nearly 12 months in newish oak,  but none first-year.  Dry extract is a commendable 29 g/L,  and RS is well under 1 g/L.  This is their affordable pinot noir;  www.blackenbrook.co.nz ]
Older pinot noir ruby,  about midway in depth.  Bouquet is distinctive in this wine,  showing ripe fruit and much of the style of many yesteryear bourgognes rouges,  reasonably clearly varietal,  old oak,  and some brett (both phases of guaiacol).  Palate is quite rich in this rustic style,  and the wine will be immensely food-friendly,  as lightly brett-infected wines invariably are.  Hard to score,  technocrats and pedants would reject it totally,  hedonists would mark it highly.  So a compromise score here,  noting that many people love this character.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Wooing Tree Pinot Noir Beetlejuice   16  ()
Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  Wooing Tree is a family-owned vineyard led by Steve Farquharson.  The land was bought in 2002,  and the vineyard established by highly-regarded viticulturist Robin Dicey.  First vintage was 2005,  so this winery too has come a long way in a short time.  Winemaking is contracted to VinPro,  and their house winemaker is Peter Bartle.  The 2012 won gold medals in both the Air NZ last year,  and the Easter this year,  but unfortunately is now sold out.  The firm thinks the 2013 is as good.  It is made from 4 clones of pinot,  all hand-picked,  and includes 2.5% whole bunches.  It spends 9 months in barrel,  24% new.  RS not given;  www.wooingtree.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  loud and lurid for pinot noir.  Bouquet is overripe and plummy,  with threshold reduction,  emphasising its unfortunate youth (the desired 2012 wine,  which won the medals,  is  sold out). This is populist pinot noir,  where a section of the market thinks darker is better,  and that same section is all-too-commonly strangely tolerant of congested fermentation odours,  too.  In mouth the wine shows plummy fruit in a lush winestyle,  low oak,  and a dulling finish tying in with the slight reduction.  With so many New Zealand wine people being blind to sulphide,  expect to see this wine highly praised.  On the positive side,  it should improve in cellar,  and freshen up,  but into a quantitative rather than qualitative kind  of pinot noir.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/14

2012  Clos Henri Pinot Noir Petit Clos   15 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $19   [ screwcap;  Clos Henri wines are the Marlborough vision of the Henri Bourgeois family,  from Sancerre,  where the family is famous for their sauvignon blanc.  Their winemaker in New Zealand is a Frenchman,  Damien Yvon.  The vineyard is now certified organic.  Petit Clos is the fruit of younger vines,  planted at 5050 vines / ha (roughly twice the density of usual NZ vineyards) and cropped at 6 t/ha (2.4 t/ac).  It sees only big (7500-litre) older wood for 11 months.  RS is 0.3 g/l,  and the dry extract is 27 g/l.  This wine is Michael Cooper's Red Wine Buy for 2014.  For technical reasons I can not give a working link in this review format – see: http://www.michaelcooper.co.nz/wine-info/the-2014-best-wine-buys.  Clos Henri website irritatingly slow,  then short on detail,  but the winery helpful;  www.clos-henri.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  below midway in depth.  This wine has a lot of bouquet,  but on closer examination all the fruits are red,  and the 'floral' quality is better described as leafy.  In mouth red currant dominates grading to red cherry (just),  but the under-ripeness is exacerbated by stalky qualities which harden the palate.  The wine is clearly varietal,  and of reasonable weight,  but not of international calibre in its ripeness profile.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/14

2013  Terra Sancta Pinot Noir Mysterious Diggings   15  ()
Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  Terra Sancta is the new life of former Stock Exchange Chief Executive Mark Weldon and partner (and wife) Sarah Elliot.  They have bought three vineyards including Olssen's (in 2011) in Bannockburn,  and have created  one new one.  They have achieved quite a presence in a short time,  aided by winemakers Jen Parr and Jody Pagey (male).  All wine is made from their own grapes.  Mysterious Diggings is their affordable label,  but nonetheless it is a single vineyard wine,  made from 5 different clones,  from one of the most elevated sites in the district,  planted in 1999.  The proprietors see it as therefore being a subtler but still serious wine,  and to perhaps accentuate that aspect it is made with a 5% whole-bunch component.  It sees only older oak,  and has a dry extract of 27 g/L against a low RS of .24 g/L.  It is not fined or filtered;  www.terrasancta.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  loud and lurid for pinot noir.  Bouquet is similar in style to the 2013 Wooing Tree Beetlejuice,  plenty of fruit,  but the reduction here is near-crippling,  for anybody at all sensitive to reduced sulphurs.  Like the Beetlejuice,  the big fruit is over-ripe,  so the whole thing is tending vulgar / populist.  Oak handling is good,  though.  The whole wine is more like a simple concrete-vat Cotes-du-Rhone than pinot noir.  Not worth cellaring,  some of the comments for Beetlejuice above apply here too.  GK 06/14