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

PINOT NOIR 2004:  The Public Tasting

During the second international Pinot Noir 2004 Conference held in Wellington,  28-31 January 2004,  a large public tasting was part of the programme.  Most New Zealand pinot producers were showing their wines,  together with a few imported.  These notes sample an arbitrary selection of them,  since it was not practicable to visit all.  Samples were taken away,  for subsequent blind tasting in more controlled conditions.

The wines show two broad styles:  classically fragrant and floral wines illustrating the beauty of the variety,  and paying some heed to the Burgundy prototype (apart from the contemporary problem of high alcohols in New Zealand pinot noir);  or big,  fruity,  oaky and alcoholic wines which are international in style,  and the grape variety is more or less irrelevant.  Some are more new world fruit bombs than pinot.  I have rated the former (e.g. 2002 Mountford Pinot Noir,  or 2001 Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard),  more highly than the latter,  even though they are popular.


2002  Akarua Pinot Noir Reserve
2002  Alana Pinot Noir
2002  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2001  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2002  Carrick Pinot Noir
2002  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir
2001  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir
2002  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Vineyard
2002  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Omihi Selection
2002  Dry River Pinot Noir
2002  Escarpment Pinot Noir
2002  Felton Road Pinot Noir
2002  Foxes Island Pinot Noir
2001  Fromm la Strada Pinot Noir Clayvin Vineyard
2001  Fromm la Strada Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard
2002  Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir Reserve
2001  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir
2000  Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanee les Suchots Premier Cru
2002  Montana Pinot Noir "T" Terraces Estate
  2002  Mountford Pinot Noir
2001  Mountford Pinot Noir
2002  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir
2002  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace Single Vineyard
2002  Murdoch James Pinot Noir Fraser
2001  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard
2001  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir
2002  Pisa Range Pinot Noir Black Poplar
2001  Pisa Range Pinot Noir Black Poplar
1999  Rex Hill Pinot Noir
2002  Riverby Pinot Noir
2000  Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin Grand Cru
2002  Schubert Pinot Noir
2002  Schubert Pinot Noir Marion’s Vineyard
2002  Seifried Pinot Noir
2001  Stonier Pinot Noir
2002  Te Mania Pinot Noir Reserve
2002  Waiwera Pinot Noir

2002  Mountford Pinot Noir   18 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14%;  $58   [ www.mountfordvineyard.co.nz ]
An elegant pinot ruby.  An eloquent bouquet too,  with beautiful rose-like florals leading to an understated  richness of  abstract berry and fruit which is totally European in style.  Berry on palate is wonderful,  with a dry extract and succulence to it which is like a great chardonnay,  yet with all the flavours of perfectly ripe red and black cherries,  and the freshness too.  Fruit handling and extraction in this wine respects the delicacy,  subtlety,  and beauty of pinot noir.  Oak handling is superb,  essentially invisible yet guiding and shaping perfectly.  Real pinot noir,  no stalky notes here,  and in this tasting New Zealand’s top-equal pinot.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/04

2001  Neudorf Pinot Noir Home Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Moutere Hills,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $56   [ price ex vineyard;  www.neudorf.co.nz ]
A fine pinot ruby,  like the 2001 Pisa.   A subdued bouquet showing suggestions of violets and deep pinot florals,  plus blackest cherries.  Palate concentrates the cherries incredibly,  to give a mouthfeel which is beautifully rich in flavour,  lingers on black cherry skins counterpointed by subtle oak,  and hides the high alcohol surprisingly well.  Fruit richness and ripeness is wonderful,  though possibly verging on sur-maturité,  without the piquant freshness of the Ata Rangi or Cloudy Bay.  That would explain the understated bouquet.  Even so,  in this tasting it is New Zealand’s top-equal pinot noir,  and demonstrates clearly that pinot can be big,  beautiful and highly varietal (as we know from Burgundy),  yet avoid the anonymous clumsiness of the fruit bomb approach.  Not often that Nelson presents a wine seeming warmer-climate in style than Marlborough.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/04

2001  Pisa Range Pinot Noir Black Poplar    18 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $37   [ original price,  ex vineyard;  www.pisarangeestate.co.nz ]
Good ruby with a flush of carmine and velvet,  about as big as pinot needs to be.  Bouquet on this wine is beautifully pure, understated,  with some florals plus red and black cherry fruit.  First impression on palate is the weight of fruit,  yet the beautiful expression of black cherry pinot noir character and perfect acid balance is without any hint of superfluous weight,  juiciness, or excess oak.    This wine shows delightfully how New Zealand pinot can be concentrated and rich (as we know from Burgundy),  without being transmogrified into a populist new world fruit bomb.  This is classical New Zealand pinot noir,  beautifully subtly oaked,  as straight as a die,  yet to evolve magic.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Another fine and subtle pinot ruby.  This wine is still understated and very youthful on bouquet,  but there is an absolute varietal purity about it which is captivating,  all sweetly floral and ripe cherries.  Initial palate is very pure,  without the aromatic suggestions of the Ata Rangi,  or the more obvious oak of the Montana,  and with much of the subtlety of the Mountford,  but not quite the perfect ripeness and mouthfeel of that wine.  The fine red and black cherry fruit against fresh acid balance is similar to the Ata Rangi,  fractionally lighter.  If only we would research pinot viticulture to achieve ripe flavours at a sugar ripeness more appropriate to the alcohol restraint and finesse these wines could and should have.  Cellar 5 – 8.  GK 01/04

2001  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   18  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Elegant ruby,  some velvet.  Volumes of floral bouquet pinpoint the essential character of many good New Zealand pinot noirs:  a faint pennyroyal and lawsoniana aromatic on clear florals,  with mixed red and black cherries and blackboy fruit.  Palate builds good mouthfeel and weight of fruit into fresh berry flavours,  yet without the heaviness and juiciness of so many of our ‘new world’ pinots.  Oak subtly shapes the wine,  and is less apparent than the Montana Terraces.  The whole mouthfeel is fresh,  with the floral component introducing cool fragrant notes which tasters from a hot climate,  habituated to plush and ample wines,  would probably call stalky.  It is however very burgundian.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Pipeclay Terrace Single Vineyard   18  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $55   [ screwcap;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Ruby,  light carmine and velvet,  a bit big and loud for pinot noir.  Bouquet on this wine is forceful,  with pennyroyal and lawsoniana aromatics aggravated by spirit and fragrant oak,  all on big peachy and plummy fruit.   This is getting perilously close to the new world fruit bomb style.  Flavours on palate just redeem it:  concentrated black cherries are exciting,  noticeable new oak,  yet a total flavour package which is clearly varietal.  A lot of marrying-down to happen here,  in a very new world winestyle,  but all just the right side of the line (except the alcohol).  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir Reserve   18  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $90   [ screwcap;  www.gvwines.co.nz ]
Dense ruby and velvet,  an outsize colour for pinot noir.  Bouquet is quiet at this stage, clean,  ripe,  big,  tending mute in an Australian style.  Palate is massively tannic,  a caricature of pinot noir as it is internationally understood,  yet the tannins are ripe at an acceptable given alcohol.  Oak handling is surprisingly good,  considering the size,  so the tannin load is essentially skins-derived. The wine clearly tastes like pinot,  and the acid balance is good.  Though it could be classed as a new world fruit bomb,  I am prepared to give this big wine the benefit of the doubt,  with the proviso that it may only develop fragrance and varietal beauty in bottle once it has been kept long enough to crust.  That has certainly been my experience with some large-scaled Aussie wines over the last 35 years,  in cases where the initial oak was as restrained as this.  Cellar  8 – 15 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Pisa Range Pinot Noir Black Poplar   17 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $37   [ www.pisarangeestate.co.nz ]
Youthful good ruby.  Clearcut pinot noir red and black cherries dominate the bouquet,  plus a leafy suggestion.  Palate is showing high spirit at this youthful point,  and the flavours are more Omega plum,  with the oak apparent – the spirit aggravates that.  Against the 01,  this wine seems to show the simpler and more obvious lush fruit of a riper year,  producing a big,  appealing,  but not so complex wine.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Escarpment Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ www.escarpment.co.nz ]
A lightish and very burgundian ruby.  Bouquet too is burgundian,  with both a sweet floral lift and a sur lie character which is attractive once breathed,  plus aromatics from fragrant oak,  and good red and black berries below.  Palate is richer than the Schubert Marion,  with higher tannin levels,  a good acid balance,  but again a slightly stalky quality.  This difficult trade-off between retaining varietal florals,  achieving the riper flavours and mouthfeel of black cherries,  yet avoiding stalkiness,  is not quite achieved in either this or several of the 2002 Wairarapa wines.  For reds,  in this district 2002 is looking a lighter year than 2001.  With its good dry extract,  this should cellar well,  5 – 10 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Felton Road Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $47   [ screwcap;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  getting big for pinot noir.  Despite the colour,  bouquet is a beautiful expression of the precise black cherry,  blackboy and perfume of black plums character that makes Otago pinot noir at best so attractive.  This wine is just a bit too ripe for floral magic,  however.  Palate confirms that impression,  showing great fruit but in a slightly oaky and spirity unknit style,  which seems unlikely to me to build the sheer complexity the 1999 Felton shows now.  Popular wisdom has it that 2002 is a great pinot noir vintage in Central Otago,  but I would argue that is only true in a quantitative sense –  that is,  if the new world fruit bomb style of pinot is to be regarded as the desirable goal for New Zealand examples of the grape.  God forbid !  For pinot,  fragrance,  finesse of mouthfeel,  and floral complexity are far more important than size.  For Central Otago,  I suggest cooler years than 2002 will reveal the full charms of the variety,  as discussed for the 1999 Felton Road,  under Akarua.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Youthful ruby.  A fragrant bouquet,  with rose and boronia florals pouring from the glass,  on mixed redfruits below.  Palate is still youthful and simple,  exact cherry flavours,  beautiful oak,  attractive ripeness avoiding the stalky edge in the Martinborough '01,  but not as complex.  The similarity of style to the 2001 Ata Rangi is clear,  but the younger wine seems not as concentrated.  Cellar 5 – 8.  GK 01/04

2002  Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  www.mtdifficulty.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a flush of carmine and velvet getting a bit deep.  A clean fragrant expression of black cherry and blackboy pinot noir in the Otago style,  quite fruity.  Flavours are soft,  rich,  and nearly plummy,  again showing the ampleness of the 2002 season in Otago.  There does not seem to be as much oak softening on this as in the Pipeclay wine,  and on this occasion less oak leaves the wine looking a little fleshy and awkward.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Vineyard   17 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $38   [ www.craggyrange.co.nz ]
Lightish ruby.  First impression is of spicy and slightly nutmeggy oak,  tending to dominate varietal character at this stage.  Flavour has all the right feelings and balance for good light pinot,  with attractive cherry flavours,  and less stalkiness than some of the other Wairarapa pinots,  but the oak does claim attention.  It is beautiful oak,  I admit,  and this wine should come into a more harmonious balance in two or three years.  Good to have wine of this quality so early in the emergence of the newly developed ‘extension’ of the ‘Martinborough Terrace’ concept.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/04

1999  Rex Hill Pinot Noir   17  ()
Oregon,  North America:   – %;  $125   [ www.rexhill.com ]
Good pinot ruby,  ageing.  An understated slightly almondy bouquet showing some red cherry qualities,  but moving into developed and secondary aromas.  Flavours likewise are developed,  sweetly fruited with a good concentration of red berries,  gently oaked,  marcy with a linseed meal suggestion,  slightly acid.  This wine is clearly pinot in the international sense,  and is therefore helpful to the tasting as a reminder that our new world fruit bomb style is out of line.  Cellar 3 –  6.  GK 01/04

2001  Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz ]
Good pinot-weight ruby.  Once breathed,  one of the strongest bouquets among the better wines,  with clear florals combining the sweetness of roses with the perfume of dianthus,  all lifted by a suggestion of stalkiness.  Just a whisper of cool-year Cote Rotie in there,  too.  Below are red berries,  and cherries.  Flavour amplifies these themes,  with fair weight of cherryberry,  although the oak does accentuate the stalky suggestion.  One gets the impression of not quite careful enough selection for ripeness in the fruit.  In its fresh style therefore,  this wine has much in common with the 2002 Cloudy Bay,  but is lighter.  It is also valid to recall the old Burgundy saying  Bourgogne vert,  Bourgogne vieux – some stalkiness is legitimate in the pinot noir paradigm,  particularly when associated with a ripeness of stalks sufficient to suggest floral notes as well.  Some would say that is old-school thinking,  but it is arguably preferable to the over-ripe approach,  where opportunities for the floral bouquet essential to fine pinot have been lost.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/04

2001  Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ www.cloudybay.co.nz ]
Ruby.  A light varietal bouquet suggesting roses and cherries,  with an appealing slightly savoury quality.  Palate is integrating attractively,  to give a ‘winey’ wine with a hint of peri-Mediterranean complexity.  The savoury suggestions include an academic trace of brett,  and the total flavour and mouthfeel is burgundian in a slightly acid way.  Attractive food wine,  therefore.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  Also reviewed 12/02,  when the comment offered:  the best Cloudy Bay pinot yet.  Likewise,  that can now be said about the 2002, q.v.  GK 01/04

2002  Montana Pinot Noir "T" Terraces Estate   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ www.montanawines.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  though deeper than Montana Pinot usually is.   Bouquet is deeper,  richer,  riper and more oaky too,  with the black cherry moving towards a black plum dimension,  losing some varietal bouquet.  Flavour however pretty well takes this wine into the new world fruit bomb class,  the oak and toast introducing a buttered pikelet quality to big,  juicy,  blackboy fruit and soft aromatic oak which is unsubtle.  The cheaper wines sometimes show more of the beauty of pinot noir.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Omihi Selection   17  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ www.danielschusterwines.com ]
A fine pinot ruby.  A voluminous bouquet  in a slightly oxidative and old-oaky fumey style hinting at good malt whisky (+ve),  which stands apart from the other wines in the tasting.  It is clearly pinot noir,  complex florals and cherryberry,  and burgundian in a traditional and old-for-its-years way.  Palate is much better,  soft,  silky,  real red cherries,  and not as oaky as expected.  This implies critical fruit selection,  in contrast to the number of wines which have presented as more stalky on palate.  Even this Omihi is a little acid,  however.  A good food wine.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Carrick Pinot Noir   17  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ screwcap;  www.carrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  big for pinot noir.  A big bouquet of ripest black plums,  black cherries,  oak and alcohol,  moving towards the new world fruit bomb style of pinot noir.  It has much in common with the Pegasus,  but is fresher and more varietal.  Flavour is dominated by fragrant soft oak,  with big juicy berryfruit tasting of sun-drenched black cherries filling it out.  This lush alcoholic style of pinot is becoming an Otago specialty,  but in my view they are a trend in the wrong direction.  Climatically,  I am hoping 2002 is a hot aberration,  otherwise the finesse,  floral fragrance,  and real pinot varietal aromatics shown by Otago wines in years such as 1999 will be lost to sight.  That will be a great loss both to Otago and New Zealand,  and to winelovers beyond these shores,  for the best of Otago’s pinot noir has shown real promise,  in classical terms.  Few countries can do that,  whereas many in both the old world and the new can make these big juicy wines.  As with others in this discussion,  this Carrick is attractive as a round soft red,  but it is scored as pinot noir.  Cellar 5 – 10.  GK 01/04

2002  Schubert Pinot Noir Marion’s Vineyard   17  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ www.schubert.co.nz ]
A lovely ruby,  just right for pinot.  Bouquet shouts pinot noir,  with beautiful florals,  red and black cherry aromatics,  and suggestions of blackboy peaches.  Palate is initially fragrant and attractive too,  but a stalky thread and then noticeable acidity detract from a higher rating.  Oak is well done.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Alana Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  www.alana.co.nz ]
A perfect pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is light,  sweet,  pure,  and totally varietal,  without some of the New Zealand ‘signatures’ such as pennyroyal.  Red berries and cherry show in an attractive aromatic style shadowing the Cote de Nuits.  Palate however does not quite fulfill that promise,  being a little stalky,  slightly acid,  but still clearly varietal and nicely fleshed with red cherries.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 01/04

2001  Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir   16 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14%;  $43   [ www.pegasusbay.com ]
Heavy ruby and velvet,  extraordinary for pinot noir.  Here we move firmly into the new world fruit bomb style of pinot,  heavily fruited and very plummy,  heavily oaked,  as spirity as many,  and in the blind tasting,  a long way from classical pinot noir.  Almost a hint of fine Rutherglen muscat.  In mouth the first impressions are oak,  the second concentrated plummy and chocolatey fruit,  and the third a heavy black mushroomy loading on the plum.  Yet curiously,  the aftertaste is somewhat varietal and even a little stalky.  All these characters are far away from the crisply fragrant red and black cherry-like aromatics of  fine pinot.  In its huge soft richness,  it is an attractive wine in its own  physical style – like the Dry River – but it could as easily be made from several other varieties.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Akarua Pinot Noir Reserve   16 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  www.akarua.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a ludicrous colour for pinot noir.  Bouquet is sweet,  ripe,  huge and concentrated,  more like modern grenache-derived Chateauneuf du Pape than pinot noir,  and complete with spicy nutmeg (presumably from oak) to complete the grenache picture.  Palate likewise is monstrous,  a wine defining the new world fruit bomb style (pace Robert Parker):  huge fruit,  huge alcohol,  very oaky,  more or less porty,  yet slightly acid to the finish.  This is a long way from pinot noir as the world understands it,  but there are reminders of the grape in the black cherry notes later in the palate.  I look forward to studying this wine as it ages.  It will be good drinking in its style,  but whether it will ever be beautiful pinot noir is a separate question.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.

Stylewise,  there is no doubt this is an attractive big,  soft,  alcoholic red,  carefully made,  but the variety is almost incidental.  It is therefore unfortunate that such wines are currently being awarded Gold Medals as pinot noirs,  in New Zealand national judgings.  There is a critical problem in New Zealand trying to create a new and wayward,  alcoholic and heavy style of pinot noir like this,  and then hoping the world will clamour to buy it at the premium prices currently being charged.  Quite simply,  the Languedoc,  Spain and no doubt other regions can produce similarly-styled wines much more affordably.

Few places,  however,  can produce pinot noir of the calibre illustrated right at this moment by the straight 1999 Felton Road Pinot Noir.  I recently ran this in a blind tasting with Grand Cru Burgundies of the same year,  and the Felton was every bit in the running,  totally burgundian to the point of being inseparable from the real thing – a quite exceptional pinot noir,  in world terms. Given our critically temperate climate in New Zealand,  we would therefore be wise to re-adjust our sights,  and aim our pinots towards the subtle and beautiful winestyles produced in the marginal climate of Burgundy.  These are wines vouchsafed by hundreds of years of experience,  and acknowledged to be at best amongst the finest wines in the world.  They have proved almost impossible to replicate elsewhere.  New Zealand is one of the very few places with the critical prospect of achieving comparable quality in pinot noir,  once we can achieve physiological maturity at lower potential alcohols.  Whereas almost anybody can produce commercial fruit bombs.  GK 01/04

2001  Fromm la Strada Pinot Noir Clayvin Vineyard   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $57   [ www.frommwineries.com ]
Dense ruby and velvet,  big for pinot noir.  This is a big wine all through,  which in a tasting of grenaches from South Australia and the Rhone,  would look very attractive.   As a pinot noir,  it is heavy, spirity,  with rich fruit showing a slightly minty edge (which reinforces the Australian analogy).   Flavours are densely plummy,  carefully oaked,  beautifully ripe,  and within its declared style,  beautifully made.  It is more subtle than some of the overt fruit bombs,  though every bit as big.  It would be marked much higher in  tastings of other varieties.  Difficult to write up,  but in the end scored as pinot noir.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 01/04

2001  Mountford Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  14%;  $58   [ www.mountfordvineyard.co.nz ]
Youthful ruby,  getting big.  A big soft round bouquet,  but lacking in varietal cues.  It is reminiscent of some of the soft round shiraz-derived wines offered as “Burgundy” in Australia,  in the 60s – in their youth.  Flavours are rich and round,  showing more oak than the 2002,  a surprising thread of acid,  but not much flavour.  Really quite odd.   Easy and attractive drinking.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  possibly to surprise – structurally this is good wine.  GK 01/04

2002  Schubert Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $45   [ www.schubert.co.nz ]
Attractive ruby.  This is another pinot showing fragrant oak as well as red and black cherry fruits,  in a clearly varietal bouquet.  In mouth  the wine is not so happy,  with stalky and nearly green notes reinforced by TA on the high side.  Concentration of fruit is good,  but again that elusive goal of pinot beauty and complexity has not been quite achieved.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Murdoch James Pinot Noir Fraser   16  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ www.murdochjames.co.nz ]
Classic pinot noir ruby,  limpid.  An intriguing bouquet, showing a celery powder character in savoury red cherry and berry fruits,  all in a slightly oxidative but clearly varietal styling.  The wine seems old for its age,  and there is a slightly ammonia-like note detracting.  Palate is sweetly fruity and burgundian,  the cherry flavours quite mature,  savoury,  slightly acid,  with light Brettanomyces complexity adding to the European approach (alcohol aside).  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 01/04

2001  Fromm la Strada Pinot Noir Fromm Vineyard   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $64   [ www.frommwineries.com ]
Ruby.  Initially opened,  a bit congested and reductive, but a good decanting would clear that.  This is an intriguing wine in the tasting,  for it looks European in style,  with red plummy fruits and gentle oak.   But,  one would be hard put to say if it were made from pinot noir or merlot or cabernet franc,  let alone tempranillo.  Flavour keeps up the confusion,  with attractive red berries and careful oak,  but all a bit spirity.  Good as red,  but lacking bouquet and not convincing as pinot noir.  Cellar 5 – 8.  GK 01/04

2002  Riverby Pinot Noir   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $29
Lightish ruby,  attractively in class.  A lighter bouquet than the other pinots,  with more fragrance of the whole berry / partial maceration carbonique type,  but less depth.  Tending to the beaujolais style,  in other words.  Flavours fit that interpretation,  blackboy and red berries,  good fruit feel,  slightly marcy and stalky with subtle oak,  but still varietal.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 01/04

2000  Rousseau Mazy-Chambertin Grand Cru   16  ()
Gevrey-Chambertin,  Burgundy,  France:  13%;  $180
Lightish ruby,  classic pinot noir,  with the Stonier the lightest in the tasting.   Bouquet is very developed,  slightly reductive freshly poured,  but the underlying wine tending oxidative,  with fading florals merging with light red fruits.  Once the label is revealed,  this is disappointing,  for Grand Cru burgundy.  Palate is correct for pinot noir,  but old for its age, slightly acid,  and generally lacking for its rank.   Quality is on a par with many Bourgogne Rouges.   Why it was included in the public tasting for the Pinot Noir Conference 2004 is a mystery.  But it certainly confirms that New Zealand has the potential to make pinot noir in the burgundy mould,  as discussed under the Akarua wine.  Not really worth cellaring,  especially at the price.  GK 01/04

2002  Waiwera Pinot Noir   16  ()
Golden & Tasman Bays,  Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $27   [ screwcap ]
Big ruby.   Benefits from a breath of fresh air / decanting,  to show a soft bouquet with plummy red fruits appropriate to straightforward pinot noir,  but also a biscuitty and marcy component.  Fruit on palate includes a baked berry pie note,  unusual,  not unpleasant,  varietal,  slightly acid.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 01/04

2002  Foxes Island Pinot Noir   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:   – %;  $40   [ screwcap;  www.foxes-island.co.nz ]
Big ruby.  A lot of bouquet,  showing some pennyroyal aromatics on juicy black cherries,  plums and plentiful aromatic oak.  The wine is more in the new world fruit bomb style,  rather than classical pinot noir.  Palate too is lushly fruity,  tasting sweet and seductive on fragrant Blass-styled oak.  In August 2003 I reviewed  the 2001 Foxes as moving  towards a subtler and more international pinot noir,  but this reverts more to the earlier approach.  Cellar 5 – 10.  GK 01/04

2002  Dry River Pinot Noir   16  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $65   [ ex winery price ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the heaviest colour in the tasting,  bizarre in a pinot noir context.  The wine shows a very strange bouquet inclining to the new world fruit bomb style,  smelling of blackest plums in the full sun,  plus traditional English steamed black Christmas pudding,  raisins and prunes,  vanilla,  dark energy chocolate,  and an exotic papaya note.  Palate is massively concentrated,  velvety,  and blackly pruney,  with spicy nutmeggy oak persisting long into the aftertaste.  This wine is totally Languedoc in style,  and as such is almost irrelevant to pinot noir.  It could be made from tempranillo,  or merlot,  or malbec amongst others,  if from that climate.  It will cellar for 10 – 15 years,  and will be interesting to observe,  as it fines down.  I can’t see it ever fitting into a classical pinot tasting,  but I have bought some out of curiosity,  in the hope of being proved wrong !  GK 01/04

2001  Stonier Pinot Noir   16  ()
Mornington Peninsula,  Victoria,   Australia:  13.5%;  $29   [ www.stoniers.com.au ]
Lightish pinot ruby and much garnet,  prematurely ageing.  Bouquet is clearly pinot,  in a light fragrant tired strawberry and red cherry style,  attractively fragrant.  Palate however is very aged,  and is distinctly light,  faintly bretty,  with some acid showing.  It tastes like a 20-year old burgundy from a less-generous year,  and therefore gains marks for being clearly in style,  and being good with food.   But as a 2001,  this well-regarded Australian pinot’s main contribution to the tasting is to highlight how good New Zealand’s best 2001 pinots are,  in world terms.  Not a cellar wine.  GK 01/04

2000  Mongeard-Mugneret Vosne-Romanee les Suchots Premier Cru   15 ½  ()
Cote de Nuits,  France:  13%;  $95
Lightish ruby,  some garnet,  almost identical to the Stonier.  Plenty of bouquet in one sense,  showing tired florals and leathery red berries all accentuated by oxidative winemaking,  with a whisper of acetaldehyde rather more than ethyl acetate.  Palate is straightforward Bourgogne Rouge,  slightly acid,  leathery and bretty,  thinning,  and very developed for its age.  Again,  this is  a poor example of pinot noir from Burgundy,  not suited to this public tasting.   There are much better burgundies available in New Zealand.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 01/04

2002  Te Mania Pinot Noir Reserve   15 ½  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13%;  $39   [ www.temaniawines.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  This wine shows an enhanced bouquet reminiscent of some Wairarapa wines,  with both pennyroyal aromatics and a smokey lift,  on cherries and red smallfruits.  Palate is not so attractive,  with an acid streak developing,  and showing rather much stalkiness.  Oaking is careful,  though.  Just a bit too under-ripe and cool-climate,  but clearly varietal.  Cellar 5 – 8.  GK 01/04

2002  Seifried Pinot Noir   15  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  www.seifried.co.nz ]
Good pinot ruby.  A fragrant light red berry bouquet which is clearly pinot noir,  but let down by wet-rag complexities.  Palate is lightly red cherry,  tending stalky,  straightforward.  QDR pinot.  Cellar 1– 3.  GK 01/04