New Zealand’s Central Otago is a Pinot Noir haven

 

The popularity of Pinot Noir seems to know no bounds. It’s always been popular, but it’s upward trajectory the last decade and change has been nothing short of impressive. It’s also one of the most challenging grapes to grow and shepherd into great wine. The struggle to grow great Pinot Noir begins with site selection. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance, which thrives more easily, Pinot’s demands are more specific. It wants cooler sites, preferably with early morning fog and proximity to maritime influence. Once you have a great spot to plant Pinot Noir, you want to make sure you have the correct clones too. There isn’t a grape out there as clone specific as Pinot. Each one brings something different to the party — like fruit or spice or heft — so to create a well-rounded, cuvée-style offering, you’ll likely want several different clones.

 

Central Otago in New Zealand sits in the top handful of the very best regions in the world to grow reference quality Pinot Noir. Bourgogne cialis 20mg in France, the Willamette Valley in Oregon and Napa’s Russian River Valley are among the few that can be mentioned in the same breath. Situated in the bottom third of New Zealand’s Southern island, Central Otago is the southernmost wine growing region on earth. Its greatness comes in part from being a study in diversity. There are mountains, rivers, lakes and extreme fluctuations in climate. The differences are such that within the greater region sit six sub regions. Aromatic whites, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc thrive there as well, but such is the allure of Pinot Noir that the others make up less than 25% of all planted hectares.

 

Sub-regional, climactic and weather diversity means that even within Central Otago, there is a wide swath of distinct examples of Pinot Noir. Some offerings grow mere yards away from each other yet produce wildly distinct wines. These specific small regions are a piece of what makes Central Otago one of the most noteworthy places for Pinot Noir in the world. In terms of the specificity of site and diversity of results based on those sites, Central Otago reminds me most of Bourgogne. But when thinking of the overarching style that acts as a connective tissue between the Pinot here, I’m most reminded of the Willamette Valley.

 

A few months back, I spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand, including some time in Central Otago, where I attended a celebration of New Zealand Pinot Noirs from each region. Here’s a look at some exceptional Pinot Noirs that I sampled throughout my time there. However, the average quality of Central Otago Pinot Noir is so incredibly high and such a good value that nearly any bottle in your price range is worth taking a gamble on; they are at the very least always interesting. So try a few different ones and you’ll see how distinct they can be.

Prophets Rock 2013 “Home Vineyard” Pinot Noir ($39)

The nose here is a bit reticent, but it does show off black tea, a touch of anise and hints of black raspberry. The palate is firm but even-keeled with droves of dark fruit and a sprinkling of spices. Chicory, earth and bits of black olive are evident on the long, firm finish. Racy acid keeps things balanced.

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