Canada versus New Zealand: two top Pinot Noirs from 2011 compared, and a lesson learned

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Three nights ago I opened this pair of Pinots, both from the 2011 vintage. They’re wines that I’d cellared. The first is the Te Muna Road Pinot from Craggy Range, which I liked enough on first tasting to buy a six pack. I think it’s good to put your money where your mouth is: if you give a Pinot 95 points and you find it at £20 a bottle, then you don’t trust your own recommendations if you don’t buy some.

The second is from Norman Hardie in Canada’s Prince Edward County. Since I first visited Canada in 2013 I’ve been telling everyone about these wines, which are now available in the UK market, chiefly through the Wine Society. I bought some. This is the County Pinot Noir; Norm also makes a Pinot Noir from Niagara, which is also very good, but a little different.

I learned a lot tasting these wines over three evenings (so over 48 hours). Initially on opening I reckoned that they were both at peak drinking, or maybe even a little past their peak. They were both so delicious young. But they have held up brilliantly over this time to the extent that they are probably better after being open a couple of days, and I think that they both have a long future ahead of them.

Interestingly, both are screwcap sealed (for the geeks, the liner is tin/saran in both, which means very little oxygen transmission at all). Has this got something to do with their performance right on opening, and their development over two days in the face of oxygen?

The Norm wine is a degree of alcohol less than the Martinborough, which reflects the climatic differences (Martinborough is often a little warm for Pinot, but not excessively so). The Te Muna isn’t a blockbuster though: it’s made in quite an elegant, lighter style.

So I think both these wines will age further. I have more of the Te Muna, and I think one bottle more of the Hardie, and I’ll keep them for a few more years before opening. It will be interesting to see how they develop.

Lesson learned: if you can, revisit wines the next day, or even the day afterwards. Be slow in making conclusions, and always, always keep an open, enquiring mind.

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Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2011 Prince Edward County, Canada
12.5% alcohol. Fine herbal notes with some undergrowth, as well as supple red cherry and cranberry fruit on the nose. There’s a tiny hint of mint, and the first stages of appealing decay hiding in the wings. The palate is supple and fresh with keen acidity and nervous red fruits. Finely spiced and quite elegant with some edges, finishing with lemony acidity. Lovely precise fruit expression. 94/100

Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir 2011 Martinborough, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. Sweetly aromatic with herby cherry fruit with just a hint of malt. Textured palate with some spicy warmth and a silky mass of cherries and stewed plums. There’s a bit of spicy detail. Fine, fresh and expressive with the first signs of a warm maturity emerging. Quite delicious, and really benefits from being open a day. 94/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

2 comments to Canada versus New Zealand: two top Pinot Noirs from 2011 compared, and a lesson learned

  • Great idea to taste a wine over a few days and see how it evolves – it’s a great predictor of ageing potential in my experience (not to mention fascinating). Requires some patience and discipline though!

  • Bob Parsons Alberta

    Sometimes I leave for 3 days but some varied results I have to say.
    Jamie..thanks for the Canadian interest these past few years. But you need to visit Finger lakes in New York too!!

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