New Zealand Pinot Noir: some favourites from Central Otago and Waitaki

Continuing my round up of top Pinot Noirs from the recent New Zealand trip, here are some favourites from Central Otago, with a couple from North Otago’s Waitaki thrown in too. I’ve been coming to Central Otago regularly since 2010, and there’s been a steady evolution. This is unsurprising: after all, the first commercial wine from the region was as recent as 1987. On this trip, in particular, I found more diversity in the wines. As the vines age, I expect that the privileged sites will emerge more clearly. With young vines, you taste the clones and climate more. There’s more uniformity: the wines can be delicious, but sometimes there’s that extra dimension missing. Now, we are beginning to see more layers and mid-palate depth in some of the wines. The primary fruit, one of the key draws of this region, is still there, but there’s some non-fruit complexity. I think Central is one of those regions that you really begin to appreciate more when you have actually been there: it’s possible in some mystical way to connect the rugged landscapes, the primal scenery, the big skies with the personality of the wines. As usual, this is not a full selection of the wines that I liked. Full notes will be published of all the wines shortly.


Akarua Kolo Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
From a single vineyard, this shows very sweet cherry fruit with lovely finesse. It’s floral and vibrant with nice focus and freshness. Very pretty with detailed cherry and plum fruit. There’s a lovely fruit sweetness here with great finesse and purity. So supple. 94/100

Akitu Pinot Noir A1 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is the one of the two Akitu wines, and it has a black label. It’s from a vineyard in Wanaka on old schist, and the wines are made at Maude by PJ Charteris. 70% Abel clone, the rest UCD5 and sometimes some 777. Powerful but very fresh with lovely vivid, bright black cherry fruit and good structure. There’s great precision and purity here: a really serious effort. The white label is also delicious and a bit more fruit dominated. 95/100

Aurum Madeleine Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lucie Lawrence uses 100% whole bunch for this wine, which started as an experiment with a ton of 667 clone Pinot that didn’t fit anywhere. This clone always has nice stem ripeness, so Lucie took the tank to the vineyard, picked into the tank, and left the intact bunches, with no juice at all, for 12 day, protected with some gas. After this she threw the children to tread the grapes, and then it started fermenting straight away. The temperature and kinetics of the fermentation was so different. At dryness she basket pressed into old barrels. Fine, fresh, slightly green pot pourri notes alongside the pretty, floral cherry fruit. Nice finesse here. Lovely fresh red fruit quality on the palate and a bit of peppery. Bright with nice grip and elegance. 94/100


Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Sweet with lush, floral cherry fruit. Sweet, warmly spicy and grippy with freshy red cherries and spice. Textural and very fine. 95/100


Carrick The Magnetic Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Very supple, pure, fresh cherry fruit with elegance and purity. Delicate, showingfinesse. Lovely pure fruit. 94/100

Chard Farm Mason Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
This comes from high terraces in Lowburn/Pisa. Supple and quite elegant with pure cherry and plum fruit. Lovely restrained elegance with some stony freshness and purity. 94/100

Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Harvested a little earlier in this, the second vintage, with 30% whole bunch. Fine, detailed, supple, herbal black fruits with some spice and cedary new oak. Grippy, structured and youthful this needs time to show its best. 95/100


Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Lovely tight intense raspberry and cherry aromatics with a distinct peppery spiciness. There’s substance and density to the palate which has rich texture and fine, refined tannins. There’s lovely acidity, too. This has beautiful focus and precision: rich and quite ripe but also has presence and structure. Quite profound. 96/100

Folding Hill Orchard Block Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
Very lively, silky and pure with nice grip. This has good savoury structure under the cherry and plum fruit with a hint of cedar, too. 94/100

gibbston valley

Gibbston Valley Le Maitre Pinot Noir 2015 Gibbston, Central Otago, New Zealand
From a dry farmed single vineyard. Very fine with red cherries and plums, as well as some supple elegance. Nice tannins here. Has some grip. Real presence and elegance with pretty, detailed fruit and a long finish. 96/100

Grasshopper Rock Block 6 Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
Just three barrels. Supple with lots of structure and fine cherry fruit. Well structured with nice purity. Lively and fragrant with nice grippy notes. 94/100


Kalex Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
This comes from Bannockburn and Bendigo. Grippy and fresh and fine, a bit like Nebbiolo, with fresh, spicy tannins, and notes of tea leaf, spice, flower petals and cherries. Grippy and pretty at the same time with lovely detail. 95/100


Maude Mount Maude Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
100% whole bunch. Fine and floral with nice sappy, slightly earthy notes as well as fruit. Lovely palate is elegant, supple and fine with some earthy notes and a bit of grip. Edgy and meaty with lovely depth. 94/100

Misha’s Vineyard Verismo 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is made by Olly Masters at Maude’s winery. There are 26 hectares of vines planted in Bendigo. Very structured and dense with nice, pure, silky red fruits and hints of leather and spice. Nice density here with floral hints and fine-grained tannins. 95/100

Mount Difficulty Packspur Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is from a vineyard in Lowburn. Lovely black cherries here with a liqueur-like sweetness to the nose. Very fine and textured on the palate with some meatinesss. Textured, rich and generous with good structure. Quite mineral. 94/100

Mount Edward Muirkirk Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago, New Zealand
Powerful and quite spicy with nice freshness and precision. Black cherries, spice, and lovely structure, with a hint of olive richness. In a good place. 94/100

Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir 2015 Waitaki, North Otago, New Zealand
Beautifully perfumed and floral with a fine green herbal edge and some lifted red cherry and plum fruit. Very supple and elegant with some fine sappy green notes and good acidity. A lovely elegant wine. 94/100

Peregrine Pinnacle Pinot Noir 2014 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is a selection from Peregrine’s Bendigo vineyard, which is farmed organically, and it’s not yet released, hence the picture shows winemaker Nadine Cross’ hand written ‘label’. Very firm and detailed with a fine spiciness and good grip. Lovely structure here with a savoury edge to the red cherry and plum notes. Has grip and good acidity. 95/100


Prophet’s Rock Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Paul Pujol made five small tanks of this wine. One got no pumpovers or plunging, and had no stems. The rest got one hand plunge, and were in tank for 28-32 days, and again, no stems were used. Lovely aromatics: fresh red cherries, fine herbs, a touch of cedar. The palate is structured and quite firm with good tannins and lovely purity. Very fresh with a bit of tannic bite under the sweet fruit. Lovely focus to this wine. 95/100

Quartz Reef Pinot Noir 2013 Central Otago, New Zealand
Taut, appealing aromatics of red cherries and spice, with some sandalwood hints. The palate has freshness and focus with a savoury, spicy structure underpinning fresh red fruits. Still quite tannic and structured with a dry finish. Has potential for development. 94/100

Rippon Pinot Noir 2010 Central Otago, New Zealand
This is a really serious wine. Tight and structured, with real grip, but also tending towards elegance and understatement. There’s a really nice savoury character to this wine. Just on the start of its journey, this has a long life ahead of it. 95/100

Valli Gibbston Pinot Noir 2015 Central Otago, New Zealand
Fine, expressive nose with spicy highlights alongside fresh raspberries and cherries. Very pure with lovely plum fruit. Bright, expressive and pure with nice weight. 95/100

Valli Waitaki Pinot Noir 2015 Waitaki, North Otago, New Zealand
Supple and bright with some juicy fruit, nice sweet herby notes and a bit of greenness. Silky and drinkable with real finesse and purity. 94/100

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1 comment to New Zealand Pinot Noir: some favourites from Central Otago and Waitaki

  • russ sainty

    We visited central Otago in October and from our brief visit I was very impressed. Amongst the brief tastings were Wild Earth, Rippon, Wooing Tree and Aurum. I came away thinking the Aurum Madeleine Pinot Noir 2013 was something special, strangely it wasn’t on my tasting schedule, but I got chatting to the lady about natural wine etc and she offered it, it was way above the normal cuvee. Shame it isn’t imported into the UK. Mind you some of these special cuvee are enormous money, the wild earth reserve was over $80NZ, also a very good wine mind.

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