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Wine Reviews
A very special Pinot Noir

© Sue Courtney
Tasted 26 Jan 2001, posted 1 Feb 2001

If you see this wine come up at auction (for you won't see it anywhere else) grab it, for it is one of the world's most unique and rarest wines, the New Zealand Reserve Vintage 2000 Pinot Noir.

Label of NZ Pinot Noir 2000 What is so unique about the wine is that it is the first ever blend of Pinot Noir from all the Pinot Noir growing districts of New Zealand, with equal quantities of pinot noir from the spectcular 2000 vintage contributed by the 64 wineries represented at Pinot Noir 2001, New Zealand's inaugural Pinot Noir celebration1.

What is rare about this wine is that there was just two and a half barrels made and bottled into 750ml-sized bottles, magnum and jeroboams. Most of the wine was to be auctioned at the gala dinner held in conjunction with Pinot Noir 2001. Most, that is, except a few bottles for promotion and sampling and a magnum or jeroboam or two given away as gifts to people such as Jancis Robinson, keynote speaker at the conference and Richard Riddiford, Chairman of the conference board.

Boy oh boy, did I happen to be in the right place at the right time when chatting to invited guest winemaker and Pinot Noir 2001 celebrity auctioneer, Jim Clendenen. He said "We're going to open this wine and try it. Come along". Well how could a pinot-loving chick refuse an invitation like that?

Larry McKenna, the Aussie-born winemaker who's already a legend in New Zealand's pinot noir history book soon arrived with the bottles and the winemakers began to gather with glasses at the ready and when a corkscrew was found, the wine was poured.

I found that in the glass it is bright cherry in colour and with delightful aromas of a youthful fruit-driven pinot, the flavours are fruity and savoury with integrated spice, a silky texture and a bright flare of citrus zest on the finish.

But who am I to comment when there's a host of winemakers around. And who better to ask for an unbiased opinion, than the celebrity guest winemaker from California, USA, the ABC2 man himself, Jim Clendenen. The photo shows Jim Clendenen (on the right) pouring the wine to (from left to right) James Healy, Brent Marris and Gary Duke.

Winemakers gather to taste the wine And what is Clendenen's view? "What I like about it is that it hasn't moved into that black fruit spectrum where it is too weighty. Its got really really really great vinosity, pretty perfume, great balance, great acidity and persistence. I don't think anybody's going to worry about this". he said. "It's a nice combination of finishing dry with good acidity but it also has representative pinot noir sweetness. It really is a sweet entry into the mouth with an attack of bright fruit and continues nicely. For a young wine it is really super."

Wow, what a great endorsement for this wine. I'm sure all the New Zealand winemakers are going to say nice things too. Let's see.

James Healy (Cloudy Bay): "Good fruit definition. Pretty lifted, black plum, cherry, lovely".
Brent Marris (Wither Hills) : "It is a lovely structure, balanced tannins, very delicate. It has delicacy and poise."
Jeff Clarke (Montana) : "Very characteristic NZ, very bright clean, fresh fruit characteristics, nice strawberry, raspberry, pretty clean, fresh, lifted, very much an expression of what we like to make in NZ."
Gary Duke (Hunters Wines) : "A lot of ripe sweet fruit, lots of good sorts of characters right through and sweet fruit carries through on the palate and it has a reasonable length."
Rob Hay (Chard Farm) : "I'm very impressed with the weight of the wine. Probably one of the weightiest wines that I've tried today and I've probably tried about 60. Wonderfully concentrated. It's a very big wine. Excellent."
Olly Masters (Ata Rangi) : "I think it has a very complete palate. I think you get that when you blend a lot of components together. I think it will age very well. 3 to 5 years should be a nice time to drink it."

And standing by was Matthew Dellar, a young wine professional who has passed the Master of Wine tasting examination. "It has intensity, vibrancy and fruit flavour, voluptuous richness and concentration. Noticeable new oak characters which will integrate in time and I think it is a pure expression of NZ pinot.
"Is it a sexy wine?", I asked.
"It will be a sexy wine.", he said. "But at this stage it has been bottled two weeks ago and it tastes like a wine that has been bottled two weeks ago. In the next six months it will start looking pretty good".

At the auction, conducted 'Dutch' style, the 6-pack went for a song. Just NZ$350.00 a pack, which means the price of this unique rare wine was just NZ$58.00 to those lucky bidders. The dozen-packs in their beautiful wooden boxes were not such a bargain, while the boxed magnums sold for NZ$450 a piece and the boxed jeroboams, each put up as a separate lot, ranged between NZ$900 and NZ$1500 each.

The New Zealand Pinot Reserve Vintage 2000 Pinot Noir was the brainchild of Larry McKenna of the Escarpment Vineyard in Martinborough, who organised the whole thing. Each vineyard sent the same quantity of presumably their best pinot noir. The samples were blended together and Alan Johnson of Palliser Estate managed it through the barrel aging while Sharon Goldsworthy did the cellar work. Neil McCallum of Dry River Vineyards bottled the wine and Martinborough Winemakers Services packaged it for free.

The following wineries contributed to the blend of the New Zealand Reserve Vintage 2000 Pinot Noir: -

Auckland/Bay of Plenty/Hawkes Bay/Gisborne
CJ Pask Winery
Kim Crawford Wines
Kumeu River Wines
Mills Reef Winery
Millton Vineyard
Morton Estate Wines
Vidal Estate

Wellington/Wairarapa
Alana Estate
Ashwell Vineyards
Ata Rangi
Craggy Range Vineyards
Dry River
Margrain Vineyard
Martinborough Vineyard
Muirlea Rise
Murdoch James Estate
Palliser Estate
Solstone Estate
Stonecutter Vineyard
Te Kairanga Wines
Voss Estate
Walnut Ridge Estate

Marlborough/Nelson
Cellier Le Brun
Cloudy Bay
Forrest Estate
Foxes Island Wines
Fromm Winery
Greenhough Vineyard
Grove Mill
Highfield Estate
House of Nobilo
Huia Vineyards
Hunter's Wines
Isabel Estate Vineyard
Jackson Estate
Lawson's Dry Hills
Montana Wines
Mount Riley Wines
Mudhouse Wine Company
Nautilus Estate
Neudorf Vineyard
Ponder Estate
Seifried Estate
Seresin Estate
Stoneleigh Vineyards
Villa Maria Wines
Wither Hills Vineyard

Canterbury/Waipara
Alan McCorkindale Ltd
Canterbury House
Daniel Schuster Wines
Giesen Wine Estate
Mountford Vineyard
Muddy Water Fine Wines
Pegasus Bay
St Helena Wine Estate

Central Otago
Chard Farm
Felton Road
Gibbston Valley Wines
Mt Difficulty Wines
Mount Edward
Olssen's of Bannockburn
Peregrine Wines
Quartz Reef
Rippon Vineyard
Two Paddocks

Footnotes:
1 If you haven't heard about Pinot Noir 2001, 'New Zealand's Pinot Noir coming out party', which was held at the end of January 2001, you soon will for there were so many international wine media invited I'm sure that every major wine publication will have a story on this wonderful promotional event.

2 ABC is the abbreviation for Au Bon Climat, Jim Clendenen's Californian winery.

Related Links:
Pinot Noir 2001 - the New Zealand tasting.
Pinot Noir 2001 - the Inernational tasting.
A fact file of New Zealand Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir 2001 - the event An overview written for Avalon Wines in Oregon.


Sue Courtney attended Pinot Noir 2001 courtesy of the "Courtney Retirement Fund". Thanks Neil.


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