Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to spend two packed weeks racing around New Zealand and tasting wines. As could be expected, there was plenty of Pinot Noir among the wines presented at various events, and I have to say I am certainly impressed by the overall level of quality many of these wines exhibited.

There’s a fairly broad brersity of styles on offer from the north to the south of this long, skinny pair of islands, a long with some famous regions with identifiable styles as well.

Take for instance Martinborough in the southeast of the North Island. Martinborough is known for its rather funky style of Pinot, many would say it is almost Burgundian. 

If you travel down to the south of the South Island you’ll end up in central Otago, home to a completely different style of Pinot: fruit forward and smooth and rich. Not that the wines from Martinborough lack richness, they just tend to be a bit more angular.

I like that angularity, so it is not surprising that some of my favorite wines, and particularly those from Central (as the Kiwi’s refer to Central Otago), featured plenty of obvious stem inclusion. All that green, both in tannin and flavor, offered a wonderful contrast to the rich, ripe fruit that most of the wines seem to effortlessly exhibit.

Before we bre into some tasting notes, and there are plenty, it’s worth mentioning some of the factors that play to New Zealand’s advantage when it comes to Pinot Noir, as well as some of the handicaps life down there offers up.