Saturday, 3 March 2012

Marlborough – the next big Pinot region?

Marlborough is emerging as one of the most exciting regions to watch for New Zealand Pinot Noir, according to a number of the country’s top producers. As reported on, Steve Smith MW, founder of Craggy Range, believes the international thirst for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has lead to an interest in the region’s fledgling Pinots.

“Not many producers will admit this, but the success of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has opened the door for Marlborough Pinot Noir. Our challenge will be to ensure that the wines are not devalued by producers pushing a high volume, low margin approach,” he said. Boasting 42% of the country’s Pinot plantings, ahead of Central Otago’s 28%, Marlborough is fast becoming a serious Pinot player.

Displaying a bright, red-fruited style, the quality of Marlborough Pinot has increased dramatically in the past few years, bolstered by the strength of “brand” Marlborough. “Marlborough is coming of age. There’s huge potential for Pinot there, especially in the hillside areas,” wine writer and founder of The Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification Matthew Jukes said.

Meanwhile, Tamra Washington, chief winemaker of Marlborough-based Yealands Estate (pictured above), believes the region has a fantastic opportunity to make quality Pinot Noir that will over deliver at every price point. “Due to Marlborough’s size, there is huge potential to make many styles of Pinot – from powerful wines full of dark fruit and spice, to feminine, red-fruited wines,” she said.

Despite its escalating profile, David Cox, director – Europe of New Zealand Winegrowers, is confident that Marlborough winemakers won’t make the same mistakes with Pinot as they did with Sauvignon Blanc in 2008 and 2009. “Plantings and production will be closely aligned with worldwide demand so a balance is retained and prices are kept at the correct level,” he insisted.

Pinot Noir has been instrumental in highlighting New Zealand’s diversity, and is carving out a niche for itself as a solid second to Sauvignon Blanc, despite only accounting for 10% of the country’s plantings compared to Sauvignon Blanc’s 69% monopoly. In the UK, exports are up 24% on a year ago, with a growing depth of distribution in both the on-trade and off-trade. While most Pinot Noir vines in New Zealand are under 10 years old, as the vines mature, the wines will develop a greater ability to age.

“I’m confident that the best New Zealand Pinots are at least a 10-15 year proposition. I can testify that they age well,” Smith said, adding, “I firmly believe that Central Otago, Martinborough and Waipara will be producing the world’s best Pinot Noir, alongside Burgundy, in the next two decades.” Matthew Jukes agrees: “One or two New Zealand Pinots are already at Premier Cru level. We’ve yet to see a Grand Cru wine emerge, but it will come,” he said.


  1. Nice article Lucy. I entirely agree, parts of Marlborough are producing some interesting Pinot Noirs and are showing good potential. Vineyard site, terroir and vine age are also important factors. For instance, the gravelly, alluvial soils of the Wairau, mixed with more clay-rich soils of Broadridge, Wither, Omaka and Brancott makes for a deeper, more complex, well-structured and flavoursome Pinot Noir.
    I suggest you look out for Fromm, Clayvin, Dog Point, Seresin, Mahi, Terravin, Clos Henri, Cloudy Bay "Mustang", amongst others.
    Best wishes

    Robert Giorgione
    Founder of and Roving Sommelier

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