Aussie versus Kiwi: a Pinot Noir taste off!

I came to Pinot Noir via New Zealand. The first time I ‘got’ Pinot was with a Palliser Estate Pinot Noir from 1996, if I recall correctly. Stunning stuff from Martinborough that opened my eyes to the wonder of this variety. Marlborough, North Canterbury and Central Otago also grabbed my attention.

I also begun to love the Pinot Noirs from Australia. Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Tasmania.

Often the appeal of these wines has been that they offer Pinot pleasure at a fraction of the price of Burgundy (Bourgogne, as we should now call it). But this is unfair. This fussy grape has found a home in these ‘new’ regions and makes something fine and distinctive, that doesn’t need any comparative glow.

The best examples from both New Zealand and Australia are not bargain alternatives. They are great wines in their own right, and their prices reflect this.

Australia has 4948 hectares of Pinot Noir (out of 135 133 hectares), while New Zealand has 5807 hectares (out of 41 603 hectares).

Here I got a chance to take part in a comparative tasting hosted by New Zealand Wine Growers and Wine Australia, moderated by the knowledgeable Pinot fans Anne Krebiehl and Peter McCombie. These are my notes on the wines, which came in the The Online Wine Tasting Club pouches, so this should be borne in mind when reading the notes (the wines tasted really good).


Giant Steps Pinot Noir 2021 Yarra Valley, Australia
13.5% alcohol. Three day cold soak, 40% whole bunch, 10% new oak, seven different clones. Sweetly aromatic cherry fruit nose with some ginger and cinnamon notes. The palate is sweetly fruited, textured and quite generous with smooth, ripe berry and cherry fruit. Supple and expressive, in a smooth style with some ripeness. Fine grained tannin. 92/100 (UK agent Liberty Wine, retail £24)

Waipara West Pinot Noir 2018 Waipara, New Zealand
14% alcohol. Ten different clones, 10% whole bunch, 10 months in used French oak. Focused, vibrant, spicy black cherry fruit nose with some pepper and dried herbs. The palate has a sour cherry edge and some sweet berry fruit, with nice spicy structure and some brooding black fruit notes in the background. Juicy and expressive with good acidity, some spiciness and some silky dark fruit. 93/100 (UK agent South of the Border Holdings, retail £26)

Ashton Hills Piccadilly Valley Pinot Noir 2021 Adelaide Hills, Australia
13.5% alcohol. Three clones (MV6, 114, D5V12), 30% whole bunch, 10 months in old oak. There’s an appealing sappy, leafy green edge to the nose here which shows fresh cherry and cranberry notes. This has a silky, sappy texture with some well defined spicy structure as well as sweet cherry and strawberry fruit. Nice complexity here, with a tension between the sweet fruit and the structure that works well. Intriguing and bright, but still very youthful. 93/100 (UK agent Gonzalez Byass, retail £26)

Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2020 Martinborough, New Zealand
14% alcohol. Six clones, mostly organic, 20% whole bunch. Brooding, darkly fruited and spicy on the nose. Cherries, wood spice and incense. The palate is supple and ripe with sweet blackberry and cherry fruit as well as some grainy structure and notes of tar and dried herbs. There’s a bit of grunt and density here: this isn’t just about floral fruit, but it has the substance to age, even though it is satisfying now. 94/100 (UK agent Justerinis, retail £30)

Dog Point Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 Marlborough, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. Eight clones, 30% whole bunch, wild yeasts, 18 months in oak (30% new). Deeply spicy blackberry and black cherry nose. There’s a slight savoury woodiness here as well as intense fruit. The palate is taut, savoury and spicy with focused black fruits, some cracked black pepper and also a cedary woody quality. But the core here is structured, dense fruit and it’s really impressive and potentially ageworthy. Impressive. Shows what the southern valleys can do in Marlborough, when well farmed. 94/100 (UK agent Bancroft, retail £32)

Stargazer Palisander Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 Tasmania, Australia
13.5% alcohol. G5V12 clone. 25% whole bunch, 20% new oak. Lovely aromatic black cherry and blackberry nose with a hint of clove and some peppery spice. The palate has warmth, texture and sweet black fruits with a sleek mid-palate and some lovely spicy frills on the palate. Ripe, dark, sleek and spicy with perfume and allure. 94/100 (UK agent Enotria & Coe, retail £55)

Burn Cottage Moonlight Race Pinot Noir 2019 Central Otago, New Zealand
13% alcohol. Eight clones, very little whole bunch, 21% new oak. Sweet black fruits nose with some perfume but also some green spicy hints. The palate shows freshness, some sappy green hints, and ripe blackberry and cherry fruit, with some firm structure sitting under the fruit. Balances the sweet and savoury well, offering drinkability and density. Not one to age, but satisfying. 93/100 (UK agent Liberty, retail £42)

Ten Minutes by Tractor Coolart Road Pinot Noir 2019 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
14% alcohol. MV6 clone, 15% whole bunch, 15 months in oak. Spicy, savoury edge to the redcurrant and black cherry nose with some dried herbs. The palate is compact and has a savoury structure sitting under the spice-laden red berry fruits. Compact, savoury and taut with structure that reminds me a bit of Barolo. A really complex, taut, well structured wine focusing on red fruits that should age well. 94/100 (UK agent Bancroft, retail £60)

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