7 Wines to Rekindle Your Love Affair with Kiwi Pinot Noir

Contrasting New Zealand Pinot Noir

A range of great Pinots from around New Zealand

One of my most memorable moments in New Zealand came when Peter Yealands proudly assured me there were now more vines than sheep, which seemed a good thing. Peter knows a thing or two about sheep: he brought in the first Baby Dolls—Australian miniatures that offer a truly sustainable answer to weed control in the vineyard. (Interestingly, the trailblazers at Okanagan Crush Pad have just done the same thing.)

Baby Doll sheep on weed patrol at Yealands

Baby Doll sheep on weed patrol at Yealands

The even better news (unless you’re a sheep, maybe) is that many of those vines are Pinot Noir, something at which New Zealand excels.

Last week’s Vancouver Kiwi Pinot tasting (led by the inimitable DJ Kearney) yielded a wicked line-up of 13 wines from around the country. Flighted by region, they offered a worthy reminder that there’s more to New Zealand than great Sauvignon Blanc—and a diversity of regions beyond Marlborough.

Aside from the regional contrasts, what I took away was a message (again) of overall high quality, and, comparatively speaking, on a global scale, great Pinot value.

Dr. John Forrest says Pinot is the equivalent of Riesling, as it’s the red variety that best transmits its terroir. He also noted (with unabashed glee) that all of these wines are under screwcap.

Tough to narrow this field to just a handful but I picked (at least) one from each region.


Nelson (Small region on northwestern tip of South Island)

• Waimea Estate Pinot Noir 2012 (Waimea Plains)

Lifted cherry notes on top, followed by a plush entry with some mocha raisin hints. Went nicely with the chef Blair Rasmussen’s tuna tataki, served afterwards, which seemed to bring out the fruit further.($29.90 / 90 pts.)


Ara Vineyards, a spectacular corner of Marlborough

Ara Vineyards, a spectacular corner of Marlborough

Marlborough (Largest Pinot producing region, on northeast of South Island)

• Ara Select Blocks 2012 (Waihopai Valley)

Darker, more earthy, with some barnyard hints followed by a cherry toned palate with balanced tannins, acidity and some savoury hints that nod to Burgundy. Excellent value, BC $24.95  91 pts. Best Value Overall. 


Marlborough: New Zealand's largest producer of Pinot Noir

Marlborough: New Zealand’s largest producer of Pinot Noir

• Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 (Southern Valleys)

More savoury, earthy  top with plum and cassis, followed by a focused spicy, savoury and juicy palate with stony hints and a lengthy finish. N/A BC c. $33 / 92 pts


Tohu Rore Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 (Marlborough, Awatere)

Leaner style, appealing, savoury and mineral entry with herbal notes wrapped in cherry and black fruit with well balanced tannins. BCLS $44.99 / 90 pts.


Waipara: courtesy Hurunui Tourism

Waipara: courtesy Hurunui Tourism

Waipara Valley (Central east coast of South Island, just north of Christchurch, with a variety of gravel and limestone derived soils)

• Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara Valley 2011

Lifted dark red cherry and spice notes, followed by appealing savoury on the palate with  plush fruit and approachable tannins. N/A BC c. $35 / 90 pts


Waitaki Valley (Southern edge of Wairarapa, South Island)

• John Forrest Estate Collection Pinot Noir Waitaki 2011

Dark cherry and earthy notes on the nose followed by definite mineral peristent with spice notes through the finish. 90 pts



Gibbston Valley, en route to Central Otago: a distinct reminder of Similkameen

Gibbston Valley, en route to Central Otago: a distinct reminder of BC’s Similkameen

Central Otago (Mountain ringed region in the southern heart of South Island)

• Coal Pit Tiwha Pinot Noir 2011 (Gibbston Valley)

Dark, brooding character of savoury and herbal wrapped in black cherry with good length, plummy spicey notes, and balanced acidity. N/A BC, c. $41, 91 pts.



More sustainable weed control at Gladstone Vineyard in Wairarapa

More sustainable weed control at Gladstone Vineyard in Wairarapa

Wairarapa (Younger region producing some impressive wines, near Martinborough, south of North Island)

• Gladstone Pinot Noir Wairarapa 2011 (Wairarapa)

Very elegant, lighter style but with all the savoury, bright cherry chocolate, plum and spice elements, with violets up front followed by silky tannins and a good finish. A powerful wine for its weight. $44.50, 91 pts.

Central Otago: you might even think it was the Okanagan

Central Otago: you might even think it was the Okanagan

By | 2018-01-21T15:05:17+00:00 May 7th, 2014|Wine Reviews|4 Comments

About the Author:

Tim has been covering the food and wine revolution for about 20 kilos. Count 15 kg alone thanks to the blossoming cuisine and wine culture of British Columbia, Canada. Tim’s hallmark is seeking out and recommending value wines from BC and around the world that offer quality at every level. He also scopes out noteworthy restaurants that live up to their promises—and often over deliver. Readers depend on the Hired Belly for his “Belly’s Best” and “Belly’s Budget Best” picks to help them find the right wine for the occasion. He writes, tweets and shoots his own images for columns in the Vancouver Courier and North Shore News. He also contributes to WHERE Vancouver magazine, as well as to several other publications. They include Taste magazine, Tidings Magazine, and Montecristo. His columns are frequently picked up by major newspapers across Canada. Tim is a frequent judge for wine competitions, such as Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards. He is a founding judge of The BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine. He is frequently invited to judge at The BC Wine Awards, and others. Tim has traveled to taste in many of the world’s leading wine regions, most recently in Burgundy, Argentina and Chile.


  1. dodo May 7, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    TimTim, what happened to our Tohu Rore? If you didn’t like it I’m glad you left it out! Just Curious…dx

  2. Tim May 7, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Hey D, no…all those wines showed well but only the top scorers made the cut. It will get a mention in the next one. T

  3. Tim Pawsey May 8, 2014 at 8:44 am

    OK, so maybe I was a bit mean. Tohu added in…

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