Food and drink: Pinot envy 

Kiwi pinot producers aim to be among the world’s best

First time pinot noir drinkers usually succumb to its silky, juicy fruit while veteran swillers simply admire the concentration and depth of flavour that springs from the mysterious red that is as fickle as the wind. But ever since we met would-be novelist and pinot noir drinker Miles Raymond in the movie Sideways , the race has been on around the world to produce more of the finicky, temperamental, thin-skinned grape.

Burgundy remains the eternal home of pinot, and its famed Cote d'Or landscape and original patchwork of climats (single vineyards) reflect all the subtle facets of its terroir.

After that you can turn to an ever-growing number of regions, such as Central Otago, Martinborough, Canterbury, Nelson and Marlborough in New Zealand; Russian River, Carneros, Monterey and Santa Barbara County in California; and Leyda, Casablanca, and Marchigue in Chile. Throw in Oregon's Willamette and Rogue valleys; Tasmania and Yarra Valley in Australia; parts of coastal South Africa; British Columbia and Ontario and... well, you get the picture the game is on.

Pinot's move to prime time is heightened by its affinity for food. In his well-researched book North American Pinot , John Winthrop Haeger says "pinot's modest tannins give it greater flexibility in food pairings than high-tannin varieties that often call out for the moderating influence of animal fat."

On the heels of a recent trip to New Zealand, where Kiwi producers are on a mission to take their place among the world's best pinot producers, it's hard to argue they won't achieve their goal - and possibly more.

The heartbreak grape is grown in several areas of New Zealand including Canterbury and its sub-region Waipara; Waitaki, on the border between Otago and Canterbury; Martinborough at the southern end of the North Island; Marlborough at the northern end of the South Island and, finally, perhaps the most famous of all, Central Otago near the southern reaches of South Island.

Each area is developing a sense of style and place but overriding all of that is a delicious factor and a price/quality ratio that simply screams, drink me.

At all price ranges, New Zealand pinot noir over delivers and given its imminent arrival at next month's Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival I wanted to share some of my favourites with you now, in case you're inclined to do some homework.

Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2008, Martinborough

Crimson may be the archetypal New World pinot noir, half Burgundy - the good half - and half New World - the best half. The nose and palate are in sync, sharing a spicy, black fruit character and a long, silky, smooth texture from front to back with moderate tannins and a dry, earthy, savoury note throughout. It's more than an introductory wine that should be on every restaurant list in the city. $28


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