New World noir – Mystere Wine Club, New Zealand Pinot Noir tasting

Going against the flow this week, I suspect, with a non “Yay, I’ve eaten inside a restaurant” post. Been a bit busy, bloody work has the temerity to actually expecting me to do some wben I ” work” from home, so regrettably not had chance to write anything up since the great indoor reopening. As a result its a wine post cuz I know you all love-umūüėĀ.



With normality slowly returning, Mystere Wine Club tastings remain vitual (indoor gatherings of the size we would require are still strictly no no and whilst I miss the camaraderie of in person tastings the online ones have been an undoubted success) and May bought a tasting of New Zealand Pinot Noir wines.

New Zealand is probably better known for its whites (NZ sauvignon blanc being the best known/most drunk wine in the UK these day) than its reds, but those reds can be top quality and most people think the pick of them is their pinots (I have to say I am very partial to a good NZ Syrah).

In my experience, whilst NZ whites abound on restaurant lists and in the retail environment, it is much more of a rarity to see a NZ red. Shame as there are some really classy reds coming out of that part of the world at the moment.

In term of pinot noir it is unsurprising really to find this grape variety is well suited to NZ. It is a grape that is much more at home in a cooler climate (think champagne and burgundy) and that is exactly what New Zealand brings to the table climate wise, with the main growing areas being Marlborough and Central Otago as well as Martinborough and Waipara (none of which offer sorchio weather conditions).

A promise of high quality pinot at a less that Burgundian (wallet shredding) prices, was an enticing prospect and as such this was always going to be an interesting tasting for me with all the main Pinot growing areas represented. I rarely drink NZ Pinot and a chance to put multiple producers and vintages through their  paces without significant outlay on my (tightarse) part was not to be missed (the beauty of the Mystere Wine Club in a nutshell)

So to the wines (with unaccustomary haste for me), with another fine selection (as ever with Mystere).

All delivered to the door, in sample size, I was set up and ready to go at the alloted time.

Wine 1 – Valli Gibbston Vineyards  2017

A wine from the Central Otago region in the South Island, the vineyard is to the North East of Queenstown, that is matured in French oak casks and is botttled unfiltered.

The Gibbston sub region is the highest in attitude in the area, with the cooler climate that comes with attitude. As a result pinots here tend to be lighter in character.

The colour here was, contrary to expectations, quite dark compared to may an Old World pinot noir.

It intially gave off quite fruity aromas, with perfumed floral notes, a touch of gameness and cedar. This was followed by touch of the farmyard and mushroom, as well as spice. Really good nose on this wine

On the palate it had a really pleasing acidity to it, with the fruit being fresh (slightly unripe) berry (more black than red) and a spicy finish. Still very young with quite robust tannins, I would love to try this again in 10 years time. Great wine, with super ageing potential.

Price: £40+

Website: https://valliwine.com/previous-wine-releases/valli-waitaki-vineyard-pinot-noir

Wine 2 – Pegasus Bay 2016

Located further up the South Island in the Waipara Valley (North Canterbury) wine region, this wine is aged in Burgundian barriques.

Billed as Burgundian in style, this was quite different to the Valli. The nose was a touch more muted with a smattering of sweet cherry and a touch of the farmyard to it. 

On the palate it had crunchy pomegranate, pepper and (to me, but it seems only me – not an uncommon occurance when I am tasting wines) a touch of cola spice. Less acidity and less grippy tannins than the Valli, with much more limited ageing potential, in my view, this was not quite up to the superlative standard of the first wine. Decent value though.

Price: £28.

Website: https://www.pegasusbay.com/

Wine 3 – Seresin Sun and Moon, Malborough 2014

The film world meets the wine world, but not a star owned winery in the Brangelina mode this instance. Here Michael Seresin is on the other side of the camera in shooting films, with his many credits including Gravity and Midnight Express.

Set in the Malborough region at the top end of the South Island, the grapes are estate grown on an organic and biodynamic basis and handpicked. Ageing is in French oak barriques.

This has a much lighter colour to the first two wines, with a more summer berry (raspberry to the fore) and a touch of rose scented tea to it.

On the palate there was a good whack of acidity and tannins, as well as an almost crunchy character and a slightly orange bitter sweet finish.

Nice, but not up there with the first (or indeed second) wine and a bit pricey for what it offered (in my humble opinion).

Price: £50.

Website: https://seresin.co.nz/

Wine 4 – Dry River, Martinborough, 2012

Badly corked this wine (only one of two wines in the tasting sealed by way of cork, with the rest screwtop), reeking of a Amazon cardboard box that had been left on the doorstep in the rain.  I am not that sensitive to TCA, but even I got it in spades here. A shame, but it happens and when it does just take it back (any retailer worth their salt will refund a corked bottle no questions asked).

Wine 5 – Jackson Estate Vintage Widow, Malborough, 2010

Nice colour to this wine, with a meaty, gaminess as well as a touch of the parma violets and smokiness on the nose.

On the palate it was noticable less fresh than the first two wines, with a drop in acidity. Lacking fruit, I got a bit of olive/tapenade and pepper spice. At the price point it sits at it is bested by the Pegasus Bay,  although I wonder how well the PB will hold up when 10 + years old.

Price: £24.

Website: https://craggyrange.com/

Wine 6 – Craggy Range Zebra Vineyard,Central Otago,  2010

Back to the Otago region, this wine is a single vineyard pinot harking from the Bendigo sub region, which has a warmer climate than is the norm for the area (in marked contrast to the Gibbston location of the first wine). The wine is aged in French oak. 

This looked old, with quite a muted nose to it. Not much fruit, with perhaps a touch the palma violets to it.

On the palate there were notes of macerated strawberry, but it lacked acidity and length. On the slide in my opinion. Not sure if they make this wine any more (as can’t find reference to it on their website)?

Price: £24.

Website: https://craggyrange.com/

Wine 7 – Escarpment Vineyard, Martinborough, 2009

Located in the Martinborough region, on the North Island to the North West of Wellington, the organic vineyards here sit on the banks of the Huangarua River. The grapes are hand havested and the wines are aged to French oak.

Again a somewhat muted nose, with some red fruit and a touch of the barnyard. On the palate, it felt quite boozy with a distinct meatiness (the fruit had mostly gone, with what was left was very raisined) and some cocoa on the tail end.

It came across as all a bit unbalanced, with too much alcohol. It felt a little tired and emotional. Drink up if you have any of this.

Price: £30+.

Website: https://escarpment.co.nz/

Wine 8 – Greywacke, Marlborough, 2009

Kevin Judd is a bit of a legend in the New Zealand wine industry, having been the driving force behind Cloudy Bay and now Greywacke.

The Greywacke wines are made by Kevin Judd at the Dogpoint winery, with the Greywacke name coming from the pre-ponderance of greywacke (a type of sandstone) in the area.

The pinot grapes are harvested by hand and the wine is matured in French oak.

This had a fabulous nose, with a full on meaty almost animalistic notes, as well coffee and mocha.

On the palate, it had great acidity and lots of fruit (boozy orange bitters). All in perfect balance, unlike the wine before it, I absolutely loved this wine.

Price: £40+.

Website: https://greywacke.com/

The verdict

I don’t drink much NZ Pinot and based on this tasting I think I may be missing a trick. The two wine that book ended the tasting were just fabulous, whilst those in the middle were perhaps a bit more of a mixed bag.

My top three (which aligned with the overall view of those at the tasting, once preferences were totted up – we score on everyone chosing their top three wines, with three points for the top one, two for second and one for third) were as follows:

  • Greywacke 2009
  • Valli 2017
  • Pegasus Bay 2016

The first two wines scored quite heavy and were streets ahead points wise (and quality wise in my book) as against the third place wine.

The Valli was a revelation and I would love to try that wine again in 10 years time. One to track down and put in the cellar for a decade along with a Greywacke (would be great to compare these two when they have both had a bit of age).

A great tasting and what the Mystere Wine Club is all about Рexpanding my wine horizons at a bargain price ( cost me £30 to try all these wines Рmoney very well spent).

Next up (if my memory serves me well) is a 2009 Claret tasting.

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