Pinot noir on point


Ata Rangi founder Clive Paton wine tasting at Ata Rangi, Martinborough, New Zealand.
Ata Rangi founder Clive Paton wine tasting at Ata Rangi, Martinborough, New Zealand.

THE position of pinot noir in the Australian wine market has changed forever.

From being inconsequential in percentage of red wine production in the early 1990s, pinot noir now outsells both shiraz and cabernet sauvignon on an annual basis in some of Australia’s more wine-oriented restaurants.

From 2.4 per cent (21,000 tonnes) of Australia’s red wine production in 2002, and 3.5 per cent in 2006, Australian production grew to 4.9 per cent (42,000 tonnes) in 2010.

I don’t have the most recent statistics but it is worthwhile noting that New Zealand pinot noir imports increased from a few thousand cases in 1991, to 22,000 cases in 2002, before exploding to 100,000 cases in 2007 and then to well over 200,000 cases in 2010.

From memory, this went to more than 300,000 cases in 2013. The demand was increasing but Australian plantings only grew by 14 per cent from 2002-2010.

From the early 1990s to about 2010, the New Zealand pinot noirs both on the show circuit and in the consumers’ perceptions were superior to Australia’s in most price ranges.

From about 2010 onwards, Australia had altered its pinot noir planting patterns and its production techniques, and, both locally and internationally, our best pinot noirs in every price range became both more interesting and marvellous value for money.

Bass Phillip in East Gippsland is clearly this nation’s greatest pinot noir producer, and the 2014s, the current release, are wonderfully reviewed although available in only tiny quantities. Talk to your wine merchant.

New Zealand producers such as Bell Hill and Mount Difficulty are marvellous, but rarely seen.

The two most widely available of New Zealand’s great pinot noirs are the Felton Road range, of which the new vintage, 2016, will be available in early July.

The other is Ata Rangi, of which the most recent vintages have been outstanding.

The 2015 vintage ($99) is available in tiny quantities in premium restaurants and wine stores, and about another 400 dozen are on the water now, of which perhaps 10 per cent will be coming to the west. Order early.