Most people associate New Zealand wine with crisp and racy Sauvignon Blanc. Sure its the most planted grape variety down there, but New Zealand also makes a fair amount of red vino. Fact: Pinot Noir is the second most planted grape with Merlot coming in fourth. The better Bordeaux style reds come from the North Island (Waiheke Island and Hawkes Bay) and the best Pinots are coming out of the South Island, especially the rugged Central Otago near Queenstown (pictured left).
I recently tasted a few stellar reds worth seeking out for your collection:
2004 Wild Earth Pinot Noir, Central Otago--notes of black plum, black currant, gamey aromas with a hint of spice, complex and elegant with dark brooding flavors and a persistent finish.
2002 Peregrine Pinot Noir, Central Otago--rich and complex with black plum, spice and a funky, gamey nose, silky black cherry and plum flavors followed by tar and leather on the finish.
1998 Mission Estate Winery 'Gimblett Road Reserve' Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Hawkes Bay--tobacco and cigar box aromas followed by cassis and black currant flavors, full and round on the palate with dried red fruits and vanilla and cedar on the finish. Still showing some grippy tannins although almost 9 years old.
For more information on the New Zealand wine industry, visit nzwine.com.
Photo of Rippon Vineyards, Central Otago, New Zealand. Copyright Andrew Stover @2004