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The Allure of New Zealand Pinot Noir

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

When it comes to wine from New Zealand, you may think of Sauvignon Blanc first, but their Pinot Noir deserves some love. At City Cellars, we love the juicy, fruit forward expressions of the Pinot Noir grape from New Zealand. Let’s learn more about this notoriously fickle grape and how it plays into the New Zealand wine scene.

Pinot Noir: An Introduction

Pinot Noir is a vitis vinifera grape whose name derives from the French words for “pine” and “black” — the grapes have tightly clustered, pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit.

Although its grapes are also used in Champagne production, still wines produced from the Pinot Noir grape tend to be lightly coloured, medium body and low in tannins. This is due to its thin skin, which can also lead to fickleness in how well it grows in different climates and regions. Wines made from Pinot Noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, cranberries, raspberries, and strawberries, as well as earthy, mushroom-like aromas. Serve Pinot Noir in a large, round, bell-shaped glass, as this helps contain the delicate aromas of the wine.

Pinot Noir and Food

Pinot Noir is considered a great food pairing wine as it goes with a lot of different dishes. It is light enough for salmon, but complex enough to hold up to some richer meat including duck. When out at a restaurant with everyone ordering vastly different food, you can usually win by getting a bottle of Pinot Noir for the table — everyone will be happy!

The alleged origin of New Zealand Pinot Noir

It is said that Pinot Noir vines in New Zealand actually come straight from the source in France’s Burgundy region. Known as the “Abel” clone, a Pinot Noir cutting was allegedly snipped from the renowned Domaine de la Romanée-Conti vineyards in Burgundy by a mischievous tourist. Smuggled into New Zealand in a gumboot, the plant was intercepted at the Auckland airport customs office by Malcolm Abel, a local winemaker who also happened to be working as a customs officer. He realized what this grapevine was and sent it to the government’s viticultural research centre to be properly processed. Eventually, the first cuttings were released and Abel planted them. His vineyard no longer exists, but Abel’s cuttings have been shared far and wide, and the Abel clone is the foundation of many of New Zealand’s most premium Pinot Noir wines today!

New Zealand Pinot Noir Today

20 years ago, Pinot Noir was rarely known, let alone grown, in New Zealand. Today, there’s plenty of reasons to celebrate Pinot Noir Day with a New Zealand version!

Pinot Noir is New Zealand’s leading red wine export, and second largest export overall after Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Noir covers approximately 5,642 hectares of New Zealand, with most of it found in Marlborough, a region most famous for Sauvignon Blanc. Most New Zealand Pinot Noir should be aged for two to five years and served at 15 degrees Celsius. As a bonus, it’s usually exceptionally good value for the price!

Our New Zealand Pinot Noir selection

In store at City Cellars, you can find the following New Zealand Pinot Noir wines:

  • Seven Terraces Pinot Noir - $21.99

  • Sherwood Estate Stratum Pinot Noir - $23.99

  • Akarua Pinot Noir - $27.99

  • Cambridge Road Estate Pinot Noir - $49.99

And don’t forget — if you want to try more than one New Zealand Pinot Noir, you save 10% off any purchase of three or more wines, or 15% off six or more wines!

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