NZ Organic Wine Awards: 'Sustainable Vineyard of the Year 2024' plus 2 Gold and 2 Silver Medals. Full details

Central Otago Gets Top Marks for Consistency

Anyone impressed by pinot noir will be chasing Central Otago's 2002 vintage.

Buy Central Otago pinot noir from the 2002 vintage. The region has produced a crop of record-breaking wines. Many wineries are preparing to release these newly bottled wines and they will sell fast. Contact the wineries direct to avoid missing out.

I visited Central Otago last weekend to taste 35 newly bottled wines from the 2002 vintage. The overall standard was consistently high.

Most had impressively deep colours and powerful fruit flavours with classic Central Otago black cherry and spice influences. The best will cellar well, many needing at least a year or three in bottle to reveal their true charm.

New Zealand’s fastest-growing wine region has enjoyed a string of successful vintages since 1997. That consistent record will no doubt confuse critics who believe that winemaking in Central Otago is marginal at best and that the region will lose a crop or two every decade. Ironically, the region was one of the few to escape significant frost damage this year.

The high quality pinot noir vintage in 2002 will help to calm the fears of winemakers that Central Otago faces over production of this grape variety, now accounting for about 80% of total vineyard area. Several winemakers say they’re uneasy at the rapid escalation in pinot noir production in Central Otago.

To sell all the pinot noir that will be produced in 2006, New Zealand must increase the export sales of the variety recorded in 2001 by a staggering 800%. Much of that increase will come from Central Otago.

Peregrine viticulturist Greg Hay warns the world’s premium pinot noir market may not be sufficiently large to absorb the increase. Many Central Otago producers have targeted the United States as the most lucrative potential export market, he says. And yet in a few years, Central Otago’s pinot noir production will exceed the total amount of pinot noir currently consumed there. As a result of the falling value of the US dollar, some wineries are investigating alternative markets, says Hay.

On the bright side, the high quality of pinot noir from the region’s latest vintage appears certain to boost domestic sales. Quality comes, however, at a reasonably high price. The average price of wines in the tasting (several wineries were unable to advise price) was a moderately hefty $40.59.

Two high-scoring wines tied for my “best-value” vote. They are Peregrine’s classy Wentworth Pinot Noir and Two Paddocks 2002 The Last Chance Pinot Noir, an impressively dense wine with a velvet texture.Two Paddocks is the reasonably priced wine of actor Sam Neill. Previous vintages have sold within days of release on the strength of the Neill fame. The latest two releases deserve to sell rapidly on the basis of high quality at a fair price.
Both Two Paddocks' 2002 The Last Chance Pinot Noir and our 2002 First Paddock Pinot Noir were among Bob Campbell's Top Picks.

© Copyright 2003, The Independent, New Zealand's Business Weekly. Posted with the permission of the publisher.

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