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Unique Auction Showcases Best Of Central's Pinot Noir

QUEENSTOWN -- Central Otago's best 2000 pinot noir fetched as much as $325 a bottle at a unique wine auction on Saturday.

The auction is believed to have blitzed the New Zealand record books.

More than 160 pinot noir enthusiasts from around the world attending the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration in Queenstown bid a total of $ 23,550 for 10 auctioned wine lots and a Tonnellerie Saury Burgundy barrel.

Canterbury winemaker Danny Schuster paid $ 1300 for a 3-litre bottle of Central Otago Pinot Noir 2000 Grand Cuvee, equivalent to four standard bottles, at $ 325 each.

In what was believed to be a world first, top Central Otago wineries donated equal portions of their "very best" 2000 pinot noir, which was all poured into the barrel, co- organiser Alan Brady said.

Organisers expected to raise about $ 5000 to cover the celebration costs, but were amazed to raise almost five times that.

"In some cases the prices were higher than you'd pay for a top-class Bordeaux wine," Mr Brady said.

The 225-litre barrel was released into the care of 16 top Central Otago winemakers, with Gibbston Valley Wines' Grant Taylor as "caretaker." Successful bidders from overseas and New Zealand would receive their hand-bottled, specially labelled grand cuvee in October 2001.

Two cases of 12 bottles of the special concoction sold for $2400, or $100 a bottle, while one three-case lot fetched $2700.

Pinot buffs, who paid $300 each to attend the celebration, obviously agreed with the keynote speaker, New Zealand Master of Wine Bob Campbell, who said pinot noir was being sold too cheaply.

Mr Campbell said compared to other more expensive wines, which wine lovers did not rate as highly, pinot noir was underpriced.

However, New Zealand actor and pinot noir grower Sam Neill likened good pinot noir to Morgan cars. He said it was important that those who appreciated good pinot noir the most could afford it.

Mr Brady said the celebration was such a huge success that it would be held again in 2002, possibly for two days, using the proceeds of Saturday night's auction.

© Copyright, The Southland Times, New Zealand. Posted with the permission of the publisher.

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