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Wine of the Week for week ending 31st August 2003
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Martinborough Vineyards 'Te Tera' Pinot Noir 2002
Martinborough, New Zealand

When I step back and look at what is happening with New Zealand pinot I see some interesting trends developing.

Firstly there is the question of alcohol. On one side there is the high alcohol style, big busty, wines with lots of colour and curvy voluptuous bodies that would look fantastic in a bikini. They are hot, 'stand out in a crowd' wines or 'West Coast' drinkers' pinot as my mate from America calls them.

Then there's the more delicate, traditional 'East Coast' drinkers style, they haven't spent all day on a California beach so they are not as deep in their colour and they haven't got the breast implants that make their bodies so curvy and voluptuous. But many are still gorgeous, sexy, hip and cool in their delicate pretty way. Here in NZ the West Coast drinker's style and the East Coast drinkers' style could come from any of the important pinot producing regions of Martinborough, Marlborough, Nelson, Canterbury and Central Otago. But I have to wonder whether so-called 'cool climate' pinot should be producing wines of 14%, 14.5% and even higher alcohol by volume?

I also wonder how the big busty, high alcohol West Coast drinkers' styles are going to age. Are they absolutely great to look at now but like women with breast implants doomed to lose their stuffing and sag with time? And what about those East Coast drinkers' styles - are they like young girls with their youthful looking bodies set to develop and blossom as they grow into graceful beauties? I guess time will tell. But when I look at the Pinot Noirs from 2001, the Dry River Pinot Noir with just 12.5% alcohol by volume, definitely fits in the latter category.

The other big thing that is happening in the world of New Zealand pinot noir is the impact of the basic economic law of supply and demand. Pinot Noir is our fastest growing red grape variety and the producing area will expand from 2000-hectares in 2002 to over 3300-hectares in 2005. And Central Otago, Nelson and Waipara will double their production in that 3-year period.

Already we are seeing a huge increase in the number of brands on the market as more and more new producers' vines come to wine-making maturity. The more brands there are on the market the more the consumer has to choose from. And now we have some companies that are targeting the lower end of the price range with acceptable quality wines that offer an affordable introduction to the intrigue of the pinot noir grape. Hence the lesser the demand for the high price wines.

So some of the long established 'top end' producers are responding by bringing in a more affordable wine at the lower end. And Martinborough Vineyard is one of them

Martinborough Vineyards Te Tera Pinot Noir 2002 is translucent ruby and gemmy in appearance with a lovely savoury complexity in the tarry, earthy and meaty flavour with tamarillo, guava, cherry and plum, a hint of sweet musk and violet too. A lovely ripe fruit silky finish combines with the savoury French oak and the lingering flavour is long and full. It's a pinot of great elegance, a pinot to be proud of.

Martinborough Vineyards Te Tera Pinot Noir 2002 is simply amazing for an under-$30 New Zealand pinot noir. I think it is better than the early Martinborough Vineyard pinots that struck us with their quality and charm and showed us the potential for top quality pinot noir from New Zealand. No doubt it is the new clones from Burgundy that contribute to this 10-clone blend from small-production hand-tended vineyards and I'd like to chauvinistly think it is also the woman's touch of winemaker Claire Mulholland.

At 13.5% alcohol by volume it fits into the East Coast drinkers' style but it's on the cusp for the West Coast drinkers who are looking for a touch of gracefulness as a change from their preferred buxom styles.

Te Tera means 'the other' in the Maori language, named so to distinguish the wine from Martinborough Vineyard's flagship pinot noir. It is also finished with a screwcap closure.

Look for the wine because quantity is 'reasonable' with 1100 cases made. Or buy direct from the vineyard via their website

© Sue Courtney
24 August 2003

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