edited by Sue Courtney
Wine Reviews - Pinot Noir
by Sue Courtney
Last updated 16 Apr 2016
Although some of these tasting notes may be found elsewhere on this site, this page brings together most of my Pinot Noir notes, listed alphabetically by Producer. Click here for rating systems and abbreviations.
Click here for a fact file of Pinot Noir in New Zealand.
              [1999 and older] [index]
Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Lovely deep violet / purple / red hue. The aroma is savoury with sweet berry fruit brimming through. Spicy and bright to the taste with a youthful freshness, the crushed velvet texture is firm and the purple plum and cherry fruit is powerful with a juicy finish where a touch of anise and black forest chocolate oak nuances come through. 14.5% alc. $44.00. 9Aug2012.
Akarua 'Rua' Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Deep purple violet. Savoury and smooth smelling, earthy rather than fruity yet fragrant too. A ripe fruit sweetness Immediately noticeable in the palate with redcurrants, strawberries and jubes but balanced by the savoury undercurrent with silky tannins and a soft rounded finish. Becomes rather luxurious over time. 14% alc. $26.00. 9Aug2012.
Anchorage Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Light strawberry / cherry hues with a fresh, fruit aroma. There's bittersweet red fruit wild strawberry, morello cherry and red guava in the palate and at first it seems a little simple and sweet but it is mouthcoating and expansive with a fruitcake spiciness, a hint of gunflint and a clean, concentrated finish. 13.5% alc. $20. 9Jun2013.
ARA Single Estate Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Clear violet ruby. Brightly aromatic and spicy. Juicy cherry fruit with a lovely seam of violet purples and fine tannins. Medium-bodied in style, it opens up nicely for a persistent savoury finish with a touch of zest and a nuance of anise. 13.5% alc. $25.00. 9Aug2012.
Aronui Single Vineyard Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) A little redcurrant on the nose, not overly fragrant, just subtle earth and floral scents. Light to medium bodied, a touch of savouriness, plums, violets, canned tomato and a beefy undercurrent. Acidity drives this wine which is best enjoyed with simple food, for example Mediterranean vegetables, pizza, pasta, bread and cheese. 14.5% alc. $0. 21Mar2013.
Ballasalla Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) (sc) This translucent tamarillo-hued wine has smoky overtones to the cherry jam bouquet and it is earthy and savoury to the taste with touches of dried herbs, piquant tamarillo-like acidity and sweeter red cherries and fruit cake mix. Medium-bodied with a dry finish, this is the second label of Folding Hill. 17% alc. $17.99. 3Jun2015.
Bannock Brae Goldfields Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Deep purple red with succulent fruits of the forest and chocolate immediately seducing the nose, this is a full bodied style with a meaty savoury oak backbone, plump black cherry fruit, hints of orange peel and cigar box, and a velvety smooth texture with a firm touch to the finish. 14.3% alc. $26.99. 25Sep2013.
Brancott Estate LE WOW South Island Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Light ruby violet. Smoky savoury aroma with a concentrated cherry richness. Medium bodied with spiced cherry and raspberry fruit, a savoury backbone, smooth tannins and a juicy finish. 13.5% alc. $25.95. 23Jul2012.
Brancott Estate Letter Series 'T' Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) There's a little more ruby to the slightly deeper translucent hue and again the bouquet is evocative and intriguing with a little more wood smoke and savouriness coming through. After the sweet oak and strawberry jam nose, it is intriguingly very gamey and earthy in the palate - the impressive savouriness infused with the bittersweet red fruit and a touch of rose hip / briar rose fragrance as the taste lingers. Firm tannins too. 14% alc. $34.99. 15May2013.
Brancott Estate Special Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Garnet tamarillo hue, quite translucent. Evocatively savoury aroma with sweet smoky oak and cherries a temptress with its beguiling, appealing perfume, I just want to keep on smelling it. The salivating taste is savoury and smoky with juicy bitter sweet cherry, goji berry and tamarillo fruit, and a lovely floral character running through. Silky with well balanced vinous sweetness to the smoky savouriness, for the under $20 price it's a star. 14% alc. $18.99. 15May2013.
Brennan B2 Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) There's a hint of chocolate coming through on the bouquet and it's dark, earthy and savoury in the palate with a cherry brightness pushing through. A complete contrast to the vibrant youthful Terra Sancta, but a more serious wine in the context and could be very long lived. Fruit was downgraded to the 2nd-tier B2 label after a cool season in the Gibbston Valley, but the coolness may have worked in keeping the varietal characters pure. The international show circuit judges respect this, hence the many awards to its name. 14.3% alc. $33.99. 27Aug2014.
Charcoal Gully Sally's Pinch Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) This deep coloured Pinot has a gorgeous seductive fragrance - it's floral with a forest floor savoury earthiness, and tastes spicy with a fine velvety texture, herbs, anise, red cherries and red plums. It's powerful, yet has remarkable harmoniousness and finesse. 14% alc. $26.99. 26Sep2012.
Churton Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (c) Medium weight ruby / red berry hue. Lovely smoky, savoury, gamey notes with a floral cherryish lift and allure. Silky and textural in the palate with earthy mushroom notes, mossy forest floor and sweet red fruit in harmony. 13.5% alc. $44.00. 29Jun2013.
Clark Estate Marlborough Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Translucent light pinky red. Fragrant, sweet smelling aromatics with herbs and smoky savoury oak too. Tasting fruit forward on entry to the palate cherry and framboise yet despite the sweetness there's firmness to the structure with a slightly dry, grippy undercurrent and smoky savoury motes accenting the finish. A lighter, medium bodied style with grapes sourced from the Black Birch vineyard in the Awatere. Limited production, 160 cases 13.5% alc. $28.00. 20Apr2012.
Craggy Range Hawkes Bay Te Muna Aroha Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark cherry red colour. There's a slight edgy sense to the scent of red fruits, savoury oak, spice and game. Succulent and creamy in the palate, the edginess makes an appearance too. Spicy, savoury, intensely gamey with bittersweet fruit, finishing dry but there is a lingering creaminess too. Rose petals flutter through. And the mouthfeel it leaves behind is silky and complete. Tasting later there is no awkward edge - a chameleon, I recommend decanting and aerating for a short while. 14% alc. $99.95. 1Nov2013.
Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Translucent garnet hue, hinting of a little age. Quite smoky and earthy on the nose with an impression of slightly cooked fruit and later perhaps the subtlest waft of chocolate box. Firm, ultra dry and ultra savoury in the palate it seems more Burgundian than kiwi as it is so different to what we are used to, then as the flavours compound in the palate, bottled cherry fruit and cake spices are revealed and the lingering mouthfeel is silky. Its definitely a wine to accompany food - perhaps venison back strap or lamb. 13.5% alc. $49.99. 6Apr2016.
Fairmont Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) A lighter Burgundy red colour with beguiling floral nuances to the savoury bouquet, its fresh with a lovely savouriness to make it exciting without overpowering. Fruit is in the lighter red spectrum strawberry / cherry guavas with almost anise-like / musky nuances, but it is the mouth-coating and sensual silky texture that's so delightful in this wine. 13.5% alc. 16.99. 20Mar2013.
Felton Road Bannockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Impressively deep violet ruby, there's a nuance of chocolate to the ripe black cherry and thyme flower scent. Youthful with firm tannins (for Pinot), this is full bodied, spicy and expressive with floral nuances, a touch of anise, a concentrated juicy black cherry sweetness and a delectable savouriness that holds it all together. Could be a benchmark for the 2011 wines at this price point. A very smart wine indeed. 14.5% alc. $57.99. 25Jul2012.
Felton Road Calvert Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Purple edged medium red. The bouquet is smoky, savoury and spicy with bittersweet cherry, earth and game and the taste is rounded and velvety with classical Pinot characters of black cherries, spice, herbs and earth. It's concentrated and fulsome and while the tannins are still quite firm, the texture is seductive and silky as well. 14% alc. $68.99. 6Feb2013.
Forrest Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Translucent ruby violet with an aroma that is savoury, smoky and just a little funky with thyme flowers adding to the intrigue. Silky in the palate and deeply savoury with sensually smoky oak, fruit that ranges from strawberries through cherries to cranberries and a lovely infusion of spice. The wines coats the palate and doesn't want to let go. I love it. 13% alc. $28. 22Jun2013.
Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark red with violet tints. Perfumed, floral, spiced cherries and woodsmoke bouquet Lovely spiciness and brightness to the taste with cherry and plum fruit, firmly structured velvety tannins and a long juicy, savoury finish, where the smoky notes emerge again quite evocatively. 14% alc. $53.99. 24Oct2012.
Gladstone Vineyard 12000 Miles Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Pale coloured with tints of violet with a brightness to the hue. A deeply evocative savoury scent enhanced by wood smoke and hints of smoky bacon, this is a bright tasting wine with orange peel and mulled wine spices, firm mid palate and a long savoury finish. Plenty to like about this wine without having to be too intellectual about it. 13% alc. $25. 23Dec2012.
Grasshopper Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) The colour is ruby and although than translucent , the 'lightness' is only a visual thing because the taste is mouthfilling and deep. From the spiced cherry aroma and the savoury richness to the flavour, the initial grip of the tannins dissolve. Mouthcoating, persistent, it finishes with the peacock tail flare. Alexandra fruit. 13.6% alc. $30.99. 10Jul2013.
Jules Taylor Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) An enticing deep ruby red, this opulent mouthfilling pinot is fragrantly scented and ripe and seductive tasting. It's spicy with deep-seated black cherry and purple berry fruit, savoury oak, an intriguing gamey undercurrent and bitter chocolate emerging on the finish. The texture and taste makes this young wine already hard to resist. 14% alc. $31.99. 21Nov2012.
Kiritea Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark red black, fine in appearance. Dark fruit red currants, black cherries and plums infuse into the bitter chocolate bouquet, the chocolate carries through to the deep, dark, savoury, gamey, almost leathery palate. 14.2% alc. $19.99. 24Oct2012.
Mission Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Though seemingly light in colour, it's enticingly aromatic with a savoury underpinning to the cherry fruit bouquet and in the palate it's spicy, savoury and red fruit juicy with a medium-bodied presence, firm fine tannins, a hint of cake spice and a touch of anise on the intriguingly earthy and woody herb finish. 14.5% alc. $14.99. 19Sep2012.
Mission Estate Reserve Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) A deep violet red, transparent more than opaque, this savoury, earthy pinot has scents of wild strawberries, mushrooms and herb flowers. A lovely floral expression of the Pinot Noir grape with fine tannins, it's medium to full-bodied in style and respects it's traditional heritage. 13.5% alc. $20.99. 26Sep2012.
Montana Letter Series 'T' Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Medium garnet red with woodsmoke and cherries on the nose, this is juicy and ripe in the palate with red fruits in the strawberry / cherry spectrum, plenty of spice and a zesty lift to the lingering finish where savoury gamey notes come through. 14% alc. 22.99. 4Sep2013.
Neudorf Tom's Block Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) There's a lovely richness to the dark ruby colour and the bouquet is smoky and savoury with woodsmoke in the distance. The taste is deep, earthy and savoury with lots of well polished oak and hints of violets and anise too. With youthful tannins still quite firm at this stage, it seems like it will be an age-worthy wine. 14% alc. $30. 10Jun2013.
Pencarrow Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark ruby garnet quite intense. Strong smoky, savoury bouquet with a hint of a confectionary note and herbs. A little metallic and edgy to start but that thought goes away when the concentrated juicy red and black fruit takes over. There's a savoury earthy undercurrent with firm tannins, and the lingering aftertaste is velvety and clean! 14% alc. $29. 9Jun2013.
Richmond Plains Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Medium dark red. The bouquet is impressive smoky, a little savoury with concentrated ripe cherry fruit and more, then in the palate it is fleshy and full - it's a rich mouthful of Pinot with a velvet edge to the tannins, underlying freshness and a long savoury finish. A touch of violet and tobacco too with some liquorice notes coming through. Dry yet juicy. Lots of appeal especially for Vegans! 13.5% alc. $25. 9Jun2013.
Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark ruby garnet with a hint of smoky oak, wild thyme and strawberry on the bouquet, the taste is savoury and sensual with velvety tannins, black cherries, spice and even a touch of chocolate with an underlying freshness that adds brightness and flare. 14% alc. $34.99. 3Apr2013.
Rockburn Devil's Staircase Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark pinky red. Stalky aroma, quite herbaceous, which is okay for Pinot Noir, with a smidgen of vanillin oak too. Medium bodied and savoury with smoky bacon and polished leather infiltrating the red fruit palate; the fruit reminiscent of cranberry and bittersweet cherry. Firmly structured with a grippy edge and acidity adding brightness at the end. 14.2% alc. $25.00. 20Apr2012.
Saint Clair Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Light, clear ruby hue. The aroma is a little savoury with rosemary, redcurrants and a violet perfume. A powerful, oaky, smoky, savoury, spicy wine with cake spice, allspice - even a hint of clove, firm tannins and fruit only revealed at the end. 13.5% alc. $26.50 9Aug2012.
Soho 'White Collection' Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Translucent light pinky red with a delicate but appealing bouquet of cherry and spice with a delicate smoke and herb nuance. A light style with fine tannins, a savoury backbone, a strawberry jam-like sweetness balanced by taut morello cherry and a touch of cake spice with chocolate icing on the end. Maybe a bit sweet, but certainly delivers for the price. 14% alc. $19.99. 22Aug2012.
Spinyback Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Light strawberry / cherry juice hue and a light fresh fruity aroma attractive nevertheless. The concentration in the palate belies the appearance and the tannins are quite firm. There's an attractive savouriness, underlying freshness, dark fruit, and a silky finish. Balanced and clean with a touch of herb flower tea, it's all about subtlety. 13.5% alc. $19. 9Jun2013.
Takutai Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Translucent violet red. Light red fruit aromas and nice balance of sweet and savoury flavours in the light to medium bodied palate. Raspberry and cranberry fruit, smooth easy tannins, a touch of tarragon and spice, and a dry and reasonably firm finish. What you expect for this price point. 14% alc. $17.00. 23Jul2012.
Te Hera Reserve Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011 (c) Deep ruby purple colour with a hint of pencil box and a nuance of chocolate to the bouquet, and rich and fruit-sweet in the velvety textured palate with spicy oak, underlying gamey notes and a bright zesty flourish to the long full finish. A lovely fleshy Pinot from the promising Te Muna Road area. 14.5% alc. $32.99. 6Nov2013.
Te Mania Nelson Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Medium pinky red to the colour and bright red fruit scent with a smoky vanillin infusion. It seems quite sweet on first tasting a little confectionary all fruit without the requisite savouriness and a touch of chocolate to the finish. Tasted again a couple of days later from the same bottle this has opened up and evolved beautifully - the savouriness is there and the tannins are sensual and smooth. 13.5% alc. $35. 9Jun2013.
Terra Sancta Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark ruby / black cherry coloured with complex aromas that are subtle and sensual and a vibrant, spicy veneer to the flavours. A mouthfilling wine that's intrinsically savoury with classic wild thyme, roasted mushroom, fruits of the forest, black cherries, a touch of chocolate, a little tug to the tannins and that sought after brightness to the finish. New label from the new owners of the former Olssens vineyard - same vines, same winemaker - there is a track record and this could one of the vintage's stars. 14.2% alc. $33.99. 22Aug2012.
The Miner's Daughter Reserve North Canterbury Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) While light in colour, it smells spicy and savoury with smoky oak, woody herbs, red cherry and strawberry, and tastes soft and spicy with juicy red plums, red cherry, a touch of earth and game and a citrussy tang to the finish. A medium bodied style with the pinot characters you expect, but at the price point you don't. 14% alc. $16.99. 13Feb2013.
Tohu Marlborough Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Evocatively scented, sweet-fruited yet savoury with the savoury theme continuing through to the palate which is fresh, gamey and dry. Smoky oak mingles with iron-rich minerals, violets and cherry jam while the texture feels like brushed velvet with a mouth coating finish that is expansive and persistent. A very good match to lamb. 14% alc. $27.95. 17Jan2013.
Urlar Gladstone Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Pale coloured with tints of violet, the lighter colour perhaps indicative of the 2011 vintage. Cherries on the nose with a savoury gamey nuance quintessentially pinot. The taste is sweet and savoury with upfront bittersweet cherries quickly tamed by the sensual savouriness, earthy funkiness, a deep smoky spiciness Moroccan spices - yet still a touch of underlying freshness. Medium bodied and mouth filling with a lovely silky texture, long finish. Nicely resolved and drinking very well. 14% alc. $38. 23Dec2012.
Waimea Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Deep purple ruby. The cherry-like aroma seems simple and a little sweet and jammy at first but becomes quite concentrated over the course of the tasting. Bright and spicy, rich and savoury with pepper and cake spice, red and black fruit, a beefy undercurrent and firm leathery tannins that seem more velvet on the finish. 13.5% alc. $25.00. 9Aug2012.
West Brook Waimauku Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Like cherry juice in appearance, it's softly aromatic with hints of strawberry jam. Slightly salty, savoury and earthy to the taste with delicate raspberry and strawberry fruit and a vanillin edge to the rounded finish where pinot noir purity comes through. Tastes much richer and fuller than the light coloured appearance would suggest. 13% alc. $29.50 9Aug2012.
Woollaston 'Mahana' Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark garnet red. Quite smoky and deep on the bouquet with concentrated vinosity and a lilac-like floral edge an alluring evocative scent. Concentrated, spicy and savoury to the taste with firm but sensual tannins, attractive red and black fruit, a touch of Black Forest chocolate and a lovely long rich finish it has all the elements and drinks very well. I thought it quite outstanding.14% alc. $52. 9Jun2013.
Woollaston Nelson Pinot Noir 2011 (sc) Dark ruby garnet with ruby flashes. The bouquet is smoky, savoury and just a little stalky but in the mouth it savoury and fleshy with fruit evolving nicely. The dark fruit has well balanced sweetness and firm velvet-edged tannins and an attractive lift to the finish with violets and anise-like spices coming though. Coal smoke too. Very firm and dry with an edgy bite and lingering berry sweetness. 14% alc. $35. 9Jun2013.