One Pinot to Rule Them All….

G,day. Thursday.

Met Wither Hills Winemaker Matt Large today who took me to one of their more special vineyards named  ‘Ben Morven’ where they concentrate on Pinot Noir – the fruit looks in good shape and is developing nicely. Matt seems pretty happy. The Wither Hills team are following organic practices here and aim to be fully certified for this vineyard in a couple of vintages time. It seems nearly all the wine folk I meet here are taking the organic and sustainable philosophy very seriously which can only be a good thing in my view. Pinot Noir here represents pretty good value when you compare it to other parts of the world. There’s plenty of really good wines at a fraction of the cost you might pay for a good Burgundy for example. Admittedly they’re yet to hit the ethereal heights that great red Burgundy can do but then the prices don’t either – it’s all relative. And France has had centuries of experience and trial and error to get it right – remember the NZ wine industry is still a baby.

The sleek Wither Hills winery and cellar-door

Back then to the impressive Wither Hills winery and cellar door which is a modern contemporary building and a must-stop for any of you visiting the Marlborough wine region – it’s friendly and relaxed, the gardens and restaurant are a great place to chill whilst trying the stylish wines.

The 2009 Pinot Gris was a wine I’d not tried from Wither Hills before and ticked all the right boxes. More flavourful than a lot of Italian Pinot Grigio with a ripe fruit edge. Wine of the tasting though was the 2007 Ben Morven Pinot Noir – rich and expressive with a smooth finish. I’ve decided that my NZ quest, a la Lord of The Rings, is to find the best Pinot Noir I can in the remaining few days here – this was a good start. Frodo would be proud.


Then drive time – over to the North Island and a picturesque crossing on the ferry across the Cook Strait between the two islands. Stood too long in the sun on the deck enjoying the scenery and now have a super shiny red face. Schoolboy error. Add to that the bright yellow hire car they gave me in Wellington and  I’m looking really cool.

Final destination today was the little town of Martinborough, in the Wairarapa region – it’s the centre of the coolest North Island wine area. The dry autumns here allow the grapes to slowly ripen, such slow development suits Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling but above all, Pinot Noir. So as my quest dictated I set out for dinner in search of the grail. Great little wine bar called Est on the square in the town centre served me some great local lamb along with a flight of local Pinots, the pick of the flight and my WOTD being The Edge 2009 from Escarpment Vineyards – will call in there tomorrow to investigate further…..

As an aside I’ve got the i-pod on random shuffle whilst I’m driving around and today’s drive-along tune of the day goes to British Sea Power, Observe the Skies from their new CD. Any suggestions for more great driving tunes welcome.

Sweet – as the Kiwis say.


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