This week I am

New Zealand 2013. Pinot Noir 2013, the triennial event in Wellington, New Zealand was four days of talk and tasting in January, supplemented by brilliant food by Ruth and Paul Pretty Catering. It was brilliantly organised, with the programme book providing an impressive state-of-the-industry information kit. Every wine we were able to taste or drink is listed, all the menus, all the sponsors.

The theme for this year was regional, so we tasted through Martinborough (or Wairarapa), Nelson, North Canterbury, and Waipara Valley, along with Marlborough, and Central Otago. Sometimes I think the best Australian pinot noirs are being made in New Zealand. Every day delegates went to a different region (some combined) for tastings and discussions.

The main tastings were of 2010 wine, with some additional tastings of older vintages. There were more wines available than I was able to taste, but I got through a fair number.  In no particular order, here are my preferred 2010 pinot noirs from New Zealand tastings: Ata Rangi, Martinborough Vineyard, Murdoch James (yes, really, and no connection) all from Martinborough;  Pyramid Valley, Greywacke, Spy Valley, Cloudy Bay, Villa Maria (Marlborough), Grasshopper Rock, Matua Valley, Mount Edward, Mud House (Central Otago).

Yes, I think there are regional differences – although those differences and the effects of the personalities of the winemakers were discussed at considerable length. Roughly, I think Martinborough wines are more likely to have savoury notes, Marlborough wines have great fruit balance, and Central Otago have intensity. What winemakers do with that is up to their own perceptions and tastes.

A salute to Ruth Pretty, whose catering was so intelligently planned and well delivered. She made everyone look forward to morning tea, which always consisted on something savoury, a cake, and fresh fruit. Think – only one example – tiny potato and parmesan crusted beef pies, large ginger scones (cut into wedges), and bowls of fresh peaches. Tea made with real tea leaves in a proper pots (yes, it was slow, but delicious), and mint tea made with actual mint leaves. Coffee from an excellent local.

Add to the list of wines some favourites discovered after the Nelson International Aromatics Symposium: Neudorf Moutere 2011 Chardonnay, and Framingham Old Vines 2011 Riesling, Blackenbrook Vineyard 2011 Chardonnay, and Seifriedriesling.  I came away with a new respect for Austrian riesling – more to come on that.

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