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Making the case for New Zealand reds

Rebecca Gibb MW, writing for Vinous this month, has reviewed a number of red wines from across New Zealand, to accompany her report on the country’s white wines in November. She awarded the following wines 90 points or more.

Escarpment

2018 Kupe Pinot Noir, Escarpment – 94 pts      

Hailing from a 20-year-old vineyard, Kupe is a little younger than some of the other single vineyards but has higher-density planting – around 7,000 vines per hectare. However, being on its own roots, it is being slowly replanted. (The fruit from these young vines is not included in this cuvée.) This is a mouth-filling and muscular style and those muscles are honed; the palate is coated by an abundance of tannins. There’s plenty of density here, with around 50% new oak, giving both a smoky tone and a vanilla-like character to the brooding black cherry and dried herb flavors, but it’s in keeping with the wine’s substance. With a whopping 70% whole bunch, this is a little “stemmy” in that those tannins offer a furry firmness. There’s no way this wine is ready to be poured yet, so squirrel it away in the cellar. Another accomplished and Kupe-esque style; this tricky vintage has made it just a little shy of outstanding but well worth a place in any self-respecting NZ Pinot lover’s wine rack.

2018 Te Rehua Pinot Noir, Escarpment – 92 pts

A rich, fleshy style with a totally different tannin structure than the Kiwa block, which is just around the corner. This is a slightly warmer site and so the fruit is a little riper, offering damson skin and cherry, while there’s plenty of succulence too. It’s mouth-filling, and those tannins build over the course of the wine, coating the entirety of the palate with melted chocolate texture. A high percentage of whole bunch gives this wine an athletic line and an herbal scent lingers on the long finish.

2018 Kiwa Pinot Noir, Escarpment – 91 pts

A fine, fragrant and elegant style that accumulates structure over the course of its journey. While gentle and welcoming at first, with sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit, there’s a firm line that pulls this through. There’s no doubting this is a structured wine, which is likely a combination of both acidity and a fairly hefty 50% whole-bunch component, providing a fine fur to the tannins. The 40% oak is well integrated, adding a subtle cedar note on the medium-length finish, which offers dried herbs, red cherry and dried cranberry flavors.

Greystone 

2017 Pinot Noir, Greystone – 91 pts 

A savoury and spiced Pinot Noir that’s just heading into its secondary stage. It’s satisfying and shapely but the tannins have some grunt, providing a meaty structure alongside bustling acidity. The lengthy finish offers festive spices and cedar notes. It’s still young and has the structure to go on and on, although the fruit concentration suggests this will be best drunk in the coming 5–7 years, becoming more savoury and earthy.

2018 Vineyard Ferment Pinot Noir, Greystone – 91 pts

This is exactly what it claims to be – a Pinot Noir that was fermented in the vineyard. Compared with the 2017, which captivated me, this does not quite attain the same complexity and completeness, perhaps due in part to the warm season leading to an early harvest plus a shorter pre-fermentation soak (the warmer conditions encouraged the natural yeast to get going quicker than in cooler years). It is translucent in hue and offers aromas of red cherry, cranberry, violets and herbs. While fully ripe, it retains a delicacy on the palate; there’s real tension and linearity on the finish.

Wooing Tree

 2017 Pinot Noir, Wooing Tree – 90 pts           

I remember tasting this in 2019 and thinking it was joyful with its lifted fragrance, tea leaf and herbal aromas. Light-bodied and vivacious, it has a firm core of fruit, while the tannins create a structured and sappy expression. The smoky, spicy finish is medium-long. You can enjoy this now with charcuterie, but it will continue to evolve for at least another 4-6 years with its precise frame.

You can read the full report here.