Rebecca Gibb: My New Zealand Red of the Year 2014

Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2009 3.11024 x 4.25197 inches

Think New Zealand red, think Pinot Noir but there’s more to New Zealand red wine than one variety: some of the best reds I’ve reviewed over the past 12 months reflect New Zealand’s ability to produce classy Bordeaux styles as well as sexy Syrah, particularly in the warmer climes of Hawke’s Bay.

When it comes to Pinot Noir, Central Otago is the must-have region on most wine lists but quality abounds across the country with key players in the Martinborough and Waipara regions, in particular, continuing to impress in 2014.

My wine of the year was a five year-old Pinot from Canterbury’s Pyramid Valley that is ripe for drinking now. Be quick if you want to get your hands on a bottle as there’s not much left.

Here are My Seven Superlative Reds reviewed in the past 12 months…

Pyramid Valley, Earth Smoke, Pinot Noir 2009, North Canterbury
Hailing from Waikari in North Canterbury, 2009 was the warmest year owner-operators Mike and Claudia Weersing had experienced in their 9 years on the farm. Yet the wine remains delicate and ethereal. It is now a cloudy garnet in the glass, showing its 5 years of age. The flavours are alluring, offering up smoky notes, game and plum fruit but it is the silken texture that really impresses. And, while it is incredibly delicate and light bodied, it manages to combine this with mahoosive density of fruit, pointing to the site’s low yields. This is all topped off with fine chalky tannins. Well done guys.


The Wine Advocate’s Latest Reviews of Pyramid Valley Vineyards by Lisa Perrorti-Brown

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You may think you know New Zealand wines but I can assure you that until you have tasted Pyramid Valley, you have no idea. When I first sampled the earliest releases from this left-of-center producer, I was so drawn to the signature, ground-breaking if, at that time, not altogether flawless wines that I vowed to pay them a visit as soon as possible (which, given their location, is easier said than done). There was a spark of “otherness” about the wines that was so unlike anything else in New Zealand, it was difficult to say if proprietors Mike and Claudia Weersing were geniuses or mad or mad geniuses. I’m still kinda thinking there’s an element of the latter going on here but at least my first visit in 2011 and follow-up visit this year have confirmed to me that they are most definitely wine geniuses.

Having searched New Zealand for their ideal plot of land to produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of the very highest quality, the Weersings were tempted by comradery to plant amongst their friends in Central Otago. But it was the unique, clay-limestone soils and scarp slopes near Waikari in North Canterbury that stole their hearts. In 2000 they planted vines in one of New Zealand’s newest and remotest wine regions…so new and remote it still doesn’t really have a name other than “North Canterbury”. Claudia is the biodynamic green-thumb and Mike is the Burgundian trained winemaker in this small-scale, hands-on operation. Everything in the fields and winery is as natural as natural can be and anyone who has followed the wines over the years will know, from tasting if not knowledge, that Mike has tested the boundaries of no / low sulfur additions and now seems to have a knack for adding just-enough to ensure stability without compromising the couples’ ethics. The results speak for themselves: astonishingly good, terroir-expressive wines that will challenge all your preconceptions.

Pyramid Valley was my most impressive visit this trip to New Zealand and indeed of all my Australia / New Zealand visits this year. I cannot shout enough about the dedication and diligence of Claudia and Mike Weersing, not to mention the special little patches of terroir they’ve carved out of nowhere (honestly), but then I don’t have to rave too much because the results are patently clear for anyone who tastes their most recent releases – the 2012s. Forget that they’re biodynamic and all the trials and tribulations of the past with no / low sulphur wines plus the use of bespoke amphorae, which are made of clay layered with beeswax covered with a stainless steel lid, to make the wines; their lengths and unconventional methods are simply means (however you want to read them) to a worthwhile end. These latest releases are wines of great purity, singularity and complexity and come highly recommended. I can’t wait to keep following these guys”!

Home Collection

Lions Tooth Chardonnay 2012            95+ points

Field of Fire Chardonnay 2012           93+ points

Lions Tooth Chardonnay 2011            96 points

Field of Fire Chardonnay 2011            92+ points

Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2011             95   points

Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2011             92   points

Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2012            94+ points

Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2012            93+ points

Growers Collection

Moteo Chenin Blanc 2013                  90+ points

Kerner Pinot Blanc 2012                     91+ points

Calvert Pinot Noir 2012                      90  points

Howell Cabernet Franc 2013             91  points