Remarkable New Zealand pinot noirs

  • Kai Schubert travelled the world seeking the best spot to produce fine pinot noir before deciding on the Wairarapa area of North Island New Zealand
  • Schubert Block B 2014 Pinot Noir was rated 95/100 by wine critic Bob Campbell

As I write this on Monday, July 2, the thought of pairing wines with World Cup top teams went through my mind.

I admit to being pleased that we are virtually out of our first trial shipment of Bodega Garzon that the owners see as their “little Uruguayan Tuscany”. There are a few bottles left at Discovery Wines and our second shipment will arrive next month from Uruguay.

We have plenty of fine English bubbly if required (Churchill said of champagne: “In victory I deserve it; in defeat I need it”) as well as sake from Japan. No need to be concerned about supplies if France continues its winning streak.

I am playing it safe and choosing to write about pinot noir from a fairly small country that knows well how to sail but has only made the final 32 on two occasions, the last being 2010 in South Africa.

The July issue of Decanter has recently arrived on my desk and one of the articles in it is titled, “My top 20 NZ Pinot Noir”.

There are more than 500 wineries so to make this top 20 is impressive and among them is our Seresin Leah Marlborough 2014 Pinot Noir.

Leah is the name of Michael Seresin’s daughter and I often comment on their wonderful biodynamic approach to vineyard and winery management. Decanter writes about “juicy mulberry and Bing cherry that are ripe and tart in equal measure and of smoky fruit-framed freshness and peppery verve”. They rate it 93/100. The UK price is approximately $29 and, considering our duty is $3.75 a bottle here, I think our price of $30.15 is fair indeed.

A few years ago, Kai Schubert visited us and told me the story of how he and his partner (now wife) had travelled the world seeking the best spot to produce fine pinot noir. They spent time in Burgundy, Oregon and California and finally decided to settle in the Wairarapa area of North Island New Zealand in 1998.

Time passed and then their Block B Wairarapa Pinot Noir won, in London, Best New Zealand Pinot Noir and Best Organic Pinot Noir. We currently stock the 2014 Block B that was described this way by well-respected critic Bob Campbell: “Very impressive pinot noir with real power and intensity. Ripe plum and cherry flavours, with a suggestion of raspberry and spice. Still quite youthful but with good potential for bottle development. An ethereal texture and lengthy finish.” 95/100. $38.30.

I have frequently referred to there being so many clones of this vine and there have been rumours that two of the clones in Marion’s Vineyard (the other half of the Schubert team) came from an incredibly famous Burgundy vineyard and that they are exclusive to Schubert in New Zealand. The 2013 Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir that we presently have was awarded 93/100 by Robert Parker and 95/100 by Decanter. A bottle will cost you $36.95.

I just checked prices on the French 2013 that I refer to and it appears that the 2013 would set you back $14,000 or more per bottle.

Bob Campbell also recently placed our Auntsfield Estate Single Vineyard 2016 Pinot Noir at the very top of 98 others from New Zealand.

I do not want to encourage a “why buy anything else” attitude so maybe I should not emphasise this. I know that this is about pinot noir, but I just must comment that Decanter magazine gave Auntsfield 2016 Sauvignon Blanc 98/100 and it also topped their extensive list of this variety.

We presently have the 2017. The 2016 pinot noir is $30.40 and the 2017 sauvignon blanc $19.70. You will find Auntsfield wines in our stores, at Discovery Wines and many other wise wine stores.

Placing first on a list of 98 pinot noirs is not too shabby, but I think I can outdo that and tell you that we have some stock of the Auntsfield Heritage 2013 Pinot Noir.

I share what the publication Wine Orbit says about it: “This is totally seductive on the nose, exhibiting mature fruit, smoked meat, clove, black olive and floral characters with hints of dried herb and violet notes. It is impeccably composed on the palate, showing outstanding weight and plush texture, brilliantly enhanced by rich fruit intensity and savoury complexity. The wine offers generosity as well as refinement, leading to a seamless persistent finish. The wine is infused with 100-year-old wine which was produced on this land. At its best now to 2023.” 96/100. $60.90.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit