kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


New Zealand Pinot Noirs: A Primer

Recently, I interviewed Jay Youmans, wine educator and writer, about New Zealand's rising star--Pinot Noir. Jay is a Master of Wine, and he regularly publishes the International Wine Review with his colleague Mike Potashnik, PhD. Their reports focus on specific varietals and/or wine regions of the world, offering tasting notes and ratings, as well as information on grapes, vineyards, wine styles and winemakers. The current report focuses on NZ Pinot Noir. For more information, visit

Jay's answers are in italics below:

1. Wine critics have said that NZ Pinots may rival those in Burgundy within 10 years. What do you think about that? What wine regions in NZ produce the most Burgundian Pinots?

The wines are very different from Burgundy, much riper and sweeter and spicy due to the types of oak regimes being used.

2. Tell me a bit about the differences in the last several vintages of NZ Pinot Noir.

The most important issue with the recent vintages has not affected quality, but rather quantity. Areas such as Martinborough have been hit hard with spring frosts. This reduces yields, which, theoritically can leade to better fruit. Unlike Burgundy, rain at harvest is less of a problem.

3. What are some of your favorite producers of NZ Pinot?

Quartz Reef
Felton Road
Nga Waka ( I have to disclose that I am involved in a vineyard with them)
Ata Rangi

4. What affect does the state of the art technology in NZ wineries have on the production and quality of Pinot Noir there?

Very little in the winery, other than the use of oak chips and staves (common). It is in the vineyard, using advanced trellis systems to account for the high vigor of the soils.

5. What can you tell me about age-worthiness of NZ Pinots considering many are screw-capped?

I would not age most of these wines more than 5-6 years. Its all about the fruit anyway, and with age that begins to diminish. Screws caps help retain the fruit of these wines.