We have been selling New Zealand Pinot Noirs since the 1993 vintage, prior to which we had no idea they even made Pinot Noir in New Zealand. A Pinot Noir-centric Oregon purveyor went there and hand carried back things like Ata Rangi and Te Mata, and our impression was that this was clearly the start of something significant. In the roughly quarter century that followed, the Kiwis have established themselves as an important Pinot Noir option in this marketplace.
Back then few here had a clear idea of the appellations or general lay of the land, but certain consistent profiles became apparently. Generally New Zealand Pinots are cooler customers and a bit more savory. Sometimes they can be downright sharp and green, perhaps just a bit too ‘cool climate’ for a lot of people’s tastes. But the best examples have a more pronounced fruit core and more rounded edges, but still present their fruit in a more restrained, lifted, cooler-edged manner. It is the ones that hit that happy medium of bright mulberry and dark cherry fruit with enough palate tenderness to give them a broader audience that really present the most viable and distinctive options for Pinot fans.
The best examples play to that, and Hillersden is a new face for us that offers a great look at a wine that is reasonably outgoing yet at the same time distinctly New Zealand. The mulberry, plum and dark cherry fruit has both mineral and savory spice underpinnings, but also possesses a suppler palate-feel and somewhat softer edges to really give a good reckoning of the place without one having to forgive a touch of shrillness far too many other NZ reds have.
The combination in the Hillersden Estate Pinot Noir Marlborough 2016 makes for a compelling drink and the price point is relatively easy on the pocketbook. In other words, we may have found a new player moving forward but this example certainly delivers. Their claim is that they are the only family-owned, single estate producer in Wairu.
We had never heard of this producer before but that may have to do with the fact that their history only goes back to 2015. They are in the upper Wairu Valley, which is a bit further inland and a bit warmer than many of the other Marlborough sites. This would certainly help make the wine fleshier while still preserving the brightness of the flavors. Winemaker Adam Kubrock actually grew up in Walla Walla and made Syrah and other reds but became enchanted with the cool climate winemaking Down Under. This Pinot sees 10 months in 25% new French oak and all of the fruit is farmed sustainably.