It took the right bottle of New Zealand pinot noir to get me interested in the category, and I found it the other day with an exceptionally tasty example from the Martinborough sub-region on the southern tip of the North Island, where pinot noir is the signature variety. The area is known for its cool temperatures, dry autumns and low yields, making parallels with Burgundy inevitable. Those conditions, note Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson in “The World Atlas of Wine,” Sixth Edition, give Martinborough’s wineries “the chance to make some of the most vivid and Burgundian pinot noir.” They go on to say that the wines range from “potently plummy to lean, dry and earthy; but then so does Burgundy.”
The wine I enjoyed was the 2009 Pinot Noir called Over the Edge, and the name reminded me that New Zealand is among the regions smitten with creating catchy names for their wines, something that has always given me a bit of pause. If your wine is good, why is it necessary to slap a clever name on it, especially since there are an awful lot of bottles out there with labels that are, to be frank, more interesting that the wines inside them? In any event, the Over the Edge pinot noir will draw people with the name and reward them with what’s inside. I loved its expressive fruit, mainly cherry and blueberry notes, combined with a bit of meat, its earthy minerality and conservative use of oak. And yes, it is Burgundian in style, with refreshing acidity that obscures the fact that alcohol is 14. 5 percent.
The wine is produced by Escarpment Vineyard, whose vines grow in alluvial gravel soils along the Huangarua River and whose winemaker and part-owner, Larry McKenna, is one of New Zealand’s foremost makers of pinot noir. My biggest surprise about this wine was the price. It’s listed at under $15 on several Web sites. Enjoy it with everything from grilled salmon to lamb and duck. Imported by Meadowbank Estates, Alexandria, Virginia. (Received as a press sample.)