Until recently, I never considered Pinot Noir from New Zealand. My first was was the te Pa 2015 Pinot Noir from the Awatere Valley region, south of the Wairau Valley. I then tried the Mt. Beautiful 2015 Pinot Noir, harvested from the southern island’s coastal Canterbury/North Canterbury region. The difference between the two regions is remarkable. The Wairau River 2016 Pinot Noir offers yet a third variation, hailing from the heart of the Wairau Valley where the grapes are grown along the valley floor, influenced by the river’s soils, and the mountains protect the land from harsh weather conditions. Yes, the perfect place for the picky Pinot grape it seems — both on paper and in the glass…

About the Wine: The Wairau River 2016 Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from the Wairau River estate vineyards in Marlborough. After harvest, the grapes were cold soaked for 4 days in open-top fermenters. The juice was fermented to complete dryness then transferred to French barriques to age for 10 months.


Flavor Profile: Breathe in bottle aromatics reminiscent of blackberries that have fallen on the damp muddy ground; take a second whiff and be taken to and ocean-side bonfire.

On the pour the Wairau River 2016 Pinot Noir is a very pale rouge with an aura of burnt orange. Once the wine is in the glass, tilt and notice the slow gradation of colors: from a solid rose-rouge at it’s core; to a yellow-orange-rouge toward the perimeter; to a very fine shade of pink at the outermost edge.

Take a strong inhale and find a deep perfume of red roses along with light red fruits like raspberries and strawberries. There’s a solid dose of acidity — so swirl. Swirl and release the freshness of river water; swirl and enliven the brightness and lightness of those berries. Dive the nose deep into the glass to find the thorny branches and cruciferous leaves of the rose bush; pull away to find that delicate perfume quality once again.

On the palate the Wairau River 2016 Pinot Noir is quite light at the forefront with negligible tannins. But wait — there’s more. Indeed, the finish showcases the shadow of those tannins, adding just a bit of texture and a subtle dryness to the tongue at the very end. Dominant flavors are of red cherries, basil, pomegranate, dried cranberries, a hint of vanilla, and the slightest touch of oak wood.

Food Pairing: I paired the Wairau River 2016 Pinot Noir with a cedar plank salmon fillet on top of a strawberry salad seasoned with tarragon and basil herbs and tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. What I loved about this pairing was the salmon — with its smokey flavor, meaty texture, and spice-filled marinade — both brought forward the tannins and, yet, rounded them out when doing so, giving the wine a bit more body and rounder mouthfeel. Meanwhile the salad — chocked full of fruit and herbs — highlighted the vivaciousness of the fruit elements in the wine, giving it an almost juice-like quality.

Perfect pairing? In my book, yes. I’d do it again.

More Info: I received the Wairau River 2016 Pinot Noir as a sample for review in conjunction with the monthly #WineChat on Twitter. (Cheers Christina!) Retail: $25. For more information about Wairau River, their wines, and to purchase wines directly. Please visit the Wairau River Wines website.

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