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The 2013 Sixth Great N.Z. Pinot Noir Classification

By March 26, 2013No Comments
Wine writers Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer have released their sixth ‘Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification’. It is the authors’ recognition of New Zealand’s finest Pinot Noirs, and an excellent talking point with many of the producers listed using the classification as an endorsement of their wines. The classification is a well thought out one that involves a rolling assessment based on the five most recent vintages tasted, so as to provide an up-to-date list. The classification does include some wines where five vintages are not tasted, and these are clearly marked.

The classification is based on the authors’ tastings in New Zealand, Australia and London, with well over 1,000 wines assessed. Jukes and Stelzer make the effort of contacting any Pinot Noir producer in New Zealand whose wines they have not come across and tasted, to obtain samples. Clearly the classification is based on what they have tasted, and is thus not truly comprehensive. However, I see it as a pretty fine effort. Few other people in the world would have put so much effort in doing this, let alone have tasted so many wines. I’d imagine Bob Campbell MW may have tasted more, and one can determine his picks as the best. Similarly for Michael Cooper, who does have a classification system. There are a number of other critics who have put forward their picks as well. I don’t think I’ve tasted enough to make a more definitive list apart from stating a number who have made top wines now and over the years that I enjoy!

Perspectives and Credibiliy
There are critics of the classification that Jukes and Stelzer have put together. Essentially, the degree of comprehensiveness is a major issue for some. Some people prefer to rely on the ratings and medal results of wine judging competitions. There is much to be said for this approach, especially if one uses the results from shows judged in New Zealand, as these are results from judges who are generally much closer to the wines and styles. It can be argued that an outsider’s perspective is just as important, especially as it is the global view that will eventually determine what sells!

The English and Australian outlook of Jukes and Stelzer is thus very desirable. I’ve seen these two writers work, most recently at the Pinot Noir 2013 conference, and they work like demons possessed. They are truly focussed individuals, who have acutely discerning palates, which I generally agree with! Their work ethic is admirable, and their breadth of experience and insatiable appetite for experiencing wines makes them very important and creditable writers. I say “Bravo!” to what they have done.

The 2013 Classification
This year there are 120 estates listed. Jukes and Stelzer report seeing a dramatic rise in the quality of New Zealand Pinot Noirs, and discuss briefly in their accompanying notes the progress of the different regions and the 2010 and 2011 vintages. There are 23 new listings for this classification. 13 of the existing listings have promoted up a level or more. Rippon Estate now joins Ata Rangi, Bell Hill, Felton Road and Mt Difficulty at the highest level of 5-Stars.

I’m sure that Jukes and Stelzer, though very proud of their work over the last six years on their classification would not see their classification as the ‘be all and end all’ of rating New Zealand Pinot Noir. They would see it as their serious approach at putting some order and continued recognition of the finest estates in a country that is producing significant and exciting Pinot Noir wines on the world scene. Agree or disagree, it’s certainly a starting point or talking point, if not accurate and significant guide to what is best, and those aims are admirable. www.matthewjukes.com www.tysonstelzer.com

* * *  Click here to view the 2013 Sixth Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification and accompanying notes by Matthew Jukes and Tyson Stelzer. * * *

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