For the past 30 years, Sauvignon Blanc has been the undisputed heavyweight of the Marlborough wine region, but in recent years another varietal, Pinot Noir, has quietly been building a following of its own. With a market share that’s growing steadily, it seems the voice of Marlborough Pinot Noir is finally being heard.
The New Zealand regions most often associated with Pinot Noir are Central Otago in the South Island, and Martinborough in the North. Yet as many of the Pinot Noir vines in Marlborough settle into their second decade, this region is producing some of New Zealand’s most exciting versions of the varietal. So what exactly is it that makes Pinot Noir from Marlborough so special?
First and foremost, Marlborough famously receives the most sunlight hours annually of any other region in New Zealand. Those long sunny days and cool nights allow the slow maturation of Pinot Noir, resulting in the development of vivid, bright fruit and vibrant wines.
Marlborough is split into multiple sub-regions, and those proving most successful for Pinot Noir lie to the south, below the Omaka and Brancott Valleys, as they tend to feature predominantly clay soils. There are pockets in the northern valleys producing brilliant Pinot Noir as well of course, but the clay of the southern valleys brings delicious, dense character and finely textured tannins. Tempered by the brightness of the fruit, southern valley wines tend to have a silken texture and a beautiful, harmonious balance.
Compared to the spicier, more savoury Pinots of Martinborough and the fruit-forward wines of Central Otago, Marlborough Pinot Noir offers fresh red fruit on the nose – think raspberry and strawberry, with the occasional delicate floral note. This often develops on the palate into deeper, darker flavours of cherry and plum, with a subtle hint of spice. Marlborough Pinot Noir is generally medium-bodied with a crisp acidity, but with a long, gentle finish and subtle minerality. These are enigmatic and classy wines, and most importantly, wonderfully drinkable.
Nautilus began producing Pinot Noir in the mid 90’s, and our maturing vines produce wines that just keep getting better year on year, under the watchful eye of pioneering winemaker Clive Jones and his team. Clive oversaw the development of Nautilus’ specialised Pinot Noir winery, and prides himself on the winery’s low intervention, spontaneously fermented winemaking, which produces wines that reflect the unique terroir of Marlborough. In addition to the flagship Southern Valleys Pinot Noir, Nautilus also produces two limited release, single vineyard wines from the Awatere and Clay Hills vineyards, offering a unique insight into Marlborough’s sub-regional differences.
Keep warm with the help of a generous glass of Nautilus Pinot Noir this winter, and discover the balanced elegance of a Marlborough Pinot Noir for yourself – we think they just keep getting better and better, and it looks like the rest of the world agrees.