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Matua Valley Pinot Noir 2012
They began in a ragged tin shed in West Auckland, in 1974. The wines they released from that first vintage immediately placed them amongst the leading group of innovative winemakers. Chardonnay and Gamay Teinturier were not common varieties in New Zealand at that time, and it was the first time Sauvignon Blanc had ever been produced, but they were committed to a new way.
Within a year the success of these wines was being noted. In 1975, the "Burgundy" won the first competition trophy for Matua Valley at the Royal Easter Show. A less publicized triumph was the impression the Sauvignon Blanc had made amongst the other winemakers, leading to the decision to include large quantities of this variety in the first vineyards to be planted in the now famous Marlborough region. In 1976 a new company, Matua Valley Wines Ltd was formed in partnership with another Auckland family, the Margans.
The new foundation allowed Matua Valley to put down more substantial roots, and in 1977, 25 hectares of land was purchased in the beautiful green Waikoukou Valley, 35 kilometers west of Auckland. A new winery was built on the crest of a low ridge overlooking the valley, and the first steps made towards landscaping gardens and establishing a visitors’ center were made. In 2016, the winery was very happy to announce Greg Rowdon as the Chief Winemaker after an 18 year relationship with Matua.
An icon and leading region of New Zealand's distinctive style of Sauvignon blanc, Marlborough has a unique terroir, making it ideal for high quality grape production (of many varieties). Despite some common generalizations, which could be fairly justified given that Marlborough is responsible for 90% of New Zealand's Sauvignon blanc production, the wines from this region are actually anything but homogenous. At the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, the vineyards of Marlborough benefit from well-draining stony soils, a dry, sunny climate and wide temperature fluctuations between day and night, a phenomenon that supports a perfect balance between berry ripeness and acidity.
The region’s king variety, Sauvignon blanc, is beloved for its pungent, aromatic character with notes of exotic tropical fruit, freshly cut grass and green bell pepper along with a refreshing streak of stony minerality. These wines are made in a wide range of styles, and winemakers take advantage of various clones, vineyard sites, fermentation styles, lees-stirring and aging regimens to differentiate their bottlings, one from one another.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay, not Pinot noir. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Village or Cru level wines. So "red Burgundy" still necessarily refers to Pinot noir.