Towards a concensus on New Zealand Pinots: 40 wines in 40 minutes

The New Zealand Wine Fair came to Montreal two weeks ago at the height of my hosting duties for WBW 33. What does a good host do when he himself gets invited as a guest*? He attends, and drinks 40 wines in 40 minutes, takes a few photos and then gets back to work.

By the end of WBW 33 and its "Mid-priced wines of the Midi" theme, I claimed to have tasted 40 Languedoc-Roussillon wines in about 40 days. That was in addition to the "virtual tasting" of 40 wines submitted to this site by WBW 33 participants. At the New Zealand Wine Fair, my first wine expo, I figure I tasted 40 wines in 40 minutes. With diverting snacks and freshly-prepared food dishes, conversation with passionate Kiwi winemakers and some discussion and note-taking on the wines themselves with my tasting partner, I easily spent a couple of hours at the Fair, but it still felt like a whirlwind compared to WBW 33. What's more: it is not easy to taste that many wines in that little time. I was surprised and sympathetic for the Michel Phaneufs and Jancis Robinsons of the world.

churton at the montreal wine fair on new zealand wines marche bonsecours hosted the fair in its balroom

Mathieu Turbide of Méchant Raisin is a local voice in wine and he posts a lot of tastings for his readers. Even though he writes in French, I'm sure even most Anglo oenophile can appreciate this recent round-up of rosés he did last week. It basically is everything in the SAQ catalog, rated and described for the rosé drinker in Quebec. If it's pink and on sale in this province, Mathieu's got it. (I love a good rosé guide for local shoppers -- last year it was the Caveman who launched a valiant effort.)

Anyway, it turns out that Mathieu spent time at the Fair too and posted on it. He titles it New Zealand Attacks and that's definitely how it felt for me going from table to table, cleansing and recleansing my palate, not ever spitting but sometimes dumping, getting the inevitable buzz though the serving sizes were thankfully modest.

Though I am an amateur and Mathieu is a professional, we selected the same three Pinots as the best in show. That is reassuring because though wine writers can wield expertise, not all of them necessarily allow you to identify with their palate, and that is what I value most in a wine review/wine reviewer.

The New Zealand Wine Fair's top Pinots are produced by some names that are worth retaining: Carrick, Churton (pictured at right above), and Mt Difficulty. I also noted Waitiri Creek, Waimea (Nelson) and the distinctive Bordeaux-like blends of Alpha Domus but apparently these names aren't available at the SAQ. Check out Mathieu's post for official availability, and vintage and descriptive notes.

What is also reassuring is that the best at the Fair are already in the SAQ catalog so apparently those SAQ buyers who are out there working so that we can drink well deserve some of the credit too, though every NZ producer I talked to would tell me that they were in the midst of on getting on SAQ shelves. I wouldn't hold my breath, unless New Zealand really is attacking, in which case, watch out.

Even though the Fair itself features more wine, both red and white, than you can appreciate (I had to focus on Pinot Noir for example), the producers involved were nothing more than a drop in the New Zealand wine-producing bucket.

Elsewhere, Vinography has reported on the Fair heading to San Francisco. It would be interesting to see which of the wines that our intrepid Alder tastes gets the thumbs-up.

* actually the guest was a friend of mine who works in translation -- he passed on the comp ticket to me when he could not attend... a big thank-you for that.


Joe said...

Thanks for this review, and for putting me onto Mathieu. I'm on the road, blogging as best I can...

Marcus said...

I see you're posting from Chicago. Have fun!

semi.superlative said...

jeez... i see they're bringing back the power-hour (or close to...).

heading to sideways country tomorrow... we'll see if i don't get run off the road by the old people on a wine tourism binge.

Marcus said...


These tastings are definitely not for the faint of heart. Power hour is not far off.

I hope you come back here more frequently because my two more recent posts are about wine running off the road and a personal concern of yours: Search engine referral fun!

Joe said...

Yep - Chicago was fun, but too busy to blog (ok, not too busy to blog, but too busy to visit the friends!). Will catch up on that this week, as I have a couple of notes waitinng...