Good pinot noir under $20 is a treat. A very good one under that price- like the 2007 Whitehaven Pinot Noir Marlborough– is a gift.
In 1994, Greg and Sue White left the financial industry, formed a partnership with winemaker Simon Waghorn and launched Whitehaven winery. They chose New Zealand’s well-known Marlborough region, producing a minuscule 5,000 case in 1995. By the beginning of this decade, success allowed them to purchase 40-acres of vineyards and construct a new winery.
For most wineries in Marlborough and New Zealand, sauvignon blanc is the lead wine, but pinot noir is gaining importance. The country’s cool climate, conducive to white grapes such as sauvignon blanc and riesling, is a challenge for its red wine grapes. In the past, pinot noirs were often acidic and had vegetal aromas and flavors. But with each passing vintage, winemakers and vineyard managers learned the combination of correct clonal selection and planting in specific sites yielded pinot noirs with pleasing fruit and balancing acidity.
The 2007 Whitehaven pinot noir’s shiny red beet color and raspberry, cherry and black peppercorn aromas are captivating. Its medium-body is built around a cornucopia of flavors ranging from rhubarb to blackberry and cherry to cinnamon. Winemaker Waghorn has lassoed New Zealand’s natural acidity and tied it to the delicious ripe fruit, giving the 2007 Whitehaven pinot noir all the vibrancy of a hip-hop dancer.
Pinot noir’s zenith is found in Burgundy, France. New Zealand’s cool climate allows winemakers to produce pinot noirs that have Burgundian traits of brilliant, translucent red color and delicate texture. They are more fruit flavored than Burgundy, and neither as heavy nor containing the high alcohol of California pinot noirs. The 2007 Whitehaven pinot noir is a delicious rendition, and illustrates how care and attention to every winemaking detail can yield a full fruit flavored, balanced wine that is reminiscent of Burgundy’s Cote de Beaune, yet distinctively New Zealand.
Try a glass of the 2007 Whitehaven pinot noir with a classic Burgundian dish of Coq au Vin; a fall vegetable plate of roasted root vegetables, or to match the wine’s color, prepare a red beet tartare (think steak tartare only replace the meat with the beet).
The 2007 Whitehaven Marlborough pinot noir retails for approximately $19.