Wine of the Week

Montana South Island Pinot Noir 2008, 13.5%

£6.99 down from £8.99, Waitrose (until 16th Feb 2010)

The thing about Pinot Noir is it usually comes from just one spot. It’s a winemaker thing. Pinot means place. And that’s it.

The trouble with this is as follows. In certain – actually, probably the majority of sites, where the vines are young or the winemakers haven’t quite worked out the intricacies of handling the particularly pernickety Pinot, this can make for wines that just lack that killer edge of complexity or overall harmony that makes the best Pinots shine.

Of course, there are exceptions. Cono Sur’s consistently outstanding varietal Pinot Noir is sourced from across Chile, from southerly Bío Bío to high Alto Maipo. There are some excellent Hautes Côtes or straight Bourgogne blends from Burgundy. Some of Chacra’s excellent Argentine Pinots are blends of different vineyards.

(And we’re just talking about the good Pinots here – not the innocuous, bland stuff that could have been made from pretty much anything.)

Also bucking the trend is Patrick Materman at Montana. One of New Zealand’s largest producers, Montana is owned by drinks multinational Pernod Ricard (as is Jacob’s Creek, Mumm and Lindauer). It’s doing some great work with affordable fizz in New Zealand as well as pursuing a fascinating project into making a super-duper Sauvignon Blanc wine very much in the Old World mould.

Materman, who just recently took over as head winemaker for Montana, is responsible for this excellently conceived blend of Pinot Noir, sourced mainly from Marlborough but with elements from Central Otago and Waipara.

These are the three top Pinot sites in the South Island (some might say all New Zealand, though the Wairarapa boys might ahve something to say about that). And their characters are so brilliantly complementary that you wonder why more people aren’t doing this.

The wine shows smoky, hedgerow fruits on the nose, classic Pinot (as is the pale hue). On the palate it’s elegant and savoury, not particularly heavy or complex, but at this price it works well. Refreshing, food-friendly, versatile and faithful to both the variety and its origins.

Not only that, it’s fantastic value at £6.99.