Palliser Estate pinot shines

New Zealand produces a mere 0.2 per cent of the world’s wine yet it has a great reputation internationally because of the quality of what they make.

Palliser Estate in Martinborough, at the base of the north island, is one of the country’s oldest and most impressive vineyards. It has a reputation for “over-delivering on value” on the world stage, said managing director Richard Riddiford. The company’s wines are available in 28 countries.

Palliser’s first grapes were harvested in 1989. Today, the estate has 92 hectares that produces mostly pinot noir and sauvignon blanc, along with chardonnay, pinot gris and riesling.

Despite recent expansion, the core Palliser philosophy remains the same as when the first vines went into the ground. “It’s about hard work. It’s about employing the best people,” Riddiford said.

He has driven innovative international marketing initiatives, and travels extensively around the world to make companies aware of Palliser.

The estate was focused on producing wines of the highest quality through environmentally sustainable practices, Riddiford said. “We don’t make a song and dance about it. We want to be a leader in sustainability because it makes sense for the land, for our people and for our business.”

The formula has worked. Airlines have embraced Palliser wines because of their quality. The pinot noir and sauvignon blanc are served in business class on Air New Zealand. Other airlines to adopt Palliser include KLM, Emirates, Qantas, Lufthansa and Cathay Pacific. The estate’s pinot noir and sauvignon blanc were also served at the 2001 and 2002 Wimbledon tennis tournaments.

One of the best of the wines offered at a recent Hong Kong tasting was the 2009 pinot noir. Riddiford said 2009 was the best pinot noir vintage the estate has produced.

Previous versions of this wine have been successful in shows. The 2000 vintage won Australia’s Winestate award for pinot noir of the year in 2002 and the 2001 vintage received New Zealand’s only gold medal at the 2003 London International Wine Challenge.

The 2009 edition smells of dark cherry with a subtle and savoury mushroom taste, combined with lively acid and a deliciously long length. This wine is drinking well now though it would be at its best in a couple more years. It is a wine that would pair well with poultry, pork and highly-seasoned red meats. It won gold medals at the New Zealand international wine show and the 2011 Air New Zealand wine awards.

The Palliser 2007 methode traditionnelle is a relatively new addition to the line-up. The first vintage was in 1989. It is made from hand-picked pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, a 50:50 blend of the classic champagne varieties. Despite being five years old, the wine is still young and elegant, with delicate citrus and white stone-fruit flavours and a soft body that smells of newly-baked bread.

The company has another label, Pencarrow, that it would be unfair to describe as a second tier product because these are wines that continue the company’s tradition of over-delivering on quality for low price. The 2010 and 2011 Pencarrow pinot noirs are some of the best-value pinots that I’ve yet experienced.

These are robust and full-bodied wines that would put to shame burgundies costing four times the price. And they could be cellared for a couple more years, though I would be inclined to drink them now, because they are delicious. They smell of cherries, plums and violets. They are dry and subtle and offer flavours of dark berry fruits, liquorice and spicy plums.

The Pencarrow 2009 chardonnay is one of the best value whites I have encountered for some months. It is a refined and elegant wine that offers tropical fruit flavours with a touch of nutty spices. Winemaker Allan Johnson said this chardonnay had excellent depth and “soft, creamy textures”. The “nutty-nuanced finish” was a highlight of this wine’s development, he said.

In Taiwan, Palliser wines can be found at CellarV Winery Company.

A distributor has yet to be found in Indonesia.

Published in China Post, 2 August 2012, page 10, under the headline “Palliser Estate makes good impress for N Zealand wine”. Find a link here.

Also published in the Jakata Globe, 2 August 2012, under the headline “New Zealand’s Palliser Estate Lives Up to Sterling Reputation”. Find a link here.

About squinn33

Writer and wine lover
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