The Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification 2019

Matthew Jukes and I are proud to announce The Eighth Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification to highlight New Zealand’s finest pinot noirs.

New in 2019

In 2019, The Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification highlights 121 estates, representing less than the top quarter of New Zealand’s 512 pinot noir makers. This reinforces the strength of endorsement of achieving even our One Star rating. Every estate awarded a coveted position in this list is producing this beguiling grape variety at a level of sophistication that we believe is worthy of your attention.

2019 marks 15 years since Matthew first proposed a classification to celebrate New Zealand’s best pinot noirs, and more than a decade since our inaugural 2008 Classification, featuring just 40 estates. The landscape of New Zealand pinot noir has changed dramatically over this time. Back then, the market was rife with hopeful upstarts making wines from young vines. Such was the infancy of New Zealand pinot noir that production exploded by 632% in the decade prior to 2008. In the decade since, it has increased less than 7%.

With maturing vines and maturing minds, New Zealand pinot noir has come of age on the global stage, and in spite of such tiny growth in production over the past decade, exports have mushroomed by more than 130%. New Zealand pinot noir is settling into its place on the great wine lists of the world.

But the wider world of pinot is also fast on the move and its key players have stepped up their game, most notably in Burgundy, Australia and Oregon. In 2008, we introduced our inaugural Classification by proposing that ‘there is much work to do with pinot noir in New Zealand’. And in a very real sense, while the landscape has moved on, this mandate has not. When it comes to navigating the convoluted world of this finicky grape and narrowing down the New Zealand pinots worthy of your table, this classification is as pertinent today as it was in those first, heady days.

Rising Stars

We congratulate two estates worthy of the highest commendation in ascending to our top tier Five Star Classification this year. For more than a decade, this tier has always hovered between three and five estates, now a record seven, thanks to Dry River and Pegasus Bay.

A further nine estates are to be applauded on their superb performance in recent years, and have been promoted one or more levels based on our rolling five year classification: Akitu, Bald Hills, Doctors Flat, Hunter’s, Prophet’s Rock, Rockburn, Terra Sancta, The Elder and Two Rivers.

We are delighted to also welcome 29 estates to the Classification for the first time in 2019: Alexander, Brightwater, Ceres, Chinamans Terrace, Crater Rim, Domain Road, Eon of Bendigo, Folium, Georgetown, Greystone, Lime Rock, Lynfer, Mondillo, Mount Michael, Nevis Bluff, Opawa, Ostler, Seifried, Shaky Bridge, Sherwood, Sileni, Stoneleigh, Te Hera, The Darling, Tinpot Hut, Tosq, Ward Valley, Wild Rock, and especially Charteris for debuting at Three Stars.

Rolling Classification

The Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification is a rolling classification, based on an average assessment of the five most recent vintages, so as to provide an up-to-date evaluation every year, while maintaining the perspective of recent history. Estates which are performing well now, but which were not producing wine of the same standard (or not producing wine at all) five years ago, are ranked accordingly. Light font is used to position estates for which we have yet to taste five vintages. This rolling classification has been carefully devised to highlight producers who make consistently excellent wines year after year. This is a purposeful contrast to static classifications such as the famous Bordeaux 1855 Classification, sporadic endorsement from wine show success, or critiques of a single vintage release.

An estate worthy of One Star has produced pinot noir that averages a silver medal standard in our assessment over the past five vintages. Five Stars are reserved for estates consistently performing at top gold medal standard.

This body of work has taken 15 years to research and a tremendous amount of attention is put into its update. Every winery’s position is considered at great length. The entire range of pinot noirs from each producer is tasted, but it is ultimately the estate wines which set the standard, not the most expensive reserve or single vineyard wines. An estate’s inclusion is based wholly and exclusively on the standard of its pinot noir wines and not on any other factors.

To ensure this Classification is as comprehensive as possible, we work tirelessly throughout the year to taste every New Zealand pinot noir we can. This Classification is the culmination of tastings of some sixteen vintages and 512 estates.

While the scope and complexity of this Classification does not permit us to provide commentary on every placement and every wine, we both publish extensively on New Zealand pinot noir in many publications throughout the year and readers interested in further detail can follow us at www.matthewjukes.com and www.tysonstelzer.com.

We are very proud of The Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification 2019 and will continue to finesse and improve this work, in order to offer consumers and the wine trade an accurate and up-to-date assessment of the dynamic and thrilling landscape of the finest pinot noirs of New Zealand.

This body of work is created independently without funding or sponsorship and is offered as a download freely for open circulation.

Tyson Stelzer and Matthew Jukes