This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Friday, April 22, 2005.

New Zealand Pinot

Amid the current craze for Pinot Noir, wine enthusiasts spend a lot of time comparing the Pinots of Burgundy (the arguable benchmark) against those from California's Central Coast (the scene of Sideways), other California growing regions and intriguing Oregon.

But a lot of us tend to forget that a small but growing supply of memorable Pinot is also coming from more distant quarters ... such as, for instance, New Zealand. The beautiful island nation that the Maori called Aotearoa, "the land of the long white cloud," boasts just the kind of long, cool growing season that Pinot loves. Kiwi growing regions increasingly known for Pinot include Martinborough near Wellington on the North Island; the increasingly impressive Central Otago on the South Island, and, the source of today's tasting, Marlborough, at the northern tip of the South Island, a region perhaps more familiar for its trademark Sauvignon Blanc than Pinot.

Kim Crawford, also known for its luscious, fruity "unwooded" Chardonnay and a straight-ahead Sauvignon Blanc, presents an easy-drinking, well-balanced Pinot Noir in this 2003 edition, which is tightly secured - like an increasing number of New Zealand wines - under a sturdy, high-tech metal screwcap that ensures you won't get a cork-tainted wine.

Kim Crawford Kim Crawford 2001 Anderson Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Noir ($13.99)

This is a dark reddish-purple wine, clear in the glass but short of transparent. Good cherry and red-berry aromas with subtle spice are varietally correct. Juicy red fruit and snappy acidity are nicely balanced on the palate, with medium-bodied, velvety texture that says "Pinot." Consistent with other New Zealand Pinots I've tried, it's hard to pin down stylistically: More subtle than the stereotypically California Pinot but more fruit-forward than benchmark Burgundy, it may fall closest to Oregon on the style spectrum. U.S. importer: Philips Hogue, Esparto, Calif. (April 21, 2005)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with Italian sausages cooked with rapini (broccoli rabe) over creamy polenta.

VALUE: Fine value at this price; it would be difficult to find a California Pinot and probably impossible to buy a Burgundy of similar quality for this low-teens price.

WHEN TO DRINK: Pinot is unpredictable in the cellar; good balance and structure suggest that cellaring might pay off, particularly with its sturdy Stelvin-type metal screwcap to ensure cleanness, but it's ready to drink and enjoyable now.

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