Ata Rangi, Felton Road and Mt Difficulty are the only wineries to have been given 5 Stars in the Third Great New Zealand Pinot Noir Classification.

The Pinor Noir classification, which is based on a rolling average rating of the five most recent vintages, was revealed following the biennial Pinot Noir Conference, held in Wellington.

The creation of a New Zealand wine classification has recently become a hot topic following the request for yet more recognised Geographical Indications to be created within the country. However, British wine writer Matthew Jukes and Australian wine writer Tyson Stelzer have been producing the Pinot Noir Classification for five years and publishing it for three.

Jukes said: “It quite simply showcases the excellence of the category and it is the first of its kind on the planet.”

Speaking of the usefulness in having such a hierarchy, Jukes added that the list was created: “To help the trade and consumers decide which are the finest producers of New Zealand Pinot – bearing in mind that only 10 years ago there were only a handful of players and now there are 130-ish, of which around half make it onto this list.”

Mt Difficulty winemaker Matt Dicey said wine appreciation was always a “subjective beast” but it was great to get recognition from widely read critics. The micro-climate of Bannockburn, which is slightly warmer than other Central Otago grape growing areas, promoted a full-bodied pinot with an abundance of natural tannins, Mr Dicey said. Recognition of the estate pinot over five vintages was important because the 120ha winery strived for consistency, he said. Mt Difficulty exports about 15 per cent of its wines – pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay – to the UK and 15 per cent to Australia.

Felton Road winemaker Blair Walter said many of the vineyards around Bannockburn were well established and Felton Road was one of the first Cromwell basin plantings. The 32ha vineyard is planted with 70 per cent pinot noir followed by chardonnay and riesling varieties.

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