I also came across three comparable middle aged top level New Zealand Pinot Noirs in my cellar the other day and thought a comparison would be interesting. But before I do this, a little bit about what I value in Pinot Noir.
The graphic on the left shows two typified (and badly drawn) profiles of how a Pinot Noir tastes in your mouth. The first profile is of a wine which opens up and creates the fullest palate on the finish. James Halliday called this the Burgundian fan. The second picture is one of a wine with a big fruit impression upfront, and a leaner finish on the back palate. In my view, the key to a great Pinot Noir is the creation of the Burgundian fan. Not many in the New World of wine can do it.
The first of the NZ Pinot Noirs was the 2005 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir. This wine comes from Martinborough. It has a red cherry palate, quite ethereal, with silky tannins - and yes, it has a Burgundian fan. The wine is still fresh and shows remarkably few secondary characteristics. I enjoyed this a lot (95 points/++).
The second wine is the 2005 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir from virtually next door. This wine has a similar tasting profile, quite feminine, very smooth with silky tannins and good length and a good fan. I would have enjoyed a little bit more grit in this wine, but it was my overall favorite, by a whisker (95 points/++).
The third wine is the 2004 Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir. This wine showed more upfront fruit, mainly the black cherry, typical for Central Otago. This is quite a big and brooding Pinot Noir with some forest floor flavours. It has a nice texture with fine grained tannins. However, the wine did not increase the mouthfeel on the finish (94 points/++).
Each wine was drinking well and had no problem with age. They represented their regions and winemakers in quite a typical way: Martinborough finer with great finishes, Central Otago pretty full on, but also well balanced. These were all excellent examples of great Pinot Noir.