Central Otago and Martinborough have the reputation, but about half of New Zealand's Pinot Noir volume is grown in the Marlborough region. I enjoyed some Villa Maria Pinot Noirs from the region in the past, so I was looking forward to this more comprehensive review.
There are three sub-regions in Marlborough: the flats along the river (this is premier Sauvignon Blanc country), the Southern Valleys and Awatere, south of the ridge. The better Pinot Noir is grown in the last two sub-regions. Overall, however, this tasting was disappointing and demonstrated that Pinot Noir from Marlborough still has a long way to go. It simply does not yet achieve the intensity and complexity of Central Otago and Martinborough.
My favorite wine was the Greywacke Pinot Noir, which showed darker fruit, more weight, but good balance (92 points). Also from the Southern Valleys was the TerraVin Hillside Pinot Noir with a similar profile, but quite closed at present (91 points). I also enjoyed the Foxes Island Belsham Awatere Pinot Noir, which had good intensity and balance (91 points). A lighter wine, more feminine and elegant is the Saint Clair Block 14 Doctor's Creek Pinot Noir (91 points).
Quite a number of wines, lighter in style, would fall into a rating of 88-90 points:Astrolabe, Churton, Cloudy Bay (the Mustang has more fruit intensity), Dog Point, Framingham, Hans Herzog, Jules Taylor (a soft, easy drinking style), Wither Hills (a bit fruity) and Villa Maria with their Reserve, Southern Clays and Taylor's Pass.
Overall, this Pinot Noir festival was well organised. Pretty much all major players participated, and I got around to taste a good selection of their wines. There were no great surprises in the regional aspects of the wines' flavours and structures. With the competition intensifying and the vines aging, the future looks bright for consumers of New Zealand Pinot Noir.