Pinot noir is this country’s leading red grape variety both in terms of volume and prestige.

It's not the sort of wine that can be easily mass-produced – the best wines tend to be made in small quantities.

You are unlikely to find them on supermarket shelves. A few hundred cases don’t go far when a wine is allocated to importers in a dozen or more countries. 

In some cases, it would pay to join the winery’s mailing list. You are less likely to miss out and more likely to get a loyalty discount.  

It is always risky when buying a wine that you haven’t tasted, so take any opportunity to sample it before handing over your credit card. 

Visit the winery if you can or go to a 'tastethon' like Winetopia.  

I have selected a handful of reliable pinot noir labels that have consistently performed with distinction over a number of years. 

If you plan to buy a quantity of different pinot noirs, it might be worth inviting a few friends to a super-pinot party. 

Buy some of the wines from my list and split the cost with your friends. If one wine earns a large share of the votes, it might be worth taking orders at the party and negotiating a sharp price from a winery or retailer. 

Prices are from recent vintages and are indicative only. It pays to shop around. Use the wine searcher app to find the best price and most convenient outlet.  

Craggy Range Aroha Te Muna, Martinborough Pinot Noir $170 

Yes, it is a lot of money, but Craggy Range Aroha Te Muna Pinot Noir is a lot of wine. It is a fragrant, floral pinot noir that is rippling with energy. Winemaker Julian Grounds is a perfectionist who knows how to get the best out of his vineyards. He doesn’t settle for second best. A hot prospect for collectors and investors. Drink now to 2033.

Dry River Pinot Noir, Martinborough $100 

From low-yielding vines, this concentrated and slightly controversial wine is regarded by some as too intense and therefore 'un-pinot-like'. I love it, particularly after a decade or more of bottle age. This year's was the first vintage under new ownership, however, the vineyard remains the same and I don’t expect too much change. 

Felton Road Pinot Noir, Central Otago $80-$112 

Felton Road produces four single vineyard pinot noirs and one blended wine. All are reliably excellent with prices ranging from $80 for Felton Road Bannockburn Pinot Noir and $132 for the age-worthy Felton Road Block 3 and Block 5 wines. Highly collectible and dangerously drinkable.  

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir, Martinborough $90

Is this New Zealand’s most age-worthy pinot noir? I don’t know because I keep opening my precious bottles before they reach middle age. These savoury, complex reds are, I imagine, bought by furtive wine lovers who try to keep them a secret so they can at least get their share. For a few dollars more, you can also buy three single vineyard wines that are well worth their price.  

Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir, Martinborough $115

This pinot-centric winery was founded by Larry McKenna, otherwise known as 'Mr Pinot', a man who has made a significant contribution to the development of pinot noir in NZ. Kupe is a seriously age-worthy red that has flagship status in the Escarpment wine list.   

Prophet’s Rock Retrospect Pinot Noir, Central Otago $134 

Bottle-aged wine (they are currently selling the 2017 vintage) from Bendigo, Central Otago’s warmest sub-region. A true thoroughbred that’s built to last. Heroic pinot noir. 

Kusuda Pinot Noir, Martinborough $125 

Founder and winemaker Hiroyuki Kusuda is a perfectionist who makes wonderfully delicate and precise pinot noir. He has become a cult figure among pinot noir worshippers (including me) for his wines. Check the website for availability.   

Neudorf Home Block Moutere Pinot Noir, Nelson $75 

Succulent, silken-textured pinot noir with plenty of flesh on its bones and a rich palette of fruit, spice and floral flavours. It has a proven record of being able to develop with bottle age.   

Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir, Central Otago $120

A flavoursome blend of two vineyards produces a mellow, smooth-textured wine with an array of cassis, dark cherry and savoury/old leather flavours.   

Amisfield RKV Reserve Pinot Noir, Central Otago $120 

RKV stands for 'Rocky Knoll Vineyard', an appealing site in the warm Bendigo sub-region that has been the birthplace of many great wines.