Changes are afoot for New Zealand’s next Pinot Noir Celebration. Tessa Nicholson looks at how organisers are raising the bar.
Co-Chair of Pinot Noir NZ 2021, Helen Masters, has been involved in the event since 2007, as winemaker for Ata Rangi. During those years, she has seen an evolution, not only of the variety here in New Zealand, but the event used to promote it. The next celebration, offers the next evolutional stage she says.
“Initially the need was to tell the world New Zealand is here and to look for validation as to our place in the world of Pinot Noir. But as we have become more confident about being known as a serious, complex variation of styles, we need to go even further. I think it is about understanding deeper what it means to be a producer in the Pacific, in a small island called New Zealand.”
Masters says people understand that Pinot Noir is grown throughout the world, from Europe to Japan to Patagonia. So why is New Zealand different? What makes our wine distinct from others? The theme of turangawaewae that emerged at Pinot 2017, will be built on further she says, taking the understanding even deeper.
“We can all talk about turangawaewae, but how do we really understand the place where we are and how do we as stewards and gate keepers really understand what is correct and right for where we are, rather than just take on the learnings from Europe?”
She said the events in two year’s time will focus on just that issue.
“There are complaints around the world that Burgundy is looking more like the New World and the New World is looking more like Burgundy. So how do we stop and look at what it really means to make a Pinot that is from this country?”
Admitting that being the co-chair (along with Penelope Naish) is slightly daunting, Masters says it is also a role filled with excitement and fun. Especially since any event with great food, fantastic wines and interested delegates, has the best head start it could hope for.
“It is about people at the end of the day. About giving them something that is unique. Giving them an experience that takes them beyond their normal day to day life. That’s what we are about, taking people into an experience that is inspirational.”
For the first time in the 20-year history, Pinot Noir 2021 will move outside of Wellington with the event to be held in Christchurch. Masters says the city has been “incredibly pro-active, positive and welcoming.”
“There was an energy out of Christchurch that we couldn’t deny. So, if we are trying to change things up, this is the perfect city.”
Having five Pinot regions within driving distance, (Central Otago, Waitaki, North Canterbury, Marlborough and Nelson) is also a major bonus she says.
The committee are planning a celebration of Pinot Noir that spills out into the city, with events for Cantabrians and visitors, as well as a memorable programme for guests from around the world.
Pinot Noir NZ 2021 will take place in Christchurch from February 22-25.