Press Release: Central Otago Pinot Noir Named Best in the World

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Blair and Estelle celebrate!

Blair and Estelle celebrate!

Bald Hills Vineyard from Central Otago has won six trophies at two of the world’s most prestigious wine shows including Champion Red at the International Wine Challenge.


BANNOCKBURN, New Zealand 3rd October, 2007– Winning a Regional and an International Pinot Noir Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2007 was a thrill for Central Otago’s Bald Hills Vineyard, but when this success was repeated the following week with Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005 taking out the Champion Red Trophy at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) Dr Blair Hunt and his wife Estelle realised their vineyard was producing something very special.

The 4th Decanter World Wine Awards Dinner, held in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum early in September, saw winemakers from across the globe celebrating in style amongst the expansive canvases of the museum’s Raphael Room. The New World triumphed with a sizeable collection of awards including a groundbreaking win for New Zealand over Burgundy in the Pinot Noir category with Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005 claiming the International Pinot Noir Over £10 Trophy, having earlier secured the Regional New Zealand Trophy.

The following week at a prestigious gathering at the Grosvenor Hotel in London’s Park Lane, the IWC announced their top 9 Champion awards to the very best wines in the 2007 competition as well as other industry awards. Earlier in this competition, as judges tasted and assessed the 9,358 wines that had been submitted, in what has become the world’s largest blind tasting, Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005 had been named a regional winner with the New Zealand South Island Pinot Noir Trophy. It was also one of 19 international award winners with the International Pinot Noir Trophy. However the ultimate accolade was announced during the awards ceremony where Bald Hills stole the limelight with their Pinot Noir being hailed as the International Wine Challenge 2007 Champion Red.

The final honour was still to come with the announcement of the IWC Planet Earth awards which have been introduced to reflect an important trend in consumer demand, as well as rewarding those who not only excel in winemaking but also put the planet at the heart of their wine making activity. Once again Bald Hills took centre stage and claimed their second champion title with the Planet Earth Sustainability Trophy.

The IWC Co-Chairmen commented that New Zealand was recognised to be leading the way with sustainable wine growing and protecting the environmental integrity of its wine production. Bald Hills Vineyard elected early on in its productive life to take a sustainable path and is an accredited vineyard in the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand program.

“Winning six trophies including four international trophies at such distinguished wine competitions is an incredible honour for us and indeed for New Zealand” said Blair. “Our winemaker Grant Taylor and our viticulturalist Grant Rolston have worked hard to produce the very best they can from our unique vineyard and they should be very proud of their achievements”.

Blair was born in Fiji and met his wife Estelle, a New Zealander, whilst working for CSR there. They then lived in Australia for many years before moving to California where Blair attained his PH.D at the University of Southern California. Returning to Australia, Blair initially worked in academia and then later took on various CEO roles. The Hunt’s decision to move to New Zealand was three fold: they had long-held an ambition to leave the city and return to the land, Estelle had a desire to return to her roots in New Zealand, and they also shared a dream of finding a perfect location to grow Pinot Noir, for which they had developed a great passion over the years.

Bald Hills Vineyard was subsequently established ten years ago with the purchase of eleven hectares that was part of an old sheep station in Bannockburn, Central Otago.

Inspired by the views of the Pisa Range and stunning valleys and rivers, the Hunts immediately set to work to plant the vineyard and to build a lovely vineyard homestead.  “We were awestruck with the Central Otago region” explains Estelle. “The stature and starkness of the terrain is incredibly dramatic yet parts of the landscape remind us of places we’ve lived before”.

Bald Hills Vineyard now comprises 7.5 hectares of vineyard predominantly planted in the Central Otago’s prized Pinot Noir, but they also grow Pinot Gris and Riesling – both of which have won many awards including the Bald Hills Last Light Riesling 2006 which also took medals at this year’s Decanter and IWC awards.  It’s no real surprise that all their wines are so good when the winemaker is Grant Taylor. He is probably the region’s most experienced and awarded winemaker and has crafted Bald Hills Vineyard wines since the first vintage in 2002.

As we all know though, great wines are made in the vineyard and that’s where viticulturalist Grant Rolston comes into his own. Grant acknowledges his role as a “mere custodian of the land” and is very conscious of managing the vineyard in a way that minimises impact on the land by using sustainable vineyard practices. Bald Hills Vineyard has also planted shelter and amenity trees as well as a productive olive grove, with more tree plantings planned to further reduce their carbon footprint.

“For many years Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blanc has dazzled the critics across the world with its exuberant and pungent flavours, but New Zealand is now acknowledged as one of the very few countries to successfully produce Pinot Noir” explains Blair. “With exports rising to proudly place Pinot Noir as New Zealand’s second most exported variety, a Central Otago Pinot Noir is now a “must have” on any premium restaurant or hotel wine list”.

– ends – (922 words)

For further information please contact:

Misha Wilkinson
Tel: +64  210 2200812  / +64 3 445 4456

Blair Hunt – Bald Hills Vineyard
Tel: +64 3 445 3161 / +64 27 229 0032

A range of high resolution photos available on request.

About Bald Hills Vineyard

Located in Bannockburn, Central Otago, Bald Hills Vineyard is situated on a unique 11 hectare site bordered by the barren hills in the Cairnmuir Range (giving rise to the vineyard’s name) and the Kawarau River. Owned by Blair and Estelle Hunt, the mission from the outset has been to make wines that reflect the nature and aspect of the vineyard.   The wine from each vintage is crafted by renowned winemaker, Grant Taylor, who uses only estate-grown fruit to produce wines for the connoisseur. The first plantings at Bald Hills commenced in 1997 and now comprise 7.5 hectares of Pinot Noir (two-thirds of the plantings), Pinot Gris and Riesling which are sustainably managed by viticulturalist Grant Rolston. With soils consisting of wind-blown loess over layers of gravely schist, and a climate punctuated by desert-like hot days, cold nights and a long Autumn, Bald Hills has proven it’s an ideal place for growing Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines with numerous international awards to their credit.

Tasting Note

Bald Hills Pinot Noir 2005

This wine has an uplifted spicy, fruity and floral nose leading into initial flavours of dark berries and cherries with an earthiness on the back palate. A lively acidity and a backbone of tannin ensure a wine which is both drinkable now as well as having all the necessary components to cellar well.

This year it was Bald Hills Pinot Noir’s ripe redcurrant nose, summer fruit palate and impeccable balance that set the wine apart from the 4,761 other red wines judged in the competition…” – (IWC 2007)