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Aug 31, 2020

The colour of your pinot noir might not be as important as you might think, new research suggests.

A team of 22 “wine professionals” have evaluated 18 New Zealand pinot noir wines, in both clear and opaque glasses.

The professionals concluded factors such as smell and flavour determined the quality of wine more than the colour.

The research was undertaken through the Pinot Noir Programme, managed by the Bragato Research Institute in Blenheim.

“The flavours, aromatic qualities, floral notes and balance are what matters,” she said.

“But when a wine is either judged as very high quality or very low quality, they seem to draw on colour as an added dimension to make their final judgement.

“It goes against the anecdotal evidence that some people have said about pinot noir, and that colour, in fact, is not the driving factor. What the wine smells like and tastes like ... are what drives the quality.”

Bragato Research Institute Pinot Noir Programme manager Dr Matias Kinzurik said the aim of the study was to understand whether “thinning" crop loads was necessary and what made a quality pinot noir. Often winegrowers “thinned” vines to control the yield, as less fruit was often associated as having higher quality.

“What we are trying to assess is first whether this is true because nobody has actually gone out and tried to test this in every possible way,” Kinzurik said.

“It’s just something that people do, so if we can break it, it means we can make a lot more pinot noir - at high quality – and that will really expand the possibilities going forward for the industry.”

The peer-reviewed study also found people associated “herbaceous” wines with lower quality, Kinzurik said.

“Wines that have more perceived ‘green qualities’ or herbaceous which could be grass or oregano flavours, this may be really subtle and not even in high concentrations, but having perceived those, experts think those wines have less quality.

“These findings are really important because we now know what to look for, and we can give this information to our chemists.”

He said the quality of the wine was an "intrinsic concept” as different people liked different wine.

“There's a concept of familiarity here as well. All of our tasters are from New Zealand, so you know if you grew up drinking a particular kind of wine, that’s what you look for unconsciously.

“If we repeated the tastings in France, where people are used to drinking other types of wine, you might not find the same results,” Kinzurik said.

“But for New Zealand, it seems the colour is quite important. So people actively look for darker quality pinot.”

The Pinot Noir Programme began in 2017 and runs to September 2022. The $10.3m programme is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund and New Zealand Winegrowers with research being undertaken by three main providers: Plant & Food Research, the University of Auckland and Lincoln University.

The first peer reviewed study from the Pinot Noir Programme will be published in November 2020.

Source: Maia Hart