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2014 Kusuda Wines Pinot Noir, Martinborough
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Tokyo-born Hiroyuki (known as Hiro) Kusuda trained as a lawyer and worked for Fujitsu, then the Consulate General of Japan in Sydney before throwing it all up to pursue his other love, wine and winemaking. He went to Germany, learned the language, enrolled at Geisenheim and then emigrated to New Zealand to pursue both the Riesling and Pinot grapes – to which a third challenge, Syrah, has now been added. The choice of New Zealand in general and Martinborough in particular apparently came about through tasting the 1992 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir.
Obviously the main market for Kusuda is Japan, where they have developed a cult following, and indeed whence comes the volunteer labour force at harvest time when every grape is rigorously checked before making the cut. Hiro Kusuda is meticulous to an almost fanatical degree, but it explains the exceptional quality and amazing precision of his wines. The Kusuda Pinot Noir was one of the standout wines at the 2013 Pinot Noir Celebration in Wellington, NZ.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.