Tasting Reviews

Martinborough Vineyard New and Current Releases

Paul Mason - Martinborough Vineyard

It has been four years that the iconic Martinborough Vineyard has operated under the Foley Family Wines ownership. As with Marlborough wineries Vavasour and Grove Mill, and Martinborough winery Te Kairanga, we have seen the benefits of consolidation and investment in vineyard and plant. Paul Mason remains as the winemaker in charge, being with the company since 2004, assisted by Phill McArthur, and they share the services of viticulturist Dave Shepherd with Te Kairanga. The team work closely with the other Foley Family Wines personnel, including those in Marlborough, and especially with chief group winemaker Alastair Maling MW, and no doubt soon with the staff of Mt Difficulty, of which Foley’s purchase of is undergoing Overseas Investment Office approval.

Martinborough Vineyard has returned to focussing on what it does best – making Martinborough wine, particularly Pinot Noir. The basis is 11 ha of ‘Home Block’ vineyards on the Martinborough Terrace and 35 ha on Fraters Road, south of the village, the vines there based on clay soils. These estate vineyards practically supply all the 180-200 tonnes of fruit that Paul and Phill make into the 15,000 cases of ‘Martinborough Vineyard’ and ‘Te Tera’ wine. Around 8,000 cases of the production is now Te Tera Pinot Noir! The company also draws a small amount of fruit from the ‘Manu’ block to make Riesling and the ‘Moy Hall’ block to make Syrah/Viognier. The ‘Russian Jack’ brand which incorporated fruit from Marlborough has now become a ‘Foley Family Wines’ brand, which Paul and his team have no major involvement with. 

The Martinborough Vineyard winery formerly processed up to 300 tonnes yearly, so there has been no need for further expansion. However, where input has gone in is in the vineyards. As with many vineyards across the country, Martinborough Vineyard is dealing with the health issues that can dog older vines, the company’s plants amongst the oldest in the district coming up to forty years old. Under performing, diseased and virus-affected vines are being replaced, more often than not by new clonal material.

These adjustments to Martinborough Vineyard have allowed Paul and his team to improve the quality of the wines, and I believe I have seen this recently. Paul has always preferred making wines of elegance, and this is becoming clearer. The wines are not blockbusters or statement wines, but lack for nothing in concentration, with aromatic beauty a feature. In a blind judging, an inexperienced judge could easily overlook the quality of such wines, so it was a pleasure to go through a range of current and new releases with Paul backgrounding them. My notes on the wines follow. www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz

The Tasting
Six wines were presented, three white and three reds, identity known. I made notes at the time, but I also looked at the wines later, by myself to obtain more detail. Here they are in order of tasting.

Martinborough Vineyard ‘Manu’ Martinborough Riesling 2017
Bright, pale straw-yellow colour, with slight green hues, near colourless on the rim. The nose is soft and refined with elegant and harmoniously melded aromas of lime and lemon fruit with subtle musky botrytis notes and a hint of spice, unfolding honeysuckle and savoury minerals. This has freshness at the core. Medium-dry to taste and light-medium bodied, the palate has a fresh, tightly bound heart with a rounded core of lime and lemon fruit with honeysuckle, ginger and musky notes. The mouthfeel is soft with a fine fruit-extract texture, and the wine is underlined by soft, lacy acidity. The flavours flow with positive energy to a lingering finish. This is a softly concentrated, rounded medium-dry Riesling with lime and lemon fruit and honey and musk detail on a fine-textured palate line with lacy acidity. Match with Asian fare over the next 4+ years. Fruit from the ‘Jackson Block’, vines 28 y.o., with approx. 10% botrytis, fermented in stainless-steel to 10.5% alc. and 15 g/L RS, TA 8.7 g/L and pH 2.86, the wine aged 4 months on lees. 18.0+/20 Jun 2018 RRP $28.00

Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Brilliant, light straw-yellow colour, pale on the rim. The nose has softly fresh aromas of gooseberries and green stonefruits, showing greengages and nectarines along with snow peas and herbs. This has poise and subtle mineral elements. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has restrained flavours with a rounded, deep core of green stonefruits with gooseberries and herbs. The fruit has good richness, and the mouthfeel is enlivened by fresh, zesty acidity. The fruit forms a light-textured core and line, and the wine carries to a slightly grippy, textural finish. This is a moderately concentrated oak-influenced Sauvignon Blanc with gooseberry and green stonefruit flavours with some richness, texture and crispness. Match with herb-marinated seafood and white meat dishes over the next 3 years. Fruit from the Martinborough Terrace, cool-fermented in stainless-steel with 10% in seasoned French oak to 12.5% alc. and 3.38 g/L RS, the oaked portion aged 4 months in barrel. 18.0/20 Jun 2018 RRP $20.00

Martinborough Vineyard ‘Home Block’ Martinborough Chardonnay 2016
Bright straw-yellow colour with pale golden hues, lighter on the rim. The nose is elegantly presented with softly interwoven layers of white and yellow stonefruits and citrus fruit with savoury mealy elements. This has good depth and a rounded creaminess from the barrel-ferment, and nutty oak notes. Medium-full bodied, the palate has rich, intense and elegantly concentrated flavours of ripe yellow stonefruits and citrus fruits with mouthfilling mealy and nutty complexities, unveiling subtle barrel-ferment creaminess and some MLF butteriness. The acidity is fresh and balances the richness. The fruit builds to form a concentrated and powerful heart, and the wine carries to a long, softly layered, complex finish. This is a rich and harmoniously layered Chardonnay with stonefruit, mealy and nutty notes on a palate with subtle, underlying power and fine mouthfeel, the flavours with complexing detail. Approx. equal amounts old vine Mendoza and clone 95 fruit from the Martinborough Terrace, hand-picked and WBP, and indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 22% new French oak with batonnage and 75% MLF. 18.5+/20 Jun 2018 RRP $55.00

Martinborough Vineyard ‘Te Tera’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2017
Moderately deep and dark ruby-red with slight purple hues, lighter on the rim. The nose is softly fresh with medium deep aromas of cherries and strawberries with raspberry notes, along with fresh and dark herbs, unfolding red floral elements. This is up-front, pretty, fragrant and uncomplicated. Medium-bodied, the palate is gently sweet and elegant with soft flavours of strawberries and cherries, and subtle raspberry notes. The palate is fresh and lively with mouthwatering acidity, and the fruit is supported by light, supple tannin extraction. As the wine flows, red florals and dark herbs emerge and carry to a lively, lingering finish with brisk acidity. This is a gently sweet and up-front Pinot Noir with fragrant strawberry, cherry and floral fruit with some herb notes and lively acidity and easy tannins. Match with antipasto, tuna, salmon and poultry dishes over the next 3-4 years. Fruit predominantly from Fraters Road, mainly Dijon clones, vines younger at 8-22 y.o. fully destemmed and indigenous yeast fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 15% new French oak. 17.5/20 Jun 2018 RRP $30.00

Martinborough Vineyard ‘Home Block’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015
Moderately deep ruby-red colour with some depth, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is softly full and harmonious with good volume, the aromatics gently building and unfolding layers of dark-red berry fruits with a deep core of dark herbs and subtle notes of earth and a suggestion of whole bunch stalk perfume adding detail. An array of soft-red florals unfold. The aromatics show gentle ripeness and richness. Medium-bodied, the palate has gently full and rich, subtly mouthfilling flavours layered with red berry fruits, red florals and subtle notes of dark herbs with a little earthy complexity. The fruit possesses richness and an elegantly concentrated heart with underlying power, supported by fine-grained tannin extraction and structure. The palate has positive drive and carries to a sustained finish, This is a gently full, rich and layered Pinot Noir with sweet, mouthfilling flavours of red fruits, florals and dark herbs, a little earth, and fine-grained extraction with power and linearity. Match with duck and pork, lamb, beef and venison over the next 6-8+ years. Fruit from the oldest vines in the Martinborough Terrace, approx. 50% Abel clone, hand picked and indigenous yeast fermented with 10% whole bunches to 14.0% alc., the wine spending 24 days on skins and aged 12 months in 23% new French oak. 19.0-/20 Jun 2018 RRP $68.00

Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough Syrah/Viognier 2015
Dark, deep, ruby-red colour with black hues at heart, lighter on the rim with a little purple. The nose is elegantly presented with a rounded, but deep and well-packed core of ripe blackberry fruit and dark raspberries entwined with black pepper and hints of white pepper, along with violet florals. Nuances of dark herbs and a little earthiness emerges with aeration. Medium-bodied, the palate has rich and luscious flavours of blackberries and dark raspberries with soft violet floral notes with dark herbs, and pepper. The mouthfeel is smooth and near slippery in flow, with fine-grained flowery tannin extraction and good acid freshness lending liveliness. The flavours carry to a long finish showing pepper, herbs and spices. This is an elegantly concentrated, rich, slippery flowing Syrah/Viognier with blackberry and raspberry fruit, florals, pepper and herbs, with fine-grained structure and freshness. Match with Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine over the next 4-5+ years. Made yearly since 2006 inclusive, except in 2007 and 2011. A blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier (mostly as skins), from the ‘Moy Hall’ vineyard, co-fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine spending 21 days on skins and aged 15 months in 1 y.o. French oak barrels. 3 barrels (75 cases) made. 18.5-/20 Jun 2018 RRP $48.00


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