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General Blog




Palliser Estate 2017 Barrel Sample Pre-Tasting


18-Dec-2017
I look forward to tasting the Palliser Estate tank and barrel samples of yet-to-be released wines. I find that the wines of Palliser Estate are excellent representations of the Martinborough region, as their vineyards are spread out in different areas, and the various clones and varieties are represented like no other in the district. A quick visit to Palliser Estate with some U.K. visitors and some quality time with winemaker Allan Johnson was extremely useful in understanding the wines from 2017. This has been deemed a "challenging vintage” due to the effects of two cyclones resulting in rain in the crucial harvesting period. However, as they say, the "proof is in the pudding” and only tasting the resultant wines will give a more definitive impression.

My understanding is that the growing season was generally a little cooler, but not necessarily significantly so in the Wairarapa. The forecasted rain events meant that some of the fruit was picked earlier than preferable, whereas some varieties and vineyard sites were left to ‘weather’ the rain events, as experience had indicated that there would not show undue deterioration by doing so. Both strategies were employed, and with success, as with the former approach, there seemed to be sufficient phenolic ripeness achieved, despite lower sugars, and with the latter approach, the incidence of disease and fruit degradation was minimal, and non-existent in some cases. www.palliser.co.nz
Allan Johnson - Palliser Estate

Some 2017 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Barrel Samples
Allan Johnson took our group through a tasting of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir barrel samples to show us what the 2017 vintage has yielded. We were very pleased with what we saw. The wines are lighter than the immediate previous vintages, but were fresh and aromatically fruity, with some acid tension apparent, and well-expressed and handled textures. My notes follow.

Chardonnay 2017, clone 15 from the ‘Om Santi’ vineyard, in 3 y.o. oak
Pale straw-yellow colour. An elegant bouquet with white stonefruits and nutty notes, the oaking very subtle. On palate very elegant, with citrus and white stonefruits. Lovely acid edge, with nutty and marzipan notes carrying with good length.

Chardonnay 2017, young vines, clone 548 from the ‘Palliser’ vineyard, in 1 y.o. Rousseau oak
Light straw-yellow colour. This is fresh and taut, but with good intensity, showing white stonefruits and subtle citrus fruit notes, moderate richness and with spicy oak aromas. On palate, this has richness from the fruit as well as spicy oak. Good elegance and appropriate proportion and weight. A fine line and length from the acidity.

Pinot Noir 2017, clone 667 from the ‘East Base’ vineyard, vines 20 y.o., in an old barrel
Pale red colour. The nose has strawberry and raspberry aromas, this is very attractively fragrant and pure with soft-red florals. On palate quite elegant, lighter, but with good fruit clarity of red berry fruit entwined with red floral lift. The acidity is a feature, and the tannin extraction light.

Pinot Noir 2017, clone 115 from the ‘East Base’ vineyard, in a 1 y.o. barrel
Pale red colour, this nose shows dark-red berry fruit with dark floral lift. On palate the dark-red berry fruit shows with good depth and intensity, the florals a little darker with violet notes. This has fine tannins, and a thread of edgy acidity, and good length.

Pinot Noir 2017, clone 115 from the ‘Wharekauhau’ vineyard, with 10% whole bunch
Light colour, the primary fruitiness is the feature, with good aromatic depth and density of dark-red and hints of black fruits, but also a subtle layering of whole bunch herb fragrances. Quite rich on the palate, with fruit sweetness, matched by good structure and underlying power. Fruitiness and savoury interest here.

Pinot Noir 2017, Abel clone from the ‘Clouston’ vineyard, 3rd fill barrel
Light in colour. This has a full nose with good aromatic volume and layers of dark-red fruits with savoury herb/undergrowth complexities, Classic Abel expression here. Plenty of structure on the palate with a complex amalgam of savoury flavours, all underpinned by fresh acidity and fine tannin extraction. This has good interest and reasonably serious mouthfeel.

Pinot Noir 2017, MV6 clone from the ‘Winery’ block, in an older, seasoned barrel
Light ruby-red colour. The nose is bright with up-front fruit aromatics, showing raspberry notes with peppery and subtle fresh herb lift. Bright and juicy on palate, the dark raspberry fruit the feature. The fruit is enlivened by fresh acidity, and there is good balancing structure and extract. A luscious finish. This clone has much to offer.

Some Conclusions
The 2017 wines tasted are indeed somewhat lighter than those of previous vintages 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. The lightness is accompanied by cooler fruit expression, and less fruit sweetness and richness. However, the aromatic intensity and fragrant beauty of the wines – both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir was intensified. The fruit has attractive clarity and transparency.

With the Pinot Noir, the colours were light, but as the adage goes, you can’t judge Pinot Noir on its colour, as the aromatic nature, and fruit still came through well. The acidity levels of all the wines are elevated, but not overly so, and this may be more a function of taste and balance, rather than increased acidity per se. It will be a matter of sensitive elevage of the young wines to ensure that balanced and appealing wines are released

The lighter and more elegant wines from 2017 are really ‘just’ another expression of different vintage conditions. I’m disappointed that several commentators see 2017 as a disaster, or have written off the vintage as worthy of attention. I believe there have been and will be many excellent wines come from this vintage. An open mind an appreciation of the beauty of elegance is important.
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