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Featured Reviews




Escarpment Vineyard 2014 Chardonnay and 2015 ‘Pahi’, ‘Kiwa’, ‘Te Rehua’ and ‘Kupe’

06 April,2017
2015 is an unprecedented third outstanding vintage in a row for the Martinborough district. (2016 will make it a fourth!) The 2013 vintage ‘Insight’ single vineyard Pinot Noirs of Larry McKenna and Huw Kinch of Escarpment Vineyard in Martinborough were of such an exceptional standard that their quality resulted in my awarding Escarpment Vineyard as ‘Winery of the Year’ at the end of 2015. The 2014 releases of these wines were practically at the same level, the ‘Te Rehua’ and ‘Kupe’ rated as my top Pinot Noirs tasted in 2016. The 2014s came from a season marginally warmer than 2013, and the wines have slightly more fruit intensity. The 2013s had an edge of nervosity which in my opinion gave them the edge. The Escarpment single vineyard wines, regardless of vintage, have a proven consistency of site expression and terroir.

The 2015 Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noirs are to be released at the start of next month, 1 May. The vintage, as noted above, is also an exceptional one, with a ‘normal’ summer and yields a little below average. Harvest conditions were perfect, with no rain or threat of dilution or disease. Larry reports that they picked the grapes exactly when they wanted to. I tasted these wines from barrel in January last year (click here to see my report), and felt them to be beautifully fresh and elegant with classical expression of fruit and place. From the Escarpment Vineyard view, they incorporate their growing confidence in maceration and extraction techniques, the increased usage of whole clusters in fermentation as well as greater new oak support. Larry and Huw are extremely pleased with the wines, and I share their enthusiasm, based on my barrel tastings.

Here, I review the 2014 Escarpment Chardonnay, showing the evolving handling of this variety, and the 2015 Martinborough district blend plus ‘Insight’ single vineyard Pinot Noirs ‘Pahi’, ‘Kiwa’, ‘Te Rehua’ and ‘Kupe’. The Pinot Noirs show a remarkable consistency of ripe black fruits and considerable structure and complexity. The wines, including the district blend have a uniformity of power and strength showing the nature of the vintage and matching winemaker inputs. Yet the vineyard specific personalities come through clearly in the single vineyard wines. At Pinot Noir 2017, I was particularly excited by the ‘Te Rehua’ and ‘Kupe’, giving the nod to the latter (click here to see my report). On tasting the wines for ‘Feature Reviews’, the ‘Te Rehua’ pips the ‘Kupe’. As Larry would say, "it all depends on the day how they will show”. Whichever day it is, these are wonderful and serious wines. www.escarpment.co.nz

FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW



Escarpment Martinborough Chardonnay 2014

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

18+/20
Bright, even straw-yellow colour with slight lemon-green hues, lighter on the rim. The bouquet is firm and tightly concentrated with robust aromas of white stonefruits melded with layers of gunflint and minerally lees, along with nutty oak and aldehyde elements. The aromatics and complexity grow in breadth and depth with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate is rich and fulsome with robustly mouthfilling and deep flavours of white stonefruits entwined with nutty oak, flinty lees and reductive elements, along with subtle aldehyde and oxidative detail. The fruit is enlivened by fresh, lacy acidity and the wine flows with underlying alcohol power along a fine-textured line, leading to a thirst-quenching vibrant and sustained finish with nutty nuances. This is a fulsome and robust Chardonnay with white stonefruit, nutty oak and flinty, reductive and complexing nuances with a lively and fine-textured palate in the style of traditional white burgundy. Match with poultry, pork and veal dishes over the next 4+ years. Clone 95 fruit from the estate Te Muna Road vineyard, indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 11 months on lees with batonnage in 20% new French oak with 50% MLF, then transferred to tank for a further 5 months lees aging. 18.0+/20 Apr 2017 RRP $30.00

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

18.5+/20
Dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour with slight purple hues and some depth, a little lighter on the rim. This has a full and deep nose packed with aromas of dark-red and black-berried fruits along with a complex amalgam of savoury dark herbs and whole bunch stalk notes, lifted with aromatic fruit and floral elements. This has excellent intensity. Medium-full bodied, the palate has rich, vibrant and well-concentrated flavours of ripe dark-red and black berried fruits along with dark herbs and balanced whole bunch stalk nuances. The mouthfeel is fresh and lively with excellent vitality, and the fruit underlined by fine-grained background tannin structure. This carries to a long, well-concentrated finish, revealing dark raspberry and floral elements. This is a rich, vibrant, sweet dark-red and black fruited Pinot Noir with a fresh mouthfeel and supporting structure, and subtle dark herb and whole bunch complexities. Match with poultry and pork, and roasted red meats over the next 6-7+ years. Multi-clone blend of fruit from Te Muna Road and Martinborough township, indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunches to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 18 days on skins and aged 11 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 18.5+/20 Apr 2017 RRP $45.00

Escarpment ‘Pahi’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

19+/20
Dark, deep, black-hearted ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, lighter on the edge. The nose is refined in expression with a core of ripe black cherry and berry fruit entwined with dark-red and black florals, with finely integrated savoury dark herb and whole cluster stalk suggestions. Subtle notes of liquorice emerge, and the aromatics grow in depth, intensity and volume with aeration. Medium to medium-full bodied, the palate has elegantly concentrated and intense flavours of black cherries and liquorice with subtle spice notes, unveiling black florals and integrated and harmoniously interwoven dark herb and whole bunch complexities. The palate has a concentrated core with fine-grained, flowery tannin structure and refined acidity. Floral elements unfold and carry through to an aromatic, lingering finish of finesse. This is an elegantly concentrated, refined Pinot Noir with ripe black fruits, florals, liquorice and spice notes, integrated with whole bunch detail and flowery structure. Match with wild duck and pork dishes over the next 6-8+ years. A blend of clones 10/5, Abel and 5 from the McCreanor ‘Pahi’ vineyard, Princess Street, vines 28 y.o., indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunches to 13.1% alc., the wine spending 17 days on skins and aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barriques. This is the last ‘Pahi’ made by Escarpment. 19.0+/20 Apr 2017 RRP $70.00

Escarpment ‘Kiwa’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

19/20
Even, dark ruby-red colour, a little lighter on edge with a suggestion of garnet. The nose is softly full and beautifully balanced and integrated with harmonious aromas of savoury dark-red and black cherry fruit, along with earthy elements, dark and dried herbs, unfolding a soft layering of whole bunch stalk complexities, This ha subtle spicy and funky nuances and the nose is quite complete. Medium-full bodied, the palate has stylishly restrained flavours of ripe black-berried fruits in a complex amalgam of savoury whole bunch stalk, dark and dried herb notes with earthy and spicy elements. The fruit is encased by fine, grainy tannin extraction and considerable structure that carries the wine to a long, textural finish of black fruits and savoury and earthy flavours. This is a complex, savoury black-fruited Pinot Noir with earth, whole bunch and herbal complexities on a well-structured and textural palate. Match with casseroles and slow cooked game meat dishes over the next 8-9+ years. A blend of clones 5, 6 and 13 from the Cleland ‘Kiwa’ vineyard, Cambridge Road, vines 28 y.o., indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunches to 13.4% alc., the wine spending 21 days on skins and aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barriques. 19.0/20 Apr 2017 RRP $70.00

Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

19.5+/20
Full, black-hearted ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, a little lighter on the rim, youthful in appearance. The nose is full and voluminous with vibrant, aromatic dark-red and black fruits, lifted with a complex amalgam of black florals, savoury whole cluster stalk elements, anise and dark herb elements. This has excellent depth and concentration allied to perfumed lift and complexity. Medium-full bodied, the palate is succulently rich with ripe black cherry and black-berried fruits along with aromatic dark-red, violet and black florals, underlined by subtle whole cluster stalk and dark herb detail. The palate has freshness and vibrancy with lacy acidity along with fine-grained tannin extraction and structure. As the wine flows, the acidity lifts the fruit aromatics and enriches the sweetness. This has power, vitality and energy, and carries to a sustained, succulent, complex finish. This is a beautifully rich, vibrant and powerful, but impeccably balanced Pinot Noir with aromatic black fruits and subtle layers of complexity. Match with lamb, beef and venison dishes over the next 8-10 years. A blend of many clones from the Barton ‘Te Rehua’ vineyard, Huangarua Road, vines 23 y.o., indigenous yeast fermented with 65% whole bunches to 13.9% alc., the wine spending 24 days on skins and aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 19.5+/20 Apr 2017 RRP $70.00

Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

19.5/20
Full, even, dark, black-red colour, a little lighter on the edge. This has a full, rich nose of ripe black cherry and black-berried fruits with notes of liquorice and lifted spicy oak, entwined with fine black herb and savoury whole bunch stalk perfumes. The nose has real intensity and vitality. Medium-full bodied, the palate is wonderfully rich and succulent with flavours of ripe black cherry and black-berried fruits, along with blackberry compote and a layering of spicy oak, with well-integrated whole bunch stalk elements and dark herb detail. The fruit sweetness and richness is balanced by very fine-grained powdery tannin extraction, and the palate is enlivened by fresh, vibrant acidity lending vitality and energy. The wine carries to a very long, lingering finish of black fruits, liquorice and spices. This is a succulently rich and vibrant, black-fruited Pinot Noir with layers of spice, oak, dark herbs and whole cluster complexities on a very fine-grained, fresh palate. Match with Middle Eastern lamb dishes and most game meats over the next 8-9+ years. The eleventh release of ‘Kupe’. Abel clone fruit from the Escarpment Te Muna Road vineyard, close-planted in 1999, indigenous yeast fermented with 70% whole bunches to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Apr 2017 RRP $90.00
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