Featured Reviews

Escarpment Vineyard ‘Artisan’ Range, A New Direction

23 March,2018
There has been much happening at the Escarpment Vineyard. Just last week, it was announced that Escarpment Vineyard had been purchased by Torbreck Vintners of the Barossa Valley, subject to approval by the OIO. In the partnership of the Kirby and McKenna families, the Kirbys signalled their desire to leave the business several years ago. Despite the uncertainty that this situation caused, Larry McKenna and his team have continued to make and indeed raise the level of sophistication in their wines (Escarpment Vineyard was my ‘Winery of the Year’ in 2015).

Larry McKenna has told me this is a very good move on many levels, though the major reason was for Torbreck to secure distribution of the Escarpment Vineyard wines in Australia. Arguably the most important benefit will no doubt be further investment in vineyard, winery and plant that had slowed down after the Kirbys’ decision to withdraw. The combination of Torbreck and Escarpment is extremely complementary, as Torbreck does not produce Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, and the offering of wines from two different terroirs and regions increases the scope of the portfolio. The Torbreck wines are very highly regarded, and the flagship ‘RunRig’ and ‘The Laird’ fetch some of the highest prices of Barossa Valley wines. This may see an increase in pricing of the top Escarpment wines to match! www.escarpment.co.nz

The Escarpment ‘Artisan’ Range
In the purchase, all of the staff and existing business and distribution arrangements have been retained, so it is business as usual. A focus for the Escarpment team has been their work with Nick and Rowan Hoskins of Vineyard Managers in working towards certified BioGro organic status, hopefully to be completed in a year’s time. Also of note has been a subtle shift in style of the wines supporting the ‘Insight’ single vineyard Pinot Noirs. I’ve mentioned this change before, but the techniques that Larry and Huw have been investigating and trialling are now manifest in the release of wines under the new ‘Artisan’ range. On a holistic level, the development of these wines has been an on-going process for over 35 years for Larry. It had come to the stage to explore the use of organically grown fruit as well as a more ‘natural’ approach to the winemaking. Specifically, this includes the more innovative and risky techniques of skin contact, barrel-fermentation, fermentation and maturation in amphora, and minimal additions, including no usage of sulphur. Here I review the new ‘Artisan’ range which comprises: 2017 ‘Nina’ Rosê and ‘Ryan’ Riesling (a play on Rhine Riesling, and named after Larry’s son), 2016 Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, and a 2017 Pinot Noir. 


Escarpment ‘Nina’ Martinborough Rosé 2017

Rose from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Bright, pale pink colour with a little depth and lighter edged. The nose is fresh and delicately presented with aromas of red florals and subtle notes of red berry fruits along with watermelon and thirst-quenching herb and mineral elements. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has a light but rich core of strawberries, watermelon and red floral fruit, along with mouthwatering minerals. The fruit is tightly bound and the mouthfeel enlivened by mouthwatering acidity and light phenolic textures. The wine has excellent linearity and carries to a crisp, dry, long and nuanced finish. This is a delicately concentrated dry rosé with subtle strawberry, watermelon and floral flavours on a thirst-quenching palate with crisp acidity and fine textures, in the Provence style. Serve as an aperitif, with canapés and antipasto over the next 2 years. 100% Pinot Noir from the company’s Te Muna Road vineyard, given 6 hours skin contact and fermented in seasoned oak to 13.3% alc. and <1 g/L RS. 18.5/20 Mar 2018 RRP $24.00

Escarpment ‘Ryan’ Martinborough Riesling 2017

Riesling from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Bright straw-yellow colour with lemon-green hueas, a little paler on the rim. The nose is elegant with very fine and intense aromas of lime fruit entwined with fragrant herbs and white florals, and a subtle array of botanicals. This is refined and penetrating. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has intense, deep and tightly bound flavours lime fruit infused with herbs and botanical suggestions, along with lifted white florals. The mouthfeel is bright and refreshing with brisk acidity, and the flavours are carried by a very fine phenolic line. The palate is balanced and has vibrancy, and the flavours carry to an elegant’ lingering finish of limes, florals and herbs. This is an intense and penetrating dry Riesling with bright and lively lime fruit along with herbs and florals on a brisk palate. Reminiscent of a ‘gin and tonic’! Serve as an aperitif and with seafood over the next 4 years. Fruit from the company’s Te Muna Road site, fermented with skin contact and in barrel to 11.3% alc. and <1 g/L RS, TA 7.0 g/L and pH 3.25. the wine given lees contact. 18.0/20 Mar 2018 RRP $24.00

Escarpment ‘Blanc’ Martinborough Pinot Blanc 2016

Pinot Blanc from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Brilliant light straw-yellow colour with pale green-gold hues, light on the rim. The nose is fresh with elegantly proportioned aromas of savoury white stonefruits, delicate nuances of herbs, subtle thirst-quenching minerals and suggestions of oxidative complexities. The aromatics are pure and focussed. Dry to taste and medium-full bodied, the palate has lively and succulent flavours of white stonefruits with white floral elements and steely, mouthwatering minerals. The mouthfeel has vibrancy and vitality with crisp acidity, the wine flowing a light-textured phenolic line. This has excellent energy and tension, and the wine carries to a long and sustained finish of stonefruits and apples. This is a vibrant, lively and succulently juicy dry Pinot Blanc with white stonefruit, floral and mineral flavours on a focussed palate with fine textures and tension. Serve as an aperitif and with seafood over the next 3+ years. The sixth Pinot Blanc release from Escarpment. Fruit from the company’s Te Muna Road vineyard, given 12 hours skin contact and fully barrel-fermented to 13.4% alc. and <1 g/L RS, the wine aged 11 months in seasoned oak. 18.5/20 Mar 2018 RRP $29.00

Escarpment ‘Gris’ Martinborough Pinot Gris 2016

Pinot Gris from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Bright, even straw-yellow colour with a suggestion of blush and a little depth. The nose is softly full with good depth and presence of ripe yellow stonefruits intermixed with savoury exotic yellow florals, a little honeysuckle and nuances of minerals. Dry to taste and medium-full bodied, the palate has gently sweet and lusciously rich flavours of yellow stonefruits entwined with honeysuckle notes, along with nuances of florals and nuts. The mouthfeel is rounded with a soft, deep core, and balanced by light acidity, and underlined by light textures. As the wine flows, the florals and honeysuckle elements blossom and carry to a soft, dry finish. This is a gently rich and luscious dry Pinot Gris with yellow stonefruit and honied flavours on a rounded palate with soft acidity and light grip. Match with Asian and Middle Eastern fare over the next 3+ years. Fruit from the Martinborough Terrace, given overnight skin contact and fully barrel-fermented to 14.1% alc. and <1 g/L RS, the wine undergoing partial MLF. 17.5+/20 Mar 2018 RRP $29.00

Escarpment ‘Noir’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2017

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington


Dark, deep, black-purple hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim, very youthful in appearance. The nose is softly full and gently voluminous with aromas of dark-red cherry and berry fruit with a complex amalgam of savoury dark herbs, violet florals, nutty and mineral elements at the core. This has good depth and unveils suggestions of pepper and black plums. Medium-bodied, the palate has sweet and juicy fruit with flavours of bitter dark-red and black cherries entwined with dark herbs and savoury plums at the core. The fruit balances primary floral lift with savoury herbs. The palate is enlivened by bright and fresh acidity and the palate possesses grainy textured fruit tannins that provide plenty of mouthfeel and presence. The wine carries to a lingering, dry-textured finish. This is a sweet and juicy cherry and herb-flavoured Pinot Noir with balancing savouriness on a grainy-textured palate with fresh acidity. Serve with antipasto and tapas, and Mediterranean fare over the next 2-3 years. Abel clone fruit from the company’s Te Muna Road vineyard, indigenous yeast fermented in clay amphora to 13.0% alc., the wine on skins for 270 days. This has had no additions, including SO2, and was not fined or filtered. 17.5-/20 Mar 2018 RRP $30.00

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