Featured Reviews




Urlar 2016, 2015 and 2014 Vintage Releases

04 July,2017
Urlar, the organic wine producing venture of Angus and Davina Thomson in Gladstone has been undergoing a transition. At the start of last year, celebrated Central Otago winemaker Carol Bunn took over the winemaking duties from Guy McMaster, who had been with the Thomsons for 9 years, moving to a position at Palliser Estate in Martinborough. I’ve been interested in the transitional process, and have made a number of visits to Urlar, firstly just before vintage in 2016 (click here to see my report), then just after vintage to taste the newly fermented wines (click here to see my report), and just before vintage this year, to see how the 2016 wines look after a year (click here to see my report).

What I found was that while the quality of the wines was very high and consistent, reflecting the work put into the fruit in the vineyard over the years, especially since being certified BioGro organic in 2010, the different approach of the winemakers could be seen. Guy’s wines were more savoury, complex and textural from an earlier stage, indicating the serious style aimed for. Carol’s wine were brighter and more fruit-focussed, and possessed very fine textural qualities. There is validity to both approaches, the former appealing to the more sophisticated consumer, the latter with the style that has more accessible and general appeal. My conclusion was that at this period of consolidation and growth for Urlar, the latter pathway might be the more pragmatic way.

Both the Thomsons and Bunn are aware that a sudden change of style might confuse their clients and the marketplace perception of the brand, so a transition in style would be positive, and I think that has happened naturally, whether intentionally or not. The 2014 vintage Urlar wines were made completely by Guy. The 2015 wines were initially made by Guy, but finished by Carol. And the 2016 wines were made completely by Carol. My tastings of wines from all these vintages show a progression from the savoury, structural 2014s to the 2015s which have similar flavours, but appear to be more refined on the palate, to the 2016s which are fruitier and certainly showing finesse in the mouthfeel. It should be noted that the 2016s were made with no viticultural input from Carol, so it will be the 2017s that will show more of her influence again. The other important aspect is that the vineyard has been overseen by Angus from the start, so progress there has been constant. The past year has seen Angus lead his team into incorporating biodynamic regimes. This is another interesting step…

Angus Thomson has sent a selection of Urlar wines from the 2016, 2015 and 2014 vintages to demonstrate the transition in style. I review the wines here. www.urlar.co.nz

FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW



Urlar Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

18/20

I was particularly keen to try this wine again, as I’ve followed it from its conception. Winemaker Carol Bunn has tried to instil more fruit clarity into the wines, and I and Urlar owner Angus Thomson believe she has succeeded. My recent review of this wine caught the wine when it was in a dumb phase. It still looked very good, but today it was on song. Very pale straw colour with pale green hues. The nose is fresh, vibrant and intense with an array of aromatics with a nod to the cooler spectrum, gooseberries predominating along with fresh herbs, cut grass and hints of tropical fruits. Dry, crisp, brisk and quite intensely deep with lively gooseberry fruit, distinctly mouthwatering with hints of minerals and saline. The wine follows a very fine-textured core and line. 18.0/20 Jul 2017 RRP $25.00

Bright straw-yellow colour with light green hues, paler on the rim. The nose is fresh with softly packed aromas of gooseberries, pungent passionfruit and tropical fruit along with subtle notes of green stonefruits, nutty oak detail and nuances of chalky minerals. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate is crisp and zesty with tightly bound and elegant flavours of gooseberries, passionfruit, tropical fruits and green stonefruits, intermixed with herbs and nuances of mineals. The mouthfeel is vibrant with brisk acidity, and the wine flows with plenty of energy along a finely textured line leading to an elegantly concentrated, lingering finish of gooseberries, passionfruit and cut grass. This is an elegantly concentrated, racy and zesty Sauvignon Blanc with gooseberry, passionfruit cut grass flavours on a fine-textured, racy palate. Match with shellfish and seafood, and Pacific Rim fare over the next 2 years. A blend of two ferments, approx. 93% cool-fermented in stainless-steel, and 7% in seasoned oak to 13.0% alc. and 3.0 g/L RS. Certified BioGro organic. 17.5+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $25.00

Urlar Gladstone Riesling 2016

Riesling from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

18/20
Bright, very pale straw colour with slight green hues, lighter on edge. The nose is very soft and delicate, with beautifully pure aromas of lime fruit, white florals and mouthwatering wet-stone minerals. This is well-proportioned, unfolding in depth and volume with aeration. Dry to taste and light-medium bodied, the palate has restrained fruit flavours of limes, white florals and harmoniously entwined wet-stone minerals. The palate is fine and firm with a tight core, showing some fruit extract weight and phenolic textures. The mouthfeel is crisp and vibrant, the acidity adding to the thirst-quenching minerality. The flavours carry to a lingering finish with delicate floral and chalky mineral notes. This is a taut, crisp, mouthwatering dry Riesling with pure lime, floral and mineral flavours. Serve as an aperitif, and with Thai, Vietnamese or Japanese cuisine over the next 4-5 years. Fruit hand-picked, WBP and cool-fermented in tank to 12.0% alc., 6 g/L RS, TA 8.2 g/L and pH 3.0. Certified BioGro organic. 18.0/20 Jul 2017 RRP $25.00

Urlar Gladstone Noble Riesling 2016

Sweet Wine from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

18.5-/20
Bright, light golden-hued yellow colour with some depth, pale edged. The nose is very elegant and refined in expression with intense and concentrated aromas of white florals and citrus fruit melded with honeysuckle, talc and musk, the botrytis to the fore, with the underlying in support. Very sweet to taste and light-medium bodied, the palate is finely concentrated with good intensity of white florals, citrus fruit, musk and honied flavours. The palate has good, firm linearity with balanced, crisp acidity lending energy and a dryish cut to the richness. The wine unfolds layers of money, beeswax and musk on the long and sustained finish. This is a finely concentrated botrytised Riesling with floral, citrus, honey and musk flavours with a firm linearity. Serve with fruit and baked desserts over the next 4-5 years. 90% botrytised and 10% shrivelled fruit, hand-picked and cool-fermented to 11.0% alc. and 120 g/L RS. Certified BioGro organic. (375 ml) 18.5-/20 Jul 2017 RRP $32.00

Urlar Gladstone Pinot Gris 2015

Pinot Gris from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

18/20
Bright straw-yellow colour with some depth, lighter on the rim. The bouquet is full and up-front with rich, savoury yellow stonefruit aromas along with a complexing layer of nutty lees and barrel inputs, unfolding yellow floral elements in the glass. Dry to taste and medium-full bodied, the palate is fulsome with strong and deep flavours of savoury yellow stonefruits along with notes of honeysuckle and florals, melded with nutty oak and barrel-ferment nuances. The palate has a near-unctuous richness, balanced by fine phenolic textures and grip, with integrated acidity. Some alcoholic power is present and carries the savoury flavours to a long, full finish. This is a fulsome, dry Pinot Gris with rich, near-unctuous mouthfeel and layers of savoury fruit, lees and oak flavours on a fine-textured palate. Match with rich poultry, pork and veal dishes over the next 4 years. Hand-picked fruit fully barrel fermented in seasoned French oak to 14.0 % alc. and 1.6 g/L RS, the wine aged 12 months in oak undergoing batonnage. Certified BioGro organic. 18.0/20 Jul 2017 RRP $29.00

Urlar Gladstone Pinot Noir 2015

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

17+/20
Ruby-red colour with some depth, and lighter purple hues on the rim. The nose is initially light, with gently interwoven aromas of dark-red berry fruits, lifted raspberry and floral suggestions, and savoury dark and dried herbs, with a little whole bunch stalk detail. Some undergrowth and secondary complexities emerge with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate has fresh, lively and vibrant flavours of savoury dark red berry and subtle raspberry elements, harmoniously melded with dark and dried herbs and whole cluster stalk hints, and some secondary undergrowth detail. The mouthfeel is fresh, enlivened by the crisp acidity, and the wine flows along a very fine-textured tannin line of moderate extraction. This has good energy and linearity, and carries to a long, elegant, lively finish. This is a bright and zesty Pinot Noir with savoury dark-red berry, floral and herb flavours with some secondary complexities, on a moderately extracted, fresh palate. Match with wild duck and pork over the next 4 years. Pinot Noir fruit indigenous yeast fermented with 10% whole bunches to 13.5% alc., the wine aged approx. 11 months in 20% new French oak. Certified BioGro organic. 17.0+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $40.00

Urlar ‘Select Parcels’ Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

18-/20
Brilliant, even straw-yellow colour with lemon-green hues, a little lighter on the rim. This has a finely proportioned and tightly bound nose of green stonefruits and fresh herbs entwined with complexing savoury, nutty oak and hints of oxidative detail. Piquant cut grass, herb and waxy elements emerge with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate has a deep and complex core with a firm underlying line of savoury green stonefruits and herbs, with nutty elements and waxy, cut-grass nuances. The mouthfeel is refreshing and crisp, and the fruit follows a soft-textured phenolic line, becoming more flavoursome, as it flows to a long, sustained, savoury, nutty and waxy finish. This is a complex, oak-influenced Sauvignon Blanc with a firm core and mouthfilling flavours of savoury green stonefruits and nutty notes, on a soft-textured palate. Match with herb-marinated white meat dishes over the next 3+ years. Select parcels from the vineyard given brief skin contact and fermented in seasoned French oak barriques to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 8 months on lees in barrel with some batonnage, undergoing 100% MLF, then transferred to tank for another 3 months on lees. Certified BioGro organic. 18.0-/20 Jul 2017 RRP $29.00

Urlar ‘Select Parcels’ Gladstone Pinot Noir 2014

Pinot Noir from New Zealand – Wairarapa & Wellington

18.5/20
Even, dark-red colour, lighter on the rim with slight garnet hues. The nose starts shy and restrained, but opens to show a concentrated heart of ripe dark-red berry fruit entwined with a layer of savoury dark and dried herb, some whole bunch stalk notes with game and undergrowth complexities and nutty oak. This grows in volume, concentration and intensity in the glass. Medium-full bodied, the palate has fulsome and well-packed flavours of savoury dark-red berry fruit layered with dark and dried herbs and subtle stalk notes, with complex game and undergrowth flavours. Some red floral lift emerges along with nutty oak adding to the interest. The fruit is supported by balanced, fine-grained background tannins, and the palate has power and presence, carrying to a strong, flavoursome finish of savoury fruit, herb and undergrowth complexities. This is a fulsome and complex Pinot Noir with layers of savoury fruit, herb, game and undergrowth flavours underlined by balanced structure with plenty of power and presence. Match with coq au vin, casseroles and slow-cooked game over the next 5-7+ years. Select parcels from the vineyard, hand-picked and sorted, and indigenous yeast fermented with 30% whole bunches to 14.5% alc., the wine aged 15 months in 20% new French oak barriques. The wine is then made as a barrel selection. Certified BioGro organic. 18.5/20 Jul 2017 RRP $60.00
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