Ata Rangi is one of this country’s star wine producers, and its superb reputation is due to the aspirations and attention to detail of owners Clive Paton, Phyll Pattie and Alison Paton, vineyard manager Gerry Rotman and winemaker Helen Masters, and their team. As the vines are maturing into their third decade, the team are continuing to refine what they do. The output has grown a little too, to 16,000 cases, not huge by any stretch of the imagination, but the quality has never been better. In recognition of achievements over time, at this year’s Wellington Gold Awards, Ata Rangi won the ‘Global Gold’ award and ‘Supreme Winner’ for their role in export and enterprising business in the wider Wellington region. In the works, Ata Rangi will be certified BioGro organic from the coming 2014 vintage and Chris Reid joins the team as assistant winemaker. The future looks as bright as ever.
The Ata Rangi team were at the Museum Hotel for this year’s mail order tasting, showing the selection that will be on offer for the 2013-2014 period. The room was full of fans, tasting a range of wines that could be summarised as ‘harmonious’ from my viewpoint. Across the board, all of the wines looked really settled and comfortable within themselves, making the range quite complete. Very few wineries achieve this, and usually only when they have truly become mature. This is the case with Ata Rangi. Here, I offer my impressions and provisional scores on the wines tasted. www.atarangi.co.nz
Helen Masters and Eleanor Dodd – Ata Rangi
Helen Masters and Eleanor Dodd – Ata Rangi
Served first was the ‘Craighall’ Riesling 2009 (18.5+/20). This was always going to be a longer-term wine with a normal 12.0% alc. and 4 g/L RS, but high TA of 8.1 and low pH of 2.9. It’s rich and concentrated with lush toast and honey aromas and flavours, the palate now beginning to soften. The wine still has a great linearity. Another 3+ years won’t hurt it! Another aperitif style is the fresh-as-a-daisy ‘Summer’ Rosé 2013 (18.0-/20), mostly Merlot-based and carrying 13.5% alc. to dryness. Thirst-quenching strawberries and raspberries and the mandatory dash of cream, but quite dry. The softness of the mouthfeel, allied to refreshing acidity is the feature here. The perfect verandah wine. Another wine for al fresco is the Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (18.0+/20), apparently 25% barrel-fermented. The oaking is imperceptible to taste, but it must contribute to the rich mouthfeel. Fresh and juicy passionfruit and tropical fruits, quite up-front and clearly varietal, this is already a crowd pleaser. Made from 100% Martinborough fruit.
The more layered and serious whites were next on the agenda. I really love where Helen is taking the ‘Lismore’ Pinot Gris 2013 (19.0+/20). It carries 13.5% alc. and 8 g/L RS and is made with some large puncheon barrel work. Dryness alongside richness must be the aim and Ata Rangi achieves it. Gently exotic, honied, spicy and rich, with a building plushness leading to an unctuous texture. However, there’s balanced, underlying acidity which provides cut and a long, elegant finish. The ‘Petrie’ Chardonnay 2012 (19.0/20) is already at its style apogee. 13.0% alc. with 8 months in 18% new oak, plus 50% MLF. Marvellous fruit expression, that Ata Rangi see as grapefruit-like. I see considerable in-built complexity in the contemporary sulphide reduction style, but with the fruit to match. I saw the wine at ‘Wild About Martinborough’ just a few days before, and thought it tight and leaner, but on this showing, it was magnificent. It’s clearly growing all the time. A wine that needs time to show what it truly has, is the ‘Craighall’ Chardonnay 2012 (19.0-/20). At 13.5% alc., the wine spending 9 months in 25% new oak with partial MLF. This is all about steely power at present. Crisp, pristine, tight and focussed, unveiling layers of stonefruits, nuts, spicy oak. This has richness underneath and it is a sure bet to become something special, as ‘Craighall’ Chardonnay always does. It’ll deserve a higher score then, too.
Onto the reds, which is Clive’s love. The ‘Crimson’ Pinot Noir 2012 (17.5+/20) is a lighter wine, reflecting the slow-ripening vintage for sure. The fruit is pretty with aromatic raspberries and a touch of cherry liqueur, showing an up-front succulent richness. It is very finely textured, soft in tannin with fresh acid undertones. Accessible now, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see it grow into itself. ‘Crimson’ has a habit of doing that. The wine is 13.0% alc. and spent 9 months in 20% new oak, so there’s a good base. The Pinot Noir 2011 (18.5+/20) is a step up, as it should be. Far more richness without going into the realms of high alcohol and excessive extraction. This epitomises the harmony across the range. Beautifully lifted aromatics, silky smooth flow across the palate, quite seamless. The 2011 vintage has delivered sheer elegance and fragrance in the region. It’s 13.8% alc., and spent 12 months in 25% new oak. The revelation for me was the Syrah 2009 (18.5/20). This shows the generosity of the 2009 vintage and the wine is as rich and sweet as it was when I first saw it, but the serious structure supporting it is clearer now, and the acidity less of a feature. The funky reductive elements are more in tune with the wine and appear as varietal componentry rather than elements of the vinification process. It’s that harmony thing again. This is 13.5% alc. and was aged 11 months in 20% new oak. I usually see rusticity in the ‘Celebre’, as that’s the style Clive wanted in it’s creation. The ‘Celebre’ 2011 (17.5+/20) is a wine of finesse. 60% Merlot, 30% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged 17 months in 20% new oak, it doesn’t seem to be 13.5% alc.. The flavours are redcurrants and red plums with a touch of leaf, and the structure smooth and seamless. This isn’t the rough country red that was the style in the early years.
The finale was the ‘Kahu’ Botrytis Riesling 2013 (18.0/20), made drier than usual, carrying 13.0% alc. and 80 g/L RS. I see more fruit definition here, with driven and intense flavours of lime and marmalade, unfolding exotic fruits and then wild honey. Slightly tight and indeed shy, there’s a little phenolic dryness to counter any oiliness or sugary characters. It’s a bit of a baby, and it’ll be interesting to see how it grows in unctuousness.