Art and wine have an affinity in the fact that both are subject to aesthetic sensory appreciation. Art exhibitions don’t seem complete with wine being served, no doubt to enhance the creative processes and imagination to see the passion of the artist. And similarly, an art gallery or exhibition is an ideal venue to hold a wine tasting, the imagery encouraging the vividness and distinctiveness of the wine. Ata Rangi conducted their 2011 Spring Release at the gallery of the N.Z. Academy of Fine Arts, Wellington, which exhibited ‘Collideoscope’, the work of Weltec’s Bachelor of Creative Technologies graduates. Of course, Ata Rangi is no recent arrival, being one of the pioneers of the Martinborough region, and one of the masters in the art form of winemaking. Clive Paton and Phyll Pattie, and Clive’s sister Alison have created vinous masterpieces for over a quarter of a century, and in my opinion stand among the best winegrowers of the country, making many world-class wines. They were on hand, supported by their winemakers Helen Masters and Jannine Rickards, and administrator Eleanor Dodd to show their latest works.
The wines offered were from the 2010 and 2011 vintages, both challenging in their own way, but both have provided wines of real interest and quality. The former was one with a protracted growing season quickly accumulating sufficient heat units for full ripening at the end, while the latter was one marked by higher disease pressures than the norm. Vineyard manager Gerry Rotman has enabled Ata Rangi’s success in these two years, closely monitoring the growth and managing the yields which average only 1-2 tonnes per acre. Following are my quick impressions of the wines. Three in particular showed superbly. There will be more complete reviews in the near future. www.atarangi.co.nz
The Summer Rosé 2011 is a beautifully fruited wine, showing bright, fresh and attractively juicy strawberry and watermelon aromas and flavours. Its subtle approach and gentleness is a highlight. It will be a delight over the summer months, of course! The Sauvignon Blanc 2011 is closer in style to the wines of Hawke’s Bay than Marlborough, still tight with mineral-infused gooseberry aromas and flavours. While sleek in texture, this has an underlying weight and depth that will unfold well. One of the stars of the release for me was the ‘Lismore’ Pinot Gris 2011. Here, the style has been tightened up, made drier and it now showcases its classical and pure varietal fruit expression. The aromatics of pears and spicy stonefruit are superbly cut by racy acidity, and the sweetness is there in perfect balance. Subtle nuances just keep on appearing, and bottle-age will enhance this.
The two Chardonnay wines behaved as they always do. The ‘Petrie’ Chardonnay 2010 is slim-line, but with amazing depth and intensity. This has complexity showing already, with its flinty, mealy stonefruit and citrus flavours, sensitively supported by the oak. Beautifully fine-textured, this is showing so well, and made a huge impact on me. Much more locked-in, if not closed-down was the ‘Craighall’ Chardonnay 2010. This is the ‘sleeper’, and touted by the Ata Rangi crew as one to watch. Greater weight and textures, with brooding layers of interest, just waiting to be revealed. ‘Craighall’ Chardonnay always develops a richness and density that makes it one of this country’s best examples of the variety. The 2009 is truly exceptional and is showing its class now. (Click here to see my review.) I believe there is still a little stock left of the 2009…
The vibrancy of the ‘Crimson’ Pinot Noir 2010 made it the other star of this release range for me. If perfume, sweetness, elegance and sumptuous textures are hallmarks of top Pinot Noir, this has it all. Simply irresistible for drinking over the next 3-4+ years. It won’t develop the intricate layers of interest nor last as long as its more serious sibling, but then, it wasn’t designed too. The Pinot Noir 2010 is yet again another serious release. It, like the ‘Craighall’ Chardonnay 2010 is restrained at present, and indeed brooding too. Dark berry and cherry flavours with nuances of dried herb and complexing savoury notes are showing, but it is the textural palate line that is the indicator of the concentration built into it. More a medium term proposition for cellaring, say for 7-9 years, this will be a more elegant Pinot Noir than 2009, but just as worthy of following.
The ‘Celebre’ 2009 is the 24th release of this Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Packed with sweet, spicy black fruits, this shows the density and ripeness that 2009 gave these varieties. This label always has a grainy mouthfeel which makes it such a versatile wine to match with fuller red meat dishes. But in typical fashion, it has a sense of style and elegance rather than any rusticity.