It is always a privilege to taste wine from barrel. It involves considerable work on the part of the winemakers drawing samples, explaining the wines and cleaning up afterwards. But also, barrel samples can be very difficult to assess, especially by non-winemakers. Those who make the wine often find the process challenging due to the variable expression of the wines from different sites in different barrels. However, barrel-tasting can give plenty of insights into the nature of the vintage and the resultant wines. I tend to make a more definitive call on the wines once they have been bottled, and given the chance to settle down. Here are my impressions on what I tasted.
Fully barrel-fermented with full solids to dryness, not sulphured. Bright, clear straw-yellow colour. The nose is full and robust with white stonefruit aromas, along with complexing savoury, butty notes and suggestions of oxidative nuances. This has plenty of mouthfeel, weight and presence. Quite textural with a soft mouthfeel, but a line of acidity underneath. Deep flavours of savoury white stonefruits, nuts, oxidative detail and underlying minerals. Classical Pinot Blanc rusticity in a positive way.
Fully barrel-fermented with full solids to dryness, sulphured. Bright staw-yellow colour. The nose is very elegant and fragrant with white florals and stonefruits, with a touch of honeysuckle and minerals. This is very refined with lovely fruit clarity and purity. Florals and stonefruits, with exotic notes and minerals. Excellent freshness and vibrancy, with refreshing, brisk acidity. Possibly the most poised Pinot Gris from Escarpment I’ve tasted to date.
The Escarpment Vineyard approximate ‘regional’ blend . Clone 95, going through MLF. Bright straw-yellow colour. This is fresh and elegant with good depth and intensity of gunflint reduction aromas, a little prominent, but with white stonefruit and nutty lees and oak in balance. On palate, the gunflint-matchstick reduction is the feature, but the stonefruit flavours support the complexing componentry. Clean and clear, with power and drive, as well as taut, refreshing acidity. This will no doubt come into greater balance with bottling and some age. A step up in clarity and definition.
Approx 15-20% whole bunch, 20% new oak. Dark ruby-red colour with purple hues. The nose has dark=red and black-berried fruit aromas with a savoury, complexing herb layer. Quite elegant on palate with dark-red and black fruits, dark-red and violet florals, savoury herb notes, underlined by fine tannin extraction and noticeable acidity. This has a completeness to its profile.
60% whole bunch. Dark purple-red colour. This has a full, even and voluminous nose with fragrant black berried fruit melded with savoury dark and dried herbs, showing a little earthy detail. Sweet and lush on palate with dark-red berry fruits, lifted red florals and savoury herb notes. This has good tannin extraction and grip, with refreshing acidity. Lovely even flowing wine with typical ‘Kiwa’ savoury-funky notes.
Dark ruby-red with purple hues. The nose is full with rich fruit aromas of vibrant dark-red and black fruits, along with an amalgam of complexing whole bunch nuances and violet florals. The palate has intense cherry-berry fruit flavours with floral lift. The whole cluster quite integrated here. Lovely acid energy lifts and enlivens the wine, and the tannins are refined and integral. At present the fruit is a little restrained, but shows Te Rehua personality already.
35% whole bunch, lower than usual due to the considerable tannin structure. Fruit picked after the first rain, clean with no botrytis, the vineyard in its first year of organic transition. Very dark-red colour. The nose is densely packed with ripe black fruits, black and violet florals and minerals. The whole bunch is integrated. On palate this has excellent density and concentration. Ripe black fruits, dark herbs, mineral detail. The acidity is riper and softer, but there is serious underlying structuire. Clearly a ‘Kupe’ wine.
The Escarpment Pinot Noirs are well-structured wines and have the attributes required for good aging ability. With this in mind, Escarpment has trialled screwcap closures with different permeabilities, on the premise that maturation with some oxygen ingress should give results to aging under (good) cork. The ‘Oenoseal’ closures from Guala have given the ability to see the effects on a wine with controlled oxygen contact.
The visit at Escarpment concluded with a tasting of the ‘Ryan’ Riesling 2017, a wine made with full solids barrel-fermentation to 11.3% alc. and dryness, with TA 7 g/l, and pH 3.25. It is named after Larry’s son Ryan, and is obviously a play on ‘Rhine’ Riesling. It will be bottled under the ‘Artisan’ range.
Light straw-yellow colour. The nose is taut with clear, clean, and firmly bound aromas of lime fruit, with a hint of minerals. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has bright and lively mine fruit with mineral undertones, The palate has very fine-grained textures providing mouthfeel and a touch of grip, the acidity refreshing and crisp. This has linearity driver and very clear varietal character matched to the phenolics. More classical than funky by a wide margin.
That evening over dinner, Larry brought along bottles of his 2016 Pinot Noirs, opened for a visiting journalist that afternoon. I made brief mental notes of my impressions. (I tasted these as barrel samples in February earlier this year. Click here to see my report.) I will be receiving the 2016 wines in the new year for full ‘Feature Review’. Here are my thoughts.