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Martinborough Vineyard – Taken to Cask

By January 18, 2013No Comments

It’s been a bit remiss of me, but I haven’t had the opportunity of catching up properly with Martinborough Vineyard’s winemaker Paul Mason for some time. He’s a pretty busy man as he has a strong role in the marketing when it comes to the overseas markets. His right hand man Phil McArthur is taking up a share of that work too, and it’s always a pleasure to see both Paul and Phil when they’re on the road. Recently Mark Field, who joined in a sales and marketing role has taken up the general manager’s position, so there’s a strong team there again.

In talking to Paul, I take myself to task for missing the chances to catch up, so his offer of taking me to some of his casks could not be turned down. With a broad selection of vineyard sites and many vines with decent age on them, the Martinborough Vineyard wines are extremely consistent. Paul offered samples from the cool 2012 vintage, and they confirmed the notion that old vines and experience in viticulture with each site can handle tough conditions, as there was no indication of the ‘greens’. Such is the strong performance even in such a challenging year.

Paul Mason with a beloved cuve
2012 Barrel Samples Tasted
Here are my impressions of what we tasted from barrel. White wines are excellent for resetting the palate. Firstly a Pinot Gris 2012, all of it aged in seasoned barrels, this sample with a classical mix of lifted fruit and spice notes along with nutty elements. Attractive for its freshness allied to weight. Then onto two barrels of Chardonnay 2012. The blend of clone 2/23 and ‘Rua’ was very elegant with clear-cut citrus and stonefruit flavours, featuring excellent linearity. The clone 15 was a wine with great presence and weight. Nutty aromas and flavours presented with lovely richness, but also with good acidity and crispness. I felt both the Chardonnay samples possessed elegance, possibly reflecting the vintage a little, but the wines still in that style with substance that marks it as Martinborough Vineyard.

The Pinot Noir 2012 samples confirmed what I’d seen at tastings in the district during the day. Well-managed cropping provided the ripeness required in such a cool growing season. A ‘Croft’ vineyard wine was up-front with aromatic floral, violetty scents and perfumes. A pretty wine for sure, but very appealing. This would probably be destined for the ‘Te Tera’ label. Then from the ‘Fraters Road’ vineyard south of the Martinborough village. This wine lush and open with fruit-cake and spice flavours. The juiciness was its feature, and this has always been the signature of the ‘Burnt Spur’ wines.

Moving into the serious barrels, wines that would be blended into the main label. Abel clone from the ‘Carters’ block, 14 y.o. vines. Much darker and riper fruit, greater concentration, with a robustness about it. One of the best performing sites has been ‘Duncan’s Paddock’ with clone 5 fruit from 25 y.o. vines. This sample showing it can handle the 25% whole bunch. Darker, savoury fruit, noticeably concentrated, with the whole bunch savoury stemmy flavours apparent, and a significant step up in structure. To give some balance, a sample from the ‘Lamb’s End’ site, Abel clone with 35% whole bunch. Very tightly bound with dark, near black fruits, a subtle whole bunch savouriness, with vibrancy of fruit the feature. I’d thought Paul was a strong advocate of the use of whole bunch, but he is reasoned with it, and says he is not as adventurous as others. As to the likelihood of a super-premium ‘Marie Zelie’ Pinot Noir? It couldn’t be ruled out, even in a vintage such as 2012.

Paul is involved in a number of other Martinborough Pinot Noir projects around the district, whether just as friendly advice, or consulting winemaker. Paul gave a little preview of two. I’ve been very impressed with The Elder Pinot wine, the fruit coming from a wonderful vineyard overlooking Te Muna Road, tended by Mike and Margaret Hanson, with Nigel and Bridget Elder. The fruit has gone into MV previously, and Nigel was a viticulturist at MV. Paul makes the wine. The sample I saw was elegant and sweet-fruited, but with an underlying sinewy structure to support the florality. And a first-crop wine from a very close-planted vineyard owned by Mark St Clair and Debbie Bowie of Wellington. Abel and clone 115, with only 900 vines. A sort of ‘young vine’ feel with some cooler notes, but impressive fruit volume and the structure to match. This will be a vineyard and wine for Burgundy aficionados to keep an eye out for.

The last wine was a sample of Syrah 2012, co-fermented with approx. 4% Viognier, This could be Pinot Noir with its elegance and suppleness. Very fine-grained, and then the aromatics and pepper kick in, reminding one of the variety. A classy, refined taste. www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz

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