It has been some time since I caught up with the happenings at Maori Point Vineyard near Tarras in Central Otago. My last reviews of the Maori Point wines was at the end of 2015, but the visit by owner John Harris in the middle of 2011 is still fresh on my mind. It wasn’t just the wines that made an impact, but also the story of how he and his partner Marilyn Duxson came from a life of academia into grapegrowing and winemaking in 2002.
The main news since was that younger couple Matt and Maggie Evans became partners with John and Marilyn in 2015. Matt had already worked alongside John and Marilyn earlier but with the winemaking being brought onto site for the 2013 vintage, Maori Point Vineyard suddenly became a self-contained winegrowing and winemaking entity. This was a strong incentive for Matt, who has had extensive wine experience around the world, to become fully engaged, hands-on in the process, with a true sense of ownership, of making Central Otago wine, especially Pinot Noir. www.maoripoint.co.nz
Matt Evans – Maori Point Wines
Matt Evans – Maori Point Wines
A Visit from Matt Evans
Matt Evans was in Wellington, and kindly made time to call in on me, to tell me of the progress, and of course, show me some wines. The interaction between John and Marilyn, and Matt and Maggie is complex, but positive, because of the many shared synergies. As mentioned, John and Marilyn have academic backgrounds, and in their new lives, John makes the wine, and Marilyn tends the vineyard. Matt, born in Texas, and Maggie, a neuroscientist from California actually met in New Zealand, and very quickly caught up with John and Marilyn through both science and wine as commonalities. The prevailing strong scientific rigour and methodology sees a pragmatic approach especially in the vineyards, with organics accepted readily, but biodynamics a subject of many discussions, most of which result in the acceptance of beneficial effects from biodynamic regimes, but different explanations of ‘why’!
A very considerable benefit for Maori Point Vineyard is that there are more hands on deck as well as minds thinking about the wine. All the partners desire the wine quality to rise, but also they have introduced some innovations in style. However the most important aspect for all of them is the increasing understanding of the vineyard, the behaviour of specific blocks of clones and rootstocks. These all add up to recognising the expression of the site, or its terroir. It’s a process that requires much study and attention, and Matt would say that he’s only now coming to see the character of the vineyard. Both he and John want to make wine that respects the terroir. At present, they recognise the Pinot Noir wines have a soft, complexing earthiness that is consistent across vintages.
The Vineyard and Wines
The Maori Point vineyard is still 6.5 ha, planted to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The partners are contemplating expanding their plantings, using the remaining limited amount of land leading to the river, possibly to Chardonnay. They also purchase a small amount of Riesling from Domenic Mondillo. Altogether, around 2,200 cases of wine are made, with a possible maximum of 4,000 cases, which is the upper limit of what’s ideal. ‘Estate’ and ‘Reserve’ Pinot Gris and Pinot Noirs are made, along with a Pinot Noir Rosé. Riesling has been made in a drier and sweet style. An interesting development is the ‘Gold Digger’, a frizzante Pinot Gris in the Prosecco style bottled in 330 ml size, with a matching ‘The Rake’ Pinot Noir made for early consumption. These very accessibly styled wines have proven very popular and complement the more sophisticated table wines.
Tasting the Wines
Matt brought along five wines to try, two of which I had already reviewed. I offer my comments on them all, and added them to my database, but some latitude should be given due to the more informal nature of the tasting. Matt will be sending their new wines for me to review in due course for ‘Feature Review’. Here are my impressions:
Gold Digger Frizzante Central Otago Sparkling Pinot Gris NV
Bright, pale straw colour, near colourless. The nose has aromas of fresh stonefruits with some honey. This shows cleanliness and richness. Off-dry to taste, with good mousse, the flavours are light, but positive, showing stonefruits and honeysuckle. The mouthfeel is rounded with soft textures and soft acidity, and finished with honied flavours. A wine for fun and not analysis from Maori Point. Produced by Charmat method, in a Prosecco style. 11.5% alc. and 3 g/L RS. This lot is 2017 fruit. (330 ml) 16.5/20 Aug 2017 RRP $11.00
Maori Point ‘Grand Reserve’ Central Otago Pinot Gris 2014
Bright straw-yellow colour. The nose is soft and densely packed with weight and density, showing savoury yellow stonefruits. There is a core with an amalgam of yellow stonefruits, minerals, nuts and oak. Dry to taste, the palate is rich and fulsome, with breadth, opening smoothly. This has a solidness of mouthfeel with a savoury lusciousness, honey and toasty oak providing roundness, weight and presence. There is an array of flavours, but underlining it all is some acid bite that adds to the length. This is made in a Chardonnay style, and is certainly complex. Two barrels made, fully barrel-fermented to 14.0% alc. and dryness, aged 12 months in oak, one barrel new. 18.5/20 Aug 2017 RRP $38.00
Maori Point Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012
Light, garnet-hued red with a pale edge and some bricking. The bouquet is soft and full, with good depth, the aromatics quite integrated, the savoury red berry fruits melded with layers of earth, game and spice, along with dried herbs. This has secondary layers and complexity, and the aromatics grow in presence with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate has gently integrated mouthfilling flavours of savoury red berry fruits, dried herbs, spices, game and cedar. The flavours are up-front and accessible and supported by light tannin extraction that is beginning to resolve and integrate. Soft acidity adds to the completeness and softness. This still has plenty of wine to unfold, but is drinking on it plateau. It is already showing secondary complexities. Made with Lacie Lawrence at Aurum. Aged 12 months in 22-25% new oak. 17.5+/20 Aug 2017 RRP $36.00
Maori Point Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013
Dark, deep ruby-red colour with a good heart. This is still youthful in appearance with a little purple. The nose is firm and deeply concentrated with ripe aromas of black and dark-red cherry and berry fruits. This still has some primary expression, unfolding fresh and dried herbs, notes of spices and florals. Medium-full bodied, the palate is bright, rich and ripe, with succulent and up-front primary dark-red and black cherry and berry fruits. Some dark herbs add interest. This has power and weight, with a fine-grained tannin structure and fresh acidity underlining the fruit. The fruit carries well to a lighter finish. Made on site at Maori Point. Aged 12 months in 22-25% new oak. 18.0/20 Aug 2017 RRP $36.00
Maori Point ‘Reserve’ Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014
Deepish ruby-red colour with some garnet hues, lighter on the edge. The nose is firm and tightly bound with good depth and density. The fruit aromatics of red berry fruits is a little restrained, but there is spicy and nutty oak, and a ‘textured’ aroma showing substance. Fullish bodied, and intense on palate with ripe cherry-berry fruit, fresh and dried herbs, earth, and spicy, toasty oak, the fruit is rich and succulent, but balanced by the fine-grained extraction and structure. The tannins become the feature on the palate providing depth and concentration, but the fruit opulence is not dominated by the grip. This has plenty of mouthfeel and interest. It should age well with increasing savoury layers and complexities. 10/5 and Abel clone fruit from a selected part of the vineyard, aged 16 months in 50% new oak. followed by a barrel selection. 18.5-/20 Aug 2017 RRP $65.00