The team of Nautilus Estate in Renwick, Marlborough have a number of interesting and exciting development in the works for this year. With small plantings of Gruner Veltliner coming on stream, a 2011 release is being considered. Tasting a sample from seasoned oak, the distinctive savoury ‘caper’ fruit flavour winemaker Clive Jones said it had was certainly evident. I felt the wine possessed good fruit weight and presence, but the production team at Nautilus were unsure of how a Nautilus Gruner Veltliner should taste and be presented. I suppose there’s only one way to find out! Also tasted was a 2011 Gewurztraminer in tank. Near bone-dry, this had wonderful aromatics and a very tightly bound palate. A beautiful wine, it should fatten up and become more opulent. Such is the attractiveness of the Gewurztraminer, that samples for visiting guests (and staff) are reducing the level in the tank!
A round of tasting tank and barrel samples gave an indication of further progression for the Nautilus and associated Opawa second-tier label. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc may not scale the heights of the 2010 release, but it will certainly have richness and some pungent, passionfruity flavours in the make-up. I find the Nautilus Pinot Gris style to be classical and right down the line, with purity of spiced pear fruit. Is the next step for Clive to add some more ‘funky interest’ as well as texture and weight? With Chardonnay, Nautilus has become more elegant and refined, and this direction seems to suit the pure citrus expression of region’s Chardonnay fruit.
I have been impressed with how Nautilus Pinot Noir has leapt forward over the last couple of releases. The inclusion of southern valleys, clay soil-grown fruit has given considerable power, depth and definition to the main label. It has also lifted the Opawa label, the latter label pretty much where the standard of where Nautilus Pinot Noir was, only a few short years ago. Clive Jones and the Opawa winemaker Brett Birmingham have been investigating the role of whole bunches and inclusion of stems in vineyard ferments, and the results are promising, giving greater elegance and structure simultaneously. We can expect more being built into their Pinot Noirs.
The current release Nautilus Pinot Noir, the 2009, is a very tight, concentrated and ageworthy wine with density and dark fruit and spicy expression, now just hinting at its potential complex truffle and mushroomy underlay. I’ve particularly enjoyed this wine. The 2010 Opawa and Nautilus Pinot Noirs are much more accessible and lively, with brighter, juicier, more aromatic fruit, this reflecting the excellent fruit condition that 2010 provided as a vintage in Marlborough. The Opawa is particularly lush and ‘pretty’, the Nautilus featuring more sweet richness, oak, and spice. Both are delicious and will make many friends. It will be interesting to compare the 2009 and 2010 wines to see how they age and develop.