I am always inspired by the enthusiasm of those who are entering the wine market. Considerable thought and planning as well as the aforementioned enthusiasm are prerequisites, but more is necessary. Experience, technical and professional skill, timing and luck all contribute to success, but even then, success is not always the outcome. I was impressed by the people behind the new label ‘The Elder Pinot’ at their inaugural release function.
‘The Elder Pinot’ consists of two couples aiming to make the highest quality Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from a special vineyard in Martinborough. Working from 1998 to 2006 as viticulturist at Martinborough Vineyard, Nigel Elder saw the potential of wine, particularly Pinot Noir from the district and the passion was supported and became shared by partner Bridgit Taylor. Nigel had met during his tenure at Martinborough Vineyard, Mike and Margaret Hanson, who had planted vines soon after establishing an olive grove on their 12 ha property at the southern end of Te Muna Valley in 1996. (They make ‘Blue Earth’ olive oil.) Persuaded by neighbour the late Bill Brink of then Walnut Grove to grow grapes as well, the Hansons found themselves as suppliers for Martinborough Vineyard. Nigel was especially taken by their vineyard site and the quality of the fruit, and after much discussion, the two couples decided to produce their own label.
The Pinot Noir vines are now 10-12 years old and the Pinot Gris 4-6 years of age. The vineyard is on protected terraces, overlooking the vines of Craggy Range and tended by the Hansons who live on site. Nigel’s viticultural skills ensure premium quality, and the wines are made by Paul Mason at Martinborough Vineyard. I tasted the wines, from the 2010 vintage, before the official release at the start of August and found them most promising. (Click here to read my review.) On this showing, the Pinot Gris seemed to have become richer and the Pinot Noir showing even greater structure and potential to live longer.
Some may argue that in tough economic times when discounting seems to be the only way to sell wine, it is dangerous to come on to the market with a premium label. I am in the camp that this is the time to make a statement on quality and aim high and far from where the battle is raging over how low one can go. ‘Quality is always remembered when the price is long forgotten’ goes the saying. The Elder Pinot has some work ahead of it to ensure its rightful place to be enjoyed by serious wine lovers. But they have the support of many of their peers in Martinborough and a wealth of professional friends who are behind them. It all augurs well. www.theelderpinot.co.nz