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Urlar – From the Ground Up

By January 18, 2013No Comments

The Urlar winegrowing operation of Angus and Davina Thomson near Gladstone in the Wairarapa vignoble has quickly become one of the benchmarkers for the district, along with Gladstone Vineyard. Both share the approach of responsible land management, but Urlar has staked their position of growing biodynamically and organically with their early BioGro organic certification. It’s something that the Thomsons and their viticulturist and winemaker Guy McMaster are very passionate about, in having the land and their vines in the best condition, as that’s how the wines show quality, from the ground up. The Urlar production is relatively small, and with the growing demand for their wine, there’s no scope for second labels which fruit not up to par can go into. So it all has to be as good as it can be.

Guy McMaster with his textural Sauvignon Blanc 2012 component
Tasting 2012 Barrel Samples
On my visit to Urlar, Guy was very keen to show me what was in barrel from the 2012 vintage. Having just looked at the smart Sauvignon Blanc and superb Noble Riesling releases (click here to see my reviews), it was an opportunity to see how the other varieties fared in this cooler, low yielding vintage.

Urlar’s Sauvignon Blanc utilises a small percentage, around 10%, of barrel-fermented wine, which adds a touch of breadth, weight and texture to the final wine. However, Guy is quite taken by the barrel component. The wood is well-seasoned, past the point of any wood flavour input. Guy has two barrels of 2012, which he’d dearly love to bottle as a separate wine. It had the extra depth over the regular wine, and the flavours were brought out more too, with a sweeter nectarine note showing. I wouldn’t have minded a touch of new oak, but Guy wasn’t keen on that. The other 2012 white in barrel was the Pinot Gris. All old barrels, full MLF and more lees work. This was very rich, showing the MLF and oak in a lovely dense and textured amalgam. There’s fruit there too, and I can see this polished up to a flavoursome and layered dry style.

A number of Pinot Noir 2012 samples covered the range of clones that are planted. A barrel with 777 and 667, planted in 2004, was pretty and aromatic, red fruited, with fine-grained tannins. More substantial was a sample of 115, the fruit in a darker berry spectrum, greater concentration and with it greater drive with the acidity a component in linearity. This would be an excellent core component, and this clone made up 25% of the Pinot Noir fruit picked. The 114 clone showed a shift into the savoury and more complex, layered style. This went up a step in solidness and density. Clearly a desirable wine to be included in the final blend. The clone 5 fruit was fermented in larger cuves which gives earlier and finer oak integration. This was tightly concentrated with spicy fruit and a fantastic tension and focus. Again, it will make 25% of the blend. The sample of Abel clone wine fitted its expected character of dark savoury fruit allied to rugged structure. The final sample was a barrel with 80% clone 5 and 10% each of 667 and 777, much lighter, but with a subtle fleshiness and approachability. The striking aspect was the range of characters and no obvious ‘green’ and unripe characters in any of the samples. Guy usually includes a small amount of whole bunch in his ferments, but in 2012 took the precaution of destemming fully. I liked the way Guy handled the fruit for the 2011 vintage, better than the 2010, and no doubt the 2012 Pinot Noir will be a continuation of the trend. www.urlar.co.nz

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