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Urlar – Tasting the First Fruits of 2016

By April 25, 2016No Comments
At the start of March I reported on the arrival of Carol Bunn from Central Otago taking up a new position as winemaker at Urlar, in Gladstone in the Wairarapa. For Carol it was a challenge in that her responsibilities were to be fully involved with the vineyard as well as making the wine, and to be working closely with proprietor Angus Thomson on all decisions. (Click here to read my report.)

Vintage 2016 though impending, had not yet begun and in talking to Angus and Carol, they revealed their intentions in wine styles, the vintage conditions willing! The Urlar wines have become some of the more sophisticated from the greater Wairarapa district, with plenty of complexing flavours and considerable textures. Angus and Carol’s aim was to bring back some more obvious fruit character into the wines, to generate some wider market interest, whist retaining much of the sophistication as had evolved over the past few years. After all, why fix something that’s not broke? It’s all about fine-tuning.

In conversation with Angus, he suggested coming to visit to taste the first fruits of the 2016 vintage to see if they’d achieved their aims. I’d suggest it’s a little too early to make pronouncements and judgements on the wines. There was still Riesling fruit out on the vines, hopefully to make a good Late Harvest or Noble style wine. But what was in the tanks was in various stages of fermentation, and still ‘must’, rather than finished wine. However, Angus and Carol felt that a lot of what will be the final character of the wine could be seen in the unfinished juice. So a tasting of mainly tanks and a few barrels was conducted. The 2016 vintage was pretty much “bang on” with predictions for the Sauvignon Blanc, and somewhat down, maybe 20 tonnes, on expectations for the Pinot Noir. In total, around 155 tonnes had been picked. Here are my impressions. www.urlar.co.nz

Carol Bunn & Angus Thomson – Urlar

Sauvignon Blanc Samples
The two blocks of Sauvignon Blanc yield juice of different character, the ‘A’ block with methoxypyrazine (gooseberry) expression, whereas the ‘B’ block with thiols (passionfruit). This no doubt is a result of the characteristics of each block, picking decisions and the use of various yeasts for fermentation.

Sauvignon Blanc 2016, 90% ‘B’ block: This has pungent tropical fruit aromas, but ripe and sweet smelling. On palate the fruit definition is clear and soft, harmoniously and attractively accessible.

Sauvignon Blanc 2016, 50% each of ‘A’ and ‘B’ blocks with co-fermented yeasts: a touch of gooseberry, but with good depth and intensity. The gooseberry flavours show some herbal interest, clearly a little cooler, but with zestiness and acid cut.

Sauvignon Blanc 2016, ‘A’ block: Tight and elegantly constructed, refreshingly clean, fresh herbs and gooseberries, lovely clarity. This is classical Sauvignon Blanc with some acid structure and some grip. Quite thirst-quenching already.

Sauvignon Blanc 2016, from seasoned oak barrel given some skin contact: A little funky and slightly stinky from fermentation, showing stonefruits and herbal aromas. Green fruit flavours with gooseberries and good acid cut. Very fine thread of textures throughout.

Sauvignon Blanc 2016, ‘A’ block, from a 20,000 L tank: Vey fresh, tightly bound and zesty, with intense and pure gooseberry fruit expression. Lovely linearity and drive, the acidity the feature.

Sauvignon Blanc ‘A’ block with a portion of ‘B’ block, from a 20,000 L tank: Soft, aromatic nose with gentle lifted florals and subtle pungency along with tropical fruits and capsicums. Quite luscious and plus on mouthfeel, quite balanced and with sweetness featured.

Sauvignon Blanc 2016, hand-picked, with whole bunches, in a seasoned barrel: tight and concentrated with cooler-spectrum aromas, herbs, green essences, ginger, quite mono-dimensional. Tight nd powerful in expression, luscious, with essence of herbs, spices, ginger, lychees and confectionary elements. Fine textured phenolic line in total balance. Intriguing stuff.

Sauvignon Blanc 2016, ‘Select Parcels’, last rows of ‘A’ block: Great purity, concentration and very tightly bound. Lovely tropical fruit and gooseberry mix. Classical Sauvignon Blanc expression with freshness and zestiness, and definite, fine-grained textures. This will see batonnage and some MLF? The complexing layers have yet to be built into it. This is not an exuberant fruit style.

Riesling and Pinot Gris Samples
Riesling 2016, tank portion: soft, fresh florals with lemonade. Some yeasty ferment esters lift. Still very tightly bound and quite firm. Lovely crisp, mouthwatering acidity and with very fine textures.

Riesling 2016, from one of two old barrels where fermented: Softer, full and gentle nose with distinct lime and lemonade. Full on palate with weight. Soft and concentrated core, but with good acidity still. The phenolic textures emerge and become more prominent. A component to be blended.

Pinot Gris 2016, from barrel: somewhat unsettled with funky fermentation and some hints of aldehyde. But lovely nashi pear and pear drops. Some lifted fermentation notes, and lovely soft, rich textures. All of the Pinot Gris will be barrel-fermented and matured.

Pinot Noir Samples
Angus and Carol suggested that 2016 may be a better year for whites than reds, but I found the reds tasted very exciting. The fruit had crystalline beauty and aromatic purity and finesse.

Pinot Noir 2016, clone 667, fully destemmed, in a new barrel: Very fresh and tight with fragrant and pure black and dark-red cherry fruit aromas, Lovely elegance, clarity and purity with crisp and racy acidity. Very fine tannins, unfolding a little toastiness in the glass.

Pinot Noir 2016, clones 114, 777 and Abel, the latter as whole bunches: lighter coloured, but with deep and densely concentrated dak raspberry fruit, rich and mouthfilling flavours. A fruit exuberant wine with lighter background tannins and acid bite. The robustness of the fruit grows in the glass. This could be a significant component of the blend.

Pinot Noir 2016, clones 777 and 5, fermented in cuve: dark, deep colour, rich, bright, vibrant fruit, dark raspberries, full and solid, near robust, mouthfilling but plush. This has real presence, but there’s good acidity to provide tension and vitality.

Pinot Noir 2016, clones and 5, cuve fermented wine, free run juice: full, deep colour. Intense dark-red and black fruits, mouthfilling with violet florals. Some spice elements, and a suggestion of reduction, but more complexing than intrusive. Lovely acidity and fine-grained tannins.

Pinot Noir 2016, ‘Select Parcels’, clones 5, 667, 777 and Abel, with 30% whole cluster: full, dark colour. A very solid and robust nose, packed and dense with dark raspberries and plums. On palate, the dark red and black fruits are mouthfilling, and very concentrated. The expression is vibrant enough, but the structure and extract grows to prevail. This is more serious and clearly ageworthy stuff. A step away from the previous Pinot Noir samples in structure.

Carol Bunn – drawing 2016 vintage Urlar wine

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