General Blog

Wild About Martinborough 2013

By October 22, 2013No Comments
It is pleasing to see the Martinborough wine community come together as a group to promote the region. It has been a tough few years, but the number of winegrowers is fairly constant at present. In fact, the Wairarapa region has experienced an increase in vineyard planting over the last 5 years of nearly 15%.. Martinborough accounts for approx. 1.5% of New Zealand’s total 36,000 ha vineyard area, but its reputation is far greater than that, with the regional style of Pinot Noir seen as a classic of its type. Riesling and other varieties flourish, adding to the regions credibility. However, it’s the diversity of the producers that is the region’s strength. The larger players of Palliser Estate and Te Kairanga need the likes of the artisan and small producer such as Brodie Estate, The Cabbage Tree Vineyard and Porters Pinot to provide the breadth and individuality that draws interest into the area. By working together, the vignoble will grow.

The ‘Wild About Martinborough’ promotion this year brought together 18 wineries to show their wares at the Queens Wharf Ballroom at Foxglove on the Wellington waterfront. Sessions for the wine and hospitality trade, as well as the consuming public were conducted. It was a pleasure to be able to see the wines in a large and spacious venue. As usual with these tastings, it’s impossible to get a full and detailed impression of the wines being tasted, but one can certainly get a good feel for them, as well as talk to the owners and winemakers (often the same person). For 2013, the wines were tasted out of ‘The Gabriel Glass’ that the region has unofficially adopted. The stemware certainly does a good job of delivering the wine. My approach this year was to spend some time at each exhibitor, and take notes on just one wine, and not try to taste too much. I took a photo of the person behind the stand as well. Here are my impressions of the wines and my images. www.winesfrommartinborough.com

Kaye McAulay – Vynfields

John Bell and Kaye McAulay specialise in exploring different expressions of Riesling and Pinot Noir, but their ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir remains the flagship. Just released is the ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2011, and if the regular ‘Estate’ of that vintage is anything to go by, this is a sure winner. Youthfully purple-hued, this is very tight and concentrated, featuring violet perfumes and deep dark berry fruits, the wine is very pure with primary rawness, but it has all the componentry to come together beautifully. Cropped at stricter regimes than grand cru burgundy, there’s plenty of extract. With this wine, watch this space…

David Bull – The Cabbage Tree Vineyard

The Cabbage Tree Vineyard

I’ve just reviewed three of David and Winifred Bull’s latest releases (click here to see), so the Merlot 2009 which wasn’t among them was the one to taste. The product of a good vintage, it sports 14.7% alc., and shows the rich, lifted and cedary style that is the signature of the house as well as the 22 months oak maturation. The wine is backed by very fine tannins and the fruit has melded harmoniously with the wood. Being sensitive to the nature of their wines, the Bulls prefer to release them to the market with some maturation underway.

Nigel Elder – The Elder Pinot

The Elder Pinot
Although I recently saw The Elder Pinot Gris 2012, I was surprised how much can change with a wine in a matter of months if not weeks. Nigel Elder agrees, and also sees the development of greater volume in bouquet. This has opened out with the stonefruit, flint and honeysuckle seeming especially rich. The palate is true to form with its crispness and cut, the steely mouthfeel refreshing and bright. This is a food-friendly style, especially suited to Chinese – trust me…

Christine Calmus – Schubert Wines

Schubert Wines
With Kai Schubert travelling the world marketing his wines to the finest establishments, it’s surprising there’s any left for the domestic market! But I’m sure Kai and Marion look after the locals, and the ‘Marion’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 is a treat. This is very burgundian with its finesse and elegance coupled with subtle savoury, mushroom complexities and fragrant floral-cherry fruit. Seeming tight and closed initially, it releases with a flourish in the glass. It’s in the recognised ‘feminine’ style, and is a beauty.

Donna Knight and John Kavanagh – Te Kairanga

Te Kairanga
As part of taking Te Kairanga into a higher level, winemaker John Kavanagh has focussed on fruit purity for the new ‘John Martin Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2012. To do this, he’s made the strictest selection of wine, and aged it only 11 months in 25% new oak. I was taken by the aromatic lift and sweet juiciness. There’s fine-grained tannin support, but already the wine has approachability and appeal. There’s only 200 dozen made. This is a sign of the changes, and I can’t wait to see the 2013 wines which John has overseen from the get-go.

Hugo Porter – Porters Pinot

Porters Pinot
Like father, like son. The young Hugo Porter has the same glint in his eye, cheekiness and wry humour as John the senior, as well as the same enthusiasm for wine. The label will be safe in the next generation’s hands. Although the ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2009 is a richer, oakier and riper wine than the normally delicate Chambolle-Musigny style that comes from their vines, I believe the expression of the sites and soils is emerging, even in this bigger ‘Reserve’ wine and through the vintage character. I’m seeing the red florals and underlying acidity lend an edge of delicacy now.

Pip Goodwin – Palliser Estate

Palliser Estate
One of the rocks of Martinborough, with delightful and enquiring winemaker Pip Goodwin equally proud of the aromatic whites and sparkling as the Pinot Noir. The Riesling 2012 is a refined and detailed wine with delicate florals, lime fruit and subtle toastiness just developing. Super acid balance here, too The 12 g/L RS and 11 % alc. is in classic proportions in the riper Germanic style of Kabinett, and tastes more dry than medium. Just a beautiful, refreshing and interesting Riesling to sip on.

Strat Canning – Margrain Vineyard

Margrain Vineyard
Always one of the quiet achievers in the district, Strat Canning makes sophisticated wines from Graham and Daryl Margrain’s maturing vines. The Margrains acquired the pioneering blocks from Stan and Rosemary Chifney including the 30+ y.o. vines for the Chenin Blanc 2012. It’s 12.0% alc. and carries 20 g/L RS, and tastes like textbook Vouvray with its white stonefruits, hints of tropical fruits, honey and steel. Some beauty in the knife-edge balance of sugar and acidity, and there’s even a little flinty reductive complexity, just as you see in the best wines of the Loire.

Phil McArthur – Martinborough Vineyard

Martinborough Vineyard
I tasted through the Pinot Noir tier, seeing a cool and pretty ‘Te Tera’ 2012, a serious, ripe-fruited Martinborough Vineyard 2011, but had to concentrate on the ‘flagship’ and sporadically released ‘Marie Zelie’ Pinot Noir 2010. It shows the cooler vintage with its piquant herbal aromatic and flavour profile, but the intensity and concentration, as well as finesse of structure makes it a standout. The oaking has been pulled back from the extravagance of the 2003 and 2006 releases, with Paul Mason and Phil McArthur looking for greater elegance.

Neil Bennett – Murdoch James Estate

Murdoch James Estate
Nicola Belsham and Carl Fraser are popular and lively people, always engaging with those around them, so I missed out talking to them as they were busy, but this gave me the chance to meet cellar door manager Neil Bennett, a pretty experienced campaigner himself. He showed the new relase ‘Blue Rock’ Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, dense and dark-fruited with cherries and berries, with some oak layering prevalent and a matching serious structure to boot. The firmness is a sure sign it’ll age well.

Megan and Sue Darling – Julicher Estate

Julicher Estate
It’s a case of ‘like mother, light daughter’ here, with Megan at the side of mother Sue Darling pouring the wines. That’s two daughters I’ve met helping out Sue and Wim. Julicher Estate has a good range of wines all made with a certain amount of flair that extends into the second label ’99 Rows’ Pinot Noir 2010. It’s fuller, rounder and more up-front with fleshy and juicier berry and cherry flavours and just enough tannin texture to give it form and structure underneath. It’s always pleased me drinking this and there are many fans for it.

Ian Iggulden – Hamden Estate

Hamden Estate
One of the smaller and new entrants on the Martinborough wine scene is Hamden Estate, on Dry River Road just out of town with Murdoch James and Coney as neighbours. Strat Canning makes the wines, and owner Ian Iggulden was pouring the wine at the tasting. The Pinot Noir 2010 is from 7 y.o. vines. It’s a lighter wine for sure and in the cooler spectrum, but it has vinosity and is attractively fragrant with red florals, cherries and soft red fruits. Size isn’t everything.

Larry McKenna – Escarpment Vineyard

Escarpment Vineyard
Larry McKenna is one of the New Zealand wine industry heroes and Pinot Noir is his claim to fame, but he would say Chardonnay would be his next love. But I reckon he’s a master with Riesling too. Maybe it’s his South Australian heritage. His Riesling 2010 is 12.0% alc. and 19 g/L RS, is about as classic as an off-dry to medium example can be. Lime fruit with honey and some toastiness showing some bottle age. And lovely soft textures with spot-on acidity. Lovely stuff.

Tim and Margaret Coney – Coney Wines

Coney Wines
Tim and Margaret Coney have an easy, fun and light-hearted approach when talking about their wines to let people know that it’s a part of everyday life, rather than an eclectic hobby. Their passion for music has the labels reflecting it. Beneath the veneer of irreverence is pride in their offerings, as in ‘The Ritz’ Riesling 2013, at 9% alc. and 34 g/L RS, carrying some CO2, and thus some spritz. It’s delicate, with lime infused honey flavours and a pretty tingle on the tongue. It isn’t too dissimilar to many German versions.

Jeannine McCallum (distributor) and Lance Redgwell
Cambridge Road

Cambridge Road
I’m always impressed with Lance Redgwell’s enthusiasm and keenness to do it well and a little differently. It is as if he’s the new kid on the block who wants to join the gang. The style, quality and interest of his wines has got him there. The ‘Papillon Blanc’ 2013 is a unique blend of Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris, from different local vineyards, co-fermented to 13.6% alc. and 2.5 g/L RS. Fresh cut grass and herbs with some floral lift, but carried by steely power. A bit of Austria comes through.

Ann Brodie – Brodie Estate

Brodie Estate
James and Ann Brodie are quietly building up the presence of their label. They were prominent at Pinot Noir 2013, so keep an eye on them. ‘The Angel’s Sigh’ Rosé 2013 is a sign of their step up and progress. A Pinot Noir-based rosé wine, made in the French Provençale style of delicacy of colour and fruit expression, but properly dry on palate with great vinosity and presence, so that versatility with food is guaranteed. This is fresh, crisp and clean, and will be perfect this summer.

Katherine Jacobs – Big Sky Wines

Big Sky Wines
Along Te Muna Road, Katherine Jacobs and Jeremy Corban have a site that is open to the bright sun at day and the heavens at night. The ‘Big Sky’ title is true, and maybe the pure air and direct sunlight gives wines that reflect it. The Sauvignon Blanc 2012 is 25% barrel matured, and the subtle smoky oak is detectable, but the cool, zesty, steely linearity is its feature. This is balanced by rich lantana and gooseberry flavours with nuances of fresh herbs and nettles. This will be a great seafood wine.

Ali Paton – Ata Rangi

Ata Rangi Vineyard
Clive Paton, Phyll Pattie and Ali Paton make some of the best wines in Martinborough and indeed the country. They take care with everything they do, and lead by example, but are gracious enough to help all in the district and beyond. Their wines, overseen by winemaker Helen Masters are benchmarkers. The new release ‘Petrie’ Chardonnay 2012 was on show. A reflection of the vintage with its slim-line, tightly bound proportions, it exudes complexing flintiness to complement the refined stonefruit and citrus flavours. Beautiful acid cut and great linearity will ensure a good life ahead.

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