A snapshot of Wairarapa


I paid a quick visit to the Wairarapa wine region while I was in the area for a family holiday end of January. Thanks to Wairarapa Wines organised a selection of wine from the region so that I can get a snapshot out of the region and recent vintages.

18 reds in the morning, then 21 whites and rosés in the afternoon tasted in the recently opened Karahui Wine Bar & Eatery at the Martinborough Square. Producers submitted their wines include Butterworth, Le Gra, Schubert, Ata Rangi, Ashwell, Palliser, Luna Estate, Huntress, Te Kairanga, Equilibrium, Escarpment, Martinborough Vineyard, Nga Waka, Urlar and B wine.

Here is a list of the standout wines for me:

Pinot Noir -

Schubert Marion's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 - A complex bouquet with spice, game, strawberries and herb, rich in flavour with a hint of complimenting VA. Fine tannin grip with integrated acidity; lifted and concentrated.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2019 - Pretty bouquet with lifted floral, sour cherry, gamey and a hint of farmyard. The palate unveiled plum and all the above, balanced fruit and acidity, firm and fine tannin coated the palate with a herbaceous, long finish.

Palliser Hua Nui Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 - Struck match, spice and cinnamon and savoury plums on the nose. Mouth-filling, medium+ tannin grip, toasty with creamy detail, rounded fruit (plums & red berries), great acid balance. A blockbuster style.

Huntress Pinot Noir 2019 - Bright and lifted, fragrant red fruit, raspberries and cherries with excellent acidity, hibiscus, delicate spices on a medium tannin structure and silky mouthfeel. Shows a sense of purity.

Te Kairanga John Martin Pinot Noir 2020 - Generous black cherry, ripe blackberry with a good dose of spice. Juicy and ripe fruit on the palate, spice, again very generous, silky mouthfeel with good acidity and length.

Escarpment Kiwa Pinot Noir 2020 - Perfume, clay minerals opened to floral with balanced sweet fruit with concentration and depth. Layers of raspberry, cherry fruit, spice, game, liquorice and dried herbs, very complex with lacy acidity and a long finish.

Martinborough Vineyard Home Block Pinot Noir 2020 - Good depth on the nose with spice and dark fruit. Savoury and generous fruit on the palate with a rounded mouthfeel, medium+ tannin structure, toasty oak, bright and balanced acidity, elegant, lengthy finish.

Nga Waka Lease Block Pinot Noir 2020 - Elegantly presented savoury elements, black fruit, layered with spice. Harmonious acid balance with concentration and structure.

White -

Butterworth Sauvignon Blanc 2020 - Bight and concentrated ripe fruit with melon, pear, soft spice, clean and refreshing, balanced acidity within a clean palate, stony minerals and white spice.

Escarpment Pinot Blanc 2021 - Neutral pear and apple on the nose. Concentrated and lush on the palate, dry to taste, chalky textured features pear, white pepper and minerals, lacy acidity and refined.

Martinborough Home Block Chardonnay 2020 - Appealing ripe stonefruit with balanced oak and butter. Lush mouthfeel, med+ bodied, ripe stonefruit, preserved lemon and secondary details—a classic, appealing style.

Nga Waka Chardonnay 2020 - Lifted and bright with good energy. Stonefruit and lemon, balanced buttery and creaminess.

Ata Rangi Potiki Chardonnay 2020 - Lighty oaked, almond tart. Young and elegant with citrus, pink grapefruit and spice. Soft butter, MLF details, youthful and bright with a sleek, refined finish.

Ata Rangi Masters Chardonnay 2020 - Bright, lifted with good energy. Layered stony minerals, sherbety citrus, fine phenolics and structured with acid tension. Elegant and textural with a very long finish.

Butterworth Regatta Rosé 2020 - An attractive pale berry-salmon colour. Raspberry and cream with a citrus background. Excellent acidity, fine-textured and approachable.

Schubert Rosé 2021 - Pale blush-pink, strawberries, lush with some spices. Fruit-forward, good texture and a refreshing finish.

Urlar Pinot Rosé 2020 - Rose-petal colour with depth, deep floral on the entry, rich with citrus zest, red berry/ strawberry flavours. Slightly savoury and a moreish finish.

Helen Masters, winemaker of Ata Rangi commented that 2019 was a challenging vintage, frost in the South part of Wairarapa, cool growing season affected the crop and size of the bunches were small with a high skin to berry ratio, there was more work on the sorting tables.

The result of the wines, in general, were more restrained in style, vibrant acidity with strawberry, raspberry fruit and noticeable firm tannin grip and density. Good concentration with great cellaring potential.

Vintage 2020 in comparison, was an easy one, other than the covid-19 restrictions, excellent ripening conditions and above-average yields. The season began with good flowering and even berry and bunch size, stable weather conditions followed with near-drought conditions in February and March across the region. Late March saw 130mm rain; however, it did not compromise the quality because of the near-draught conditions, and over 60% of the harvest had happened before the rain. The overall quality of the crop was outstanding, balanced with good juice to skin ratio.

I found the vintage 2020 shows great energy with a bright expression, already appealing with juicy fruit, layers and structured smooth tannins. A very exciting vintage to drink or to hold.


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