Devotus 2017, and 2016 and 2017 Aprentis of Devotus Pinot Noirs
Devotus is the boutique Martinborough Pinot Noir vineyard of Don and Valerie McConachy who own 3 ha on the corner of Puruatanga Road and Regent Street on the Martinborough Terrace, next to Dry River. The McConachys have revitalised the vineyard since 2013 after they acquired the site to release their first wines from the 2014 vintage. The wines, a Devotus Pinot Noir and ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir, made by different local winemakers achieved instant acclaim (click here to see my reviews of the 2014s), and these were followed by the equally good, if not better 2015s (click here for my reviews) and 2016s (click here for my reviews).
The basis for the differentiation of the wines comes from the age of the vines. The Devotus Pinot Noir comes from 1.3 ha of Dijon clones 667, 777, 114 and 115 with Abel, that are now 24 y.o. The ‘Reserve’ wine comes from 0.38 ha of 32 y.o. Pommard clone planted in 10 rows on the Regent Street side of the vineyard. In 2016, the McConachys introduced a third label ‘Aprentis of Devotus’ from the youngest vines, then 11-17 y.o., consisting of Dijon and Abel clone. Don and Valerie have planted a further 1 ha of new Pinot Noir vines since they have been there, there is the possibility of a ‘Young Vines’ wine when these plants bear sufficient crop.
In my opinion, the key to the quality of all the wines made to date has been the meticulous vineyard care the McConachys have put into the maintenance of the vines. I don’t think there is any vineyard in Martinborough that is so well-tended. The vines are non-irrigated and they grow cover crops to plough back into the soil for nutrition. As noted above, the McConachys have contracted two winemakers to help make the wines, the ‘Devotus; and ‘Aprentis’ by Alex Craighead, and the ‘Reserve’ by a Kate Hammond, of 'Poppies' and formerly Dry River. Needless to say the winemaking has been impeccable, and although two approaches are taken to making the wines, I believe that as time progresses, the vineyard character and terroir will come into play in the wines’ expressions. From 2018, Wilco Lam of Dry River will take over the making of the ‘Reserve’ wine.
The Devotus wines have been remarkably successful, and most of the allocations are taken up by avid mail order customers. A small amount is reserved to retail and on-premise, but it’s probably best to register your interest in obtaining these wines as soon as you can. I understand the 2017s, which are due for release in August are practically all taken up. It must be a wonderful situation to be in for a new producer. The McConachys are very aware of the pricing and that it doesn’t go to stratospheric levels due to the demand. The retail prices I quote may seem high, being on par with some of the region’s top producers, but the ‘en primeur’ mailing prices are significantly lower. Here, I review the new 2017 ‘Aprentis’ of Devotus, and ‘Devotus’ Pinot Noirs, from a relatively challenging season, plus a re-look at the 2016 ‘Aprentis’ of Devotus. A 'Reserve' wine was made in 2017 and will be reviewed at a later stage after sufficient cellaring time, www.devotus.nz
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Aprentis of Devotus ‘Single Vineyard’ Martinborough Terrace Pinot Noir 2016Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 06-Jun-2018Dark, deep, ruby-red colour with garnet hues on the rim. The bouquet is full and solidly packed with deep aromas of ripe dark-red berry fruit entwined with savoury dark and dried herbs with whole bunch stalk notes, a little undergrowth and mushroom secondary complexities. This grows in depth and concentration with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate is fulsome with plenty of savoury dark-red berry fruit flavours entwined with dark and dried herbs, some undergrowth and mushrooms, along with whole bunch stalk elements. The fruit has richness and is enlivened by fresh acidity, and underlined by light tannin extraction providing good mouthfeel and presence. The flavours carry to a smooth, lingering finish. This is a rich flavoursome Pinot Noir with savoury red berry fruit and secondary dark herbs, undergrowth and mushroom, along with good freshness and presence. Match with coq au vin and casseroles over the next 3-4 years. A blend of clones 667, 777, 114 and Abel, from the youngest vines, 11-17 y.o., the fruit hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented with 40% whole bunches to 13.0% alc., the wine on skins 11 days and matured 11 months in seasoned oak. 1,588 bottles made. 17.5+/20 Jun 2018 RRP $45.00Moderately deep ruby-red colour with lighter garnet hues on the rim. The nose is softly full in volume with harmoniously interwoven aromas dark-red berry fruits, cherries and plums, along with fresh herbs and some whole bunch stalk notes that form a rounded, deep core. The nose has freshness, incorporating cooler spectrum herb elements, unfolding a little earthiness. Medium-bodied, the palate has a fulsome and robust mouthfeel, with sweet flavours of savoury dark-red berry fruit along with notes of cherries and plums, entwined with fresh and dried herbs, and some whole bunch stalk elements and whole bunch stalk notes on a well-structured, vibrant palate. Match with slow-cooked game dishes and casseroles over the next 4-5 years. The palate is juicy and lush and the fruit is balanced by moderate grainy tannin extraction and grip, with fresh, lacy acidity providing energy. The flavours carry with good vitality to a robust, lively and sweet finish of soft, savoury red fruits, herbs and earthy detail. This is a fulsome and robust Pinot Noir with sweetly rich, savoury dark-red berry fruit, herb A blend of clones 667, 777, 114 and Abel, from the youngest vines, 11-17 y.o., the fruit hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented with 40% whole bunches to 13.0% alc., the wine on skins 11 days and matured 11 months in seasoned oak. 1,588 bottles made. 17.5/20 Jun 2017 RRP $47.95
Aprentis of Devotus ‘Single Vineyard’ Martinborough Terrace Pinot Noir 2017Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 04-Jun-2018Even garnet red colour with some depth, lighter on the rim. The nose is elegant, refined and fragrant in expression with a very finely concentrated heart of dark-red berry fruits harmoniously melded with dark-red florals, along with a very fine line of dark herbs. This has aromatic finesse and intensity. Medium-full bodied, the palate is bright and lively with aromatic fruit flavours of dark-red cherry and berry fruit with subtle notes of raspberries, along with an array of ref florals and dark herbs. The fruit is enlivened by fresh, lacy acidity and underlined by light, fine-grained tannin extraction. The flavours are smooth and up-front, receding a little as the wine carries to an elegant, light finish. This is a bright and vibrant, soft cherry, berry and raspberry fruited wine with an array of floras and dark herbs, on a fresh, smooth flowing palate. Match with antipasto, poultry and pork dishes over the next 3-4 years, A blend of clones 667, 777, 114 and Abel, from the youngest vines, 12-18 y.o., the fruit hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented with 20% whole bunches to 13.0% alc., the wine on skins 12 days and matured 11 months in seasoned oak. 1,680 bottles made. 18.0-/20 Jun 2018 RRP $45.00
Devotus ‘Single Vineyard’ Martinborough Terrace Pinot Noir 2017Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 06-Jun-2018Even, moderately deep ruby-red colour with slight garnet hues, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is soft and a little restrained in expression with tightly bound aromas of savoury dark-red berry fruit harmoniously melded and balanced with subtle notes of dark and dried herbs, unfolding a little whole bunch stalk notes, with red floral and fresh herbs, unveiling a little nutty oak. Medium-full bodied, the palate is softly full with mouthfilling flavours of savoury dark-red berry fruit entwined with savoury dark and dried herbs, along with some whole bunch stalk elements, with some earth and game. The flavours are broad and are open and accessible, unfolding layers of detail. Light, fine-grained tannins support the fruit with balanced acidity, and the wine carries easily to an elegant, lingering finish. This is a sweetly rich and mouthfilling Pinot Noir with accessible flavours of savoury dark-red berry fruit, dried herbs and game on a fine-grained, balanced palate. Match with roasted lamb, beef, venison and game meat over the next 5-6 years. A blend of clones 667, 777, 114 and 115, plus Abel, from vines 23 y.o., the fruit hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented with 25% whole bunches to 13.0% alc., the wine spending 12 days on skins and aged 11 months in seasoned French oak. 1,699 bottles made. 18.5/20 Jun 2018 RRP $65.00