Escarpment ‘Single Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2010 Release
I've been fortunate in seeing these wines in various stages of their development before their official release for the start of March 2012. The previous occasion was just over a month and a half ago, in a blind tasting when they were served after barrel samples of the 2011 Insight Pinot Noirs. (Click here to see my notes.) The exercise was extremely instructive as it enabled a comparison across vintages, and also provided the opportunity of confirming the consistency of style that emanates from each site. Larry McKenna and his assistant winemaker Huw Kinch and viticulturist Dave Shepherd are far more familiar in such exercises of their wines, but it gave me some reassurance that it is a difficult exercise, when Larry and his team also worked hard at recognising the wines and their origins. It's a matter of personal performance and subtle seasonal variations that play their part. Despite the variables these factors cause, they wholeheartedly believe that each site has its unique terroir. Tasting the Escarpment ‘Single Vineyard' Pinot Noirs does give insight into the workings of terroir in Martinborough.
Experience has shown that the ‘Kupe' wine is the most structured and complex as an entity, despite Larry's trials at instilling greater finesse. The ‘Pahi' wine is the lightest and most aromatic and pure in fruitiness, partly a result of virus-affected wines of late. The ‘Te Rehua' is a funky and individual New Zealand style and the ‘Kiwa' is the ‘Old World' expression wine, most like Burgundy. The Escarpment regional blend is often the most direct and least complex, but not necessarily the smallest or lightest wine when compared with the ‘Insight' wines.
In my tastings so far, the 2010 Escarpment Pinot Noir wines have always reflected the slow-to-ripen vintage for me with their more forward, dried herb and savoury flavour profiles. With this has come less site distinctiveness. Vintage character has certainly become more expressive. What has surprised me about them, however, is their sheer size and structure. When many other 2010 Pinot Noirs are smaller-scale wines, Larry McKenna's Pinot Noirs are as robustly constructed as ever. For the above reasons, the Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noirs, including the new 2010s, are fascinating to study, cellar and drink.
On tasting them for this review article, the wines have become more settled in themselves, which is something that can be expected. While still robustly structured and generally masculine in character, their primary fruit aromas and flavours have returned to head off the savoury, forest-floor and dried-herb elements that could be interpreted as signs of earlier development. I've marked them a tad harder, possibly reflecting my tasting them on my own, without Larry, Huw and Dave ‘over my shoulder', in the ‘hard light of day', but also after having tasted other leaders of the region, the 2010 Pinot Noirs of Ata Rangi and Dry River. These latter two are gorgeous wines, the finesse of the Ata Rangi (click here for my review) and the fruit brightness of the Dry River (click here for my review) their signatures. The Escarpment Pinot Noir wines are different beasts. Just as there are a myriad of styles of Burgundy, so too are there different Martinborough Pinot Noirs. These are robust, complex, layered wines with great mouthfeel and textures. They will make great food wines.
The Escarpment ‘Insight' single vineyard Pinot Noirs are markers of our industry's understanding and interpretation of terroir, made by one of this country's leaders with the Pinot Noir variety. Any serious student and lover of wine must experience them. www.escarpment.co.nz
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 07-Mar-2012Very dark, deep, purple-hued ruby-red colour, with a slightly lighter edge, youthful in appearance. The nose is full with bright, fresh aromas of dark cherry-berry fruit with nuances of whole bunch stalk, fresh herbs and violetty floral perfumes. Medium-full bodied, this shows succulent flavours of ripe dark cherries and black berries, as well as nuances of herbs, enlivened by fresh acidity, providing drive and richness through the palate. Balanced tannin grip and proper structure lends a degree of solidness and robustness, but it is the fruit that is the feature. The finish is long and sustained, with good fruit sweetness. Abel, 667, 5 and 10/5 clones from ‘Te Muna Road' and town blocks, the vines at least 10 y.o. 40% whole bunch, ambient soaked and native yeast fermented to 14.0% alc. The wine aged 11 months in 20% new French oak. A bold, lively and fruity wine with good structure. Match with Mediterranean cuisine over the next 6-8 years. 18.5+/20 Mar 2012 RRP $50.00 Very dark, deep, ruby-red, purple-hued colour with a little garnet on edge. The nose is full and robust with complex, savoury black fruit aromas along with floral lift, which lends a degree of style. The components are in excellent balance and harmonious. Elegantly sized on palate, this shows excellent richness of dark berry fruits, with firm and nicely balanced tannins, as well as bright, fresh acidity. Everything is coming together, melding well. Quite complete. I saw this as the Escarpment regional blend in the blind tasting and rated it 3rd equal in preference of the 5 2010 wines tasted. Knowing the identity, it overdelivers, and sits nicely with the ‘Insight' single vineyard wines. 19.0-/20 Jan 2012