Escarpment Vineyard 2011 ‘Insight’ and ‘Kupe’ Pinot Noir Release

Just over a year ago, I was privy to a tasting of 2011 vintage barrel samples of the Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noirs along with the recently finished 2010 wines with proprietor Larry McKenna, his winemaker Huw Kinch and viticulturist Dave Shepherd. (My report of this tasting and initial impression of the wines can be seen by clicking here.) The Escarpment team discussed the vintage which initially gave good heat and ripening, but also saw much of the country afflicted with powdery mildew and botrytis as the season developed. Dave Shepherd crop-thinned to ensure proper ripening and prevent disease outbreak, and picked all of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir before rain which came during harvest. Huw and Larry were very pleased with the resultant wines, and this pleasure has grown as the wines have progressed through their elevage to bottling. Stylistically, they are regarded as a departure by the Escarpment team. My conclusion about the 2011 wines at that time was that they were lighter than the previous releases of the ‘Insight' and ‘Kupe' Pinot Noirs, but with this came greater elegance, florality and beauty. The vineyard personalities of each wine, the expression of terroir, were even more marked than usual, as is often the case in such years as typified in Burgundy in 2008, reinforcing the consistent behaviour of each site evident from the first Escarpment ‘Insight' releases from the 2006 vintage.
Here are my full and considered reviews of the finished 2011 Escarpment ‘Insight' and ‘Kupe' Pinot Noirs, the ‘district blend' Pinot Noir (and the ‘Kupe' Chardonnay). The Pinot Noirs now confirm my initial observations of greater elegance and florality. The ripeness levels are excellent, indicating the accumulated early heat of the growing season, and the elegance, finer tannin texture and aromatics reflecting the cooler tail end at harvest. The wines are not as structured or as savoury in complexity as the 2010s nor the earlier releases that seem to be the Escarpment house style bearing the Larry McKenna signature, but the reduced robustness has given way to finesse. Yes, the 2011s are a departure, but in a most positive way that will be appreciated by any Pinot Noir enthusiast. The wines figure amongst the most significant Pinot Noir releases in the country, as they demonstrate Martinborough regionality, and terroir within the district. Hence they are essential in any New Zealand wine lovers' tasting experience and deserve a place in their cellars. www.escarpment.co.nz


  • Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011

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