Escarpment Vineyard 2012 Insight Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs
There’s no doubt that Larry McKenna is making some of this country’s best Pinot Noirs. His continued work and success was recently recognised by his induction into the New Zealand Wine Hall of Fame at this year’s Easter Show Wine Awards trophy dinner, along with Central Otago pioneer Alan Brady. Every vintage of Escarpment Pinot Noir Larry has made has been of noteworthy quality and interest.
I often get the call up from Larry to taste the Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noir wines, sometimes as barrel samples or just-bottled wines, before their official release. From tastings over the years, it has been a privilege to gain an insight into the ‘Insight Series’ of single vineyard wines. What I’ve gleaned is the consistent behaviour of the wines in expressing their vineyard sites and terroirs. In some years, it may take a while to do so, because the vintage character is very strong. In cooler and lighter years, the personality of each site is a little more obvious, as the more restrained varietal and vintage characteristics allow greater transparency. 2012 is one such year. One of the cooler growing seasons, the heat accumulation was deemed marginal for quality Pinot Noir ripeness. However it was dry, and the late ripening allowed a long hang time. Larry, his winemaker Huw Kinch, and new viticulturist Janine Pedersen, who started in February this year, were more than satisfied with their faithful expression of vineyard site, and bottled what could be considered more elegant examples.
I certainly enjoyed the aromatic nature of the Escarpment Vineyard 2011 Pinot Noirs over the powerful savoury style of the 2010s. The 2012s take the cooler expression further to the edge. As intimated above, I had the chance to taste the 2012s as barrel samples in January last year (click here to see my report) and then again as bottled wines in October (click here to see my report). I too was very pleased with the wines, recognising their lighter style. Here, I review the 2012 single vineyard Pinot Noirs, as well as the regional blend Pinot Noir, plus the Kupe’ Chardonnay as finished wines. I must say that while they are lighter, the Escarpment house style of relative robustness and savoury layers of complexity still has a say in the wines, and this does not interfere with the expression of site. It is well known that wines change from when just bottled to after a settling down stage, as well as with extended bottle maturation. It was fascinating for me to see how my impressions changed. The wines will become available on the market on 1 May 2014.
Te Muna an Extension of the Martinborough Terrace
As an extra comment relevant to these wines, there is a trend among commentaors to discuss the Te Muna location as a different sub-region of Martinborough, with the assumption that there are significant variations, particularly with the soils. Larry McKenna points out the identical nature of the geology of the Te Muna soils to that of the township sites. The Te Muna area is essentially a geological and geographical extension of the town’s Martinborough Terraces. However, the geographical location of Te Muna with its higher altitude and more southerly location (only by a few kilometres) means a slightly later time for harvest. This continuity can be seen in the closeness in style of all of the Martinborough wines, whether from the township or from Te Muna. It could be said, and it is my opinion, that the similarities are greater than the differences. www.escarpment.co.nz
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Chardonnay 2012Chardonnay from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 10-Apr-2014The sixth release of a ‘Kupe' Chardonnay. Clone 95 from 14 y.o. vines on the McCreanor block on Princess Street, fully barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 20% new French oak, undergoing 100% MLF. Bright straw-yellow colour with slight green hues on rim. This has an elegant and tightly bound nose of white stonefruits, citrus fruits and some flinty lees and mineral elements, along with butterscotch MLF notes. There is a concentrated core with nutty oak that unfolds, adding to the interest. Medium-bodied, the palate is tight in expression with fine citrus fruits intermixed with mineral flavours. The mouthfeel balances creamy butterscotch MLF and barrel-ferment richness with fresh acid cut, and the flavours flow with good tension and energy, carrying through to a refined, sustained finish combining citrus, nutty and buttery nuances. This is an elegant and tightly bound Chardonnay with citrus and creamy layers. It will develop greater richness over the next 4-5 years. Serve with seafood and poultry. 18.0+/20 Apr 2014 RRP $49.00 Bright straw-yellow with slight green hues. This has a full, voluminous bouquet with restrained, but layered aromas of white stonefruits and citrus fruits infused with nutty oak and growing flinty interest. The nose is harmonious and balanced. Medium-full bodied, the flavours are subtle, and build in depth and concentration with citrus fruit and stonefruits melded with nutty, spicy oak. A creaminess of texture shows with underlying power, and all underlined by fine acidity. This is an elegant Chardonnay that has interest and power that will grow with some bottle age. Clone 95 fruit, fully barrel-fermented by indigenous yeasts to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 11 months in 20% new oak with full MLF. 18.5-/20 Oct 2013 RRP $TBA
Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 10-Apr-201460% Te Muna fruit, clones 667 and Abel from vines 12 y.o. and 40% from Martinborough township vineyards, with a range of clones from vines up to 25 y.o., indigenous yeast fermented with 25% whole bunch to 12.6% alc., the wine spending 18 days on skins, and aged 11 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Fullish, deep ruby-red colour with black hues, lighter on rim. The bouquet is firmly concentrated and packed with aromas of black cherries and black berry fruits, along with dark plums, savoury mineral and earthy notes. Dried herb whole cluster and violet perfumes unfold, forming a complete and complex nose. Medium-full bodied, flavours of dark red and black berry fruits are complexed by savoury dried herb and whole bunch characters. The fruit is plush, fleshy, accessible and mouthfilling, with a good core. The palate has grainy tannins supporting the fruit, contributing to the long, sustained finish which features juicy black fruit nuances. This is a fulsome, complex black-fruited Pinot Noir with fine, grainy structure. Match with roasted red meats, casseroles and hard cheeses over the next 6-7+ years. 18.5+/20 Apr 2014 RRP $45.00
Escarpment ‘Pahi’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 10-Apr-2014Moderately deep ruby-red colour with a dark heart, lighter on edge. The nose is elegant and refined, quite slender in proportion with building intensity of black cherry fruit lifted by dark red florals, nutty and slightly resinous seasoned oak elements, minerals and smoke. Medium-bodied and elegantly presented, fruit flavours of dark red and black berry fruits are framed by a supple, soft-textured and rounded palate. The tannins are refined and enable the juicy and lush fruit to feature. Acidity is integral and adds freshness. Savoury, resinous oak nuances and nutty elements emerge, providing detail and interest, leading to a smoky, sweet plummy finish. This is an elegant, smooth and supple Pinot Noir with fine balance and some savoury oaking. Match with firm-flesh fish, risotto and pasta over the next 5-6+ years. Clones 10/5, Abel and 5 from 26 y.o. vines from the ‘McCreanor' vineyard on Princess Street, indigenous yeast fermented with 30% whole bunch to 12.6% alc., the wine spending 15 days on skins, and aged 12 months in 30% new French oak barrels. 18.0+/20 Apr 2014 RRP $65.00 Bright, purple-red colour, very youthful in appearance. The nose is tightly bound with a complex array of dark cherry fruits entwined with lifted florals and savoury, minerally, dried herbs. This has a positive, funky fruit aspect, showing some whole bunch influence. Medium-bodied, savoury dark red fruits are melded with funky game and dried herb flavours. The layers of complexity and interest blossom. The fruit is rich and sweet, with bright acidity and supple tannins providing beautiful balance and lusciousness. This has an excellent core of richness and a fine, lively line. This is 30% whole cluster, the wine aged 11 months in 40% new oak. 19.0-/20 Oct 2013 RRP $TBA
Escarpment ‘Kiwa’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 10-Apr-2014Clones 5, 6 and 13 from 25 y.o. vines from the ‘Cleland' vineyard on Cambridge Road, indigenous yeast fermented with 30% whole bunch to 12.8% alc., the wine spending 17 days on skins, and aged 12 months in 30% new French oak barrels. Deep ruby-red colour, with some purple hues on edge. This has a very full nose with gently interwoven aromas of lifted black and red berry fruits in an amalgam with notes of savoury dried herbs, game and whole cluster complexities. The aromatics combine intensity with finesse. Medium-bodied, the palate has harmoniously entwined and mouthfilling layers of savoury red and black fruits, dried herb and game and subtle, perfectly judged whole bunch detail. The balance of sweet fruit and fine-grained tannin extract is impeccable, lending elegance. The flavours flow smoothly, with lacy acidity providing excellent tension, piquancy and poise, and lead to a very finely concentrated, long finish. This is a very elegant, fine-textured and freshly balanced Pinot Noir with complex layers of savoury flavours. Match with wild duck, pork or hare, over the next 7-9 years. 19.0/20 Apr 2014 RRP $65.00 Very full, dark, purple-hued ruby-red colour. The nose is full of fragrant, ripe dark red berry fruits, with primary violet florals and fine oak balance, the componentry well-integrated and finely presented. Medium-bodied and elegant in proportion, tightly bound dark red floral and berry flavours show ripeness and richness, with some oak resinous elements still to come together. The extraction and tannin grip builds, the textured line becoming a feature on palate. Underlying acid provides freshness and combines with the tannins to carry the flavours of savoury violets and oak to a layered, long finish. This is 25% whole cluster, the wine aged 11 months in 20% new oak. 18.0+/20 Oct 2013 RRP $TBA
Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 10-Apr-2014Dark, deep ruby-red colour with youthful purple hues. The nose is full with fresh and bright dark raspberry and black berry fruits, dark plums, the aromatics primary and youthful, with a steely, minerally edge. Nuances of raspberry liqueur, dark herbs and game unfold with delicate whole cluster elements. This is fruit focussed, with detail and interest. Medium bodied, bold and sweet fruit flavours are the feature on palate with dark red berry fruit and plums lifted with red florals. The fruit is underlined by supple, fine-grained tannins and enlivened by fresh, lacy acidity. This is quite primary in expression, showing attractive clarity allied to lusciousness. The palate leads to a plump and succulent finish which reveals savoury whole bunch notes. This is a plump and juicy, primary-fruited Pinot Noir with supple structure. Match with lamb and beef dishes over the next 6-8+ years. A mixture of many clones from vines over 22 y.o. from the ‘Barton' vineyard on Huangarua Road, fermented with 30% whole bunch to 12.8% alc., the wine spending 25 days in vat, and aged 12 months in 30% new French oak barrels. 18.5+/20 Apr 2014 RRP $65.00 Full, deep, dark purple-hued ruby-red colour. This has a full, broad and densely packed nose of ripe black berry fruits with plums that opens up with volume and breadth. Medium-full bodied, the palate is fulsome and well-structured with plenty of tannin extract encasing the fruit. The flavours of black fruits are sweet and dense, revealing earthy complexities, as well as dark floral nuances. The mouthfeel is weighty to match the bold fruit expression, with the extract carrying through to a very long and sustained, dry, textural finish. The black fruit richness and structure is sensational. This is 30% whole cluster, the wine aged 11 months in 40% new oak. 19.0/20 Oct 2013 RRP $TBA
Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 10-Apr-2014The eighth release of a ‘Kupe' Pinot Noir. Abel clone fruit from vines close-planted in 1999 from the ‘Kupe' vineyard on Te Muna Road, indigenous yeast fermented with 35% whole bunch to 12.5% alc., the wine spending 22 days in vat, and aged 12 months in 50% new French oak barriques. Moderately deep, even, dark ruby-red colour. This has a soft, full, and broad bouquet, quite complete in presentation with softly interwoven aromas of dark red fruits with creamy, nutty oak, revealing subtle layers of whole bunch savoury herbs and nuances of stalks. Medium-bodied with a degree of elegance, the flavours are restrained, with gentle red and black fruits entwined with savoury dried herb whole cluster elements and nutty oak. The palate has a rich and soft density and creamy, near unctuous flow, with finely integrated, supple tannins and rounded mouthfeel. This is quite complete and balanced with real harmony, and the flavours flow smoothly to a mellow, but lingering, savoury finish. This is an elegantly balanced and harmonious Pinot Noir with a soft creamy texture and subtle, concentrated complexities making it quite complete. Serve with roasted red meats and hard cheeses over the next 7-9+ years. 18.5+/20 Apr 2014 RRP $85.00 Light ruby-red colour with moderate depth and some youthful purple hues. The bouquet is fresh and primary, quite unformed, with dark red cherry-berry fruit with cool-spectrum stalk, pepper and herb aromas indicating some whole cluster. Violet florals and perfumes unfold. Medium-bodied, quite elegant, slender and tightly bound, the fruit is somewhat restrained, with dark red berries, fresh herbs, stalk and leafy flavours entwined with dark red floral elemrnts. The mouthfeel is silky smooth and the tannins refined, with good acid vibrancy throughout. The wine finishes with light fragrances and herb notes. This is 35% whole bunch, the wine aged 11 months in 50% new oak. 17.5+/20 Oct 2013 RRP $TBA