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


  • Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Chardonnay 2012
  • Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012
  • Escarpment ‘Pahi’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012
  • Escarpment ‘Kiwa’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012
  • Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012
  • Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2012

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