Escarpment Vineyard 2013 ‘Insight’ Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs
2013 was the vintage that Larry McKenna had been working towards for nearly three decades with Pinot Noir in New Zealand. Martinborough winemakers have gone on record as stating it was the perfect vintage with warm and dry growing conditions providing even and full ripeness, moderated by cool evenings to provide the acid vibrancy for superb balance. I’ve had the privilege of seeing many of the 2013 Martinborough Pinot Noirs at various stages of their elevage, and can report that I’ve been truly excited too. I’ve reviewed a good number of 2013 Pinot Noirs from the district, and some are astoundingly good.
Now I have the opportunity of reviewing the Escarpment ‘Insight’ single vineyard Pinot Noirs as well as the district blend from this stellar vintage. Each of the wines, the ‘Pahi’, ‘Kiwa’, ‘Te Rehua’ and ‘Kupe’ have their individual characters of which terroir is responsible showing consistently. Winemakers Larry McKenna and Huw Kinch are already thinking of how to emphasise the differences in the most sympathetic way possible with their elevage of these wines in future vintages. The 2013 vintage has provided a stepping stone in doing so, with adjustments in the inclusion of whole cluster proportions, and with the amount of and duration in new oak. Such a strong vintage has allowed them to increase the structure and levels of complexing inputs of the wines, importantly giving the single vineyard wines a further 6 months in barrel over the 12 months in previous vintages.
Along with the fine-tuning of the wines in a physical sense is the concept of allowing each of the single vineyard Pinot Noirs find their place in the market. Larry has found that there is greater interest and demand in some of the bottlings over others. These wines could command a higher price (or the less in-demand wines could be priced lower?). The wines of Burgundy have evolved over the centuries to a hierarchy, with some wines from certain vineyards always priced more than others. Larry discussed this idea for the inaugural ‘Insight’ Pinot Noir releases, wondering if he should put a mechanism in place for this ranking and pricing process, but he ”chickened out” citing he and the marketplace both not ready for it. Maybe it is time to reconsider…
These 2013 Pinot Noirs are arguably the best ever under the Escarpment label. The single vineyard wines demonstrate their individual terroirs yet again, and the fruit richness in the black-fruit spectrum is their common feature. The ripeness levels are perfect, with no trace of over-ripeness, nor any under-ripe herbaceous notes. The complexities afforded by the relatively high levels of whole cluster are sensitive to the fruit and the personality of the wines. The tannin extraction and oaking levels are beautifully judged, and there is no deficiency of acidity. They all have a harmonious and comfortable presence. The wines are in as good as space as they could ever be.
It should be pointed out that some of these wines will be very limited in availability in New Zealand due to forward export orders. But they will be well worth seeking out. www.escarpment.co.nz
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Chardonnay 2013Chardonnay from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 02-Jul-2015The seventh release of a ‘Kupe' Chardonnay. Clone 95 from vines planted in 1998 on the McCreanor block on Princess Street, fully barrel-fermented with indigenous yeasts to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 40% new French oak, undergoing partial MLF, the wine given a further 6 months aging in tank. Bright, light, golden-green hued straw-yellow colour, paler on edge. The nose is tight and firmly concentrated with a core of white stonefruits and gunflinty reduction, unveiling subtle nutty and waxy elements, along with smoke and oak. With aeration, the depth and intensity grows and the aromatics meld in harmony. Medium-full bodied, the fruit flavours are restrained, but the palate features a tightly bound and firm core of white stonefruits intermixed with nuts and gunflinty, mineral reductive complexities. The fruit is rich, but still firmly held, and follows a fine-textured, waxy line. Crisp, lacy acidity and some alcoholic power provides good energy and drive, carrying the wine to a long, firm finish. This is a firmly concentrated Chardonnay with complex gunflint, waxy and nutty flavours, good richness and freshness, along with lively power. Match with seafood, poultry and pork over the next 4-5 years. 18.0-/20 Jul 2015 RRP $55.00
Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 27-Jul-2015Very dark, deep, purple-hued ruby-red. The nose is full and well-packed with ripe fruit aromas of dark red and black berried fruits, along with plums. Layers of subtle herb and savoury whole cluster are integral. This has an element of robustness, yet is more rich than coarse. On palate, fulsome, rich and sweet-fruited. Mouthfilling and near robust, but the tannins are balanced and supple enough. Lovely grip and extract in excellent balance, with savoury dried herb and soy sauce, spices unfolding and carried to the very long finish. 18.5+/20 Jul 2015 RRP $54.00 Very dark, very deep, near impenetrable black-red coulour with youthful purple hues on the rim. The nose is full and gently voluminous with rounded and sweetly ripe aromas of black berry and plum fruit aromas harmoniously melded with violet florals and showing subtle dried herbal and stalk whole cluster detail that intensifies with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate features rich and juicy, sweetly ripe black berried fruits with notes of dark red plums and savoury stalk complextites. The fruit is encased by grainy tannin extraction and the extraction provides a firm, dry structure and fulsome mouthfeel. The fruit richness is enhanced by fresh, balanced, acid vitality which carries the wine to firm, textural, long lingering finish. This is a full, sweetly ripe, juicy black-fruited Pinot Noir with subtle savoury complexities, along with good extraction and structure. Match with lamb, beef and venison over the next 6-8 years. 60% 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 27 y.o., indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunch to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 16-22 days on skins, and aged 12 months in 20% new French oak barrels, the wine given a further 6 months aging in tank. 18.5+/20 Jul 2015 RRP $50.00
Escarpment ‘Pahi’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 02-Jul-2015Full, even, dark ruby-red colour with a hint of garnet and purple hues on the edge. The nose is very elegant and tightly concentrated with penetrating, perfumed aromas of black berry and black cherry fruit entwined with a thread of whole bunch stalk and herb detail intermixed with violet florals. This has excellent aromatic clarity and density. With time in the glass, pepper, black mineral, smoke and a little reduction emerges. Medium-full bodied, the flavours of sweet black cherries and black berries form a tight and concentrated core. The fruit richness is lifted by violet and black florals, and complex dark herb, oak toast and minerally reductive notes emerge to add real interest. The palate is underlined by fine-grained, powdery tannin extraction and soft acidity lending a supple mouthfeel, and carrying through to a very long aromatic, black-fruited finish. This is a rchly concentrated, aromatic black-fruited ‘Pahi’ with fine, powdery tannin structure. Match with roasted duck and pork over the next 7-9+ years. Clones 10/5 from 26 y.o. vines from the ‘McCreanor' vineyard on Princess Street, indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunch to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 19 days on skins, and aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barrels. 19.0/20 Jul 2015 RRP $65.00
Escarpment ‘Kiwa’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 02-Jul-2015Dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour with lighter garnet on the edge. This has a very full, broad and densely packed nose of very ripe dark red and black berried fruits, along with dark plums, complexed by layers of savoury whole bunch stalk and stem perfumes, dried herbs and spices. The nose unfolds lifted violet florals with nuances of soy and balsamic sauce with aeration. Medium-full bodied, rich and mouthfilling, harmoniously interwoven flavours of ripe black berried and plummy fruits, savoury whole cluster dried herb and stalk form a soft and densely concentrated palate. The fruit richness unfolds layers of liquorice, spices, earth and balsamic detail. The fruit is integrated with soft-textured, powdery tannin extraction and structure, lending presence and density to the wine. This has great mouthfeel, depth and weight. The fruit sweetness and violet florals lead the wine to rich, lush, solid finish. This is a rich and complex ‘Kiwa’ with harmonious layers of savoury flavours and a mouthfilling structure. Serve with slow-cooked game meat and casseroles over the next 9-10+ years. Clones 5, 6 and 13 from 24 y.o. vines from the ‘Cleland' vineyard on Cambridge Road, indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunch to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 16 days on skins, and aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barrels. 19.5/20 Jul 2015 RRP $65.00
Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 02-Jul-2015A mixture of many clones from vines over 22 y.o. from the ‘Barton' vineyard on Huangarua Road, fermented with 50% whole bunch to 13.0% alc., the wine spending 18 days on skins, and aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Full, deep, black-hued purple-red colour, lighter on edge, youthful in appearance. This has a full, voluminous and intensely deep nose of highly aromatic, pure black berry and cherry fruit aromas infused with violet and black floral perfumes. Subtle waves of ripe dark red plums melded with subtle whole bunch dried herb and stalky aromatics emerge with nuances of liquorice and spices to provide complexing detail. Medium-bodied, beautifully rich, succulent and lusciously sweet flavours of ripe blackberries, black cherries and plums are the feature on the palate. Subtle savoury whole cluster herbal notes combine with violet florals, adding to the fruit interest, filling the mouth. Fine, refreshing acidity adds to the aromatic fruit lift, and fine-grained, supple, but significant tannins emerge, to provide a deep, linear core to guide the flavour flow. Nuances of soy sauce, Asian spices and minerals emerge and are carried to a very long, sweet-fruited, aromatic and fine-textured finish. This is an elegant, succulently rich and beautifully sweet and aromatic ‘Te Rehua’ with subtle underlining complexities. Match with poultry and pork dishes, and Asian cuisine over the next 7-9+ years. 19.5+/20 Jul 2015 RRP $65.00 Very dark, black-hued purple red. Full, soft, densely packed nose but broad and filling with breadth and volume. Rich black berried and plummy fruits, whole cluster componentry evident as is the oak spice. Fulsome, solid and mouthfilling, densely concentrated ripe black plum fruit and black berries, soft in texture but with considerable extract, nearly bitter. Complexing oak and whole bunch layers. Big tannins, but with roundness and supple edges. This just fills the palate with its richness, power and breadth. This is a statement wine. Is it OTT? This could be a 8-10 year wine. From 1.1 ha of mixed clone old vines, 50% whole bunch and 40% new oak. My score sitting on the fence, really. 18.5/20 Oct 2014 RRP $65.00
Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 02-Jul-2015The ninth 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 70% whole bunch to 13.5% alc., the wine spending 19 days on skins, and aged 18 months in 55% new French oak barriques. Full, very deep, black-hued ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is full and powerfully presented with very ripe, rich, vibrant aromas of spicy blackberry and black cherry fruits. Layers of complexity unfold, showing black plums, liquorice and savoury herbal and stalk whole bunch notes, along with violet and black perfumes, spices, soy sauce and balsam. Toasty oak elements are present, and the myriad of aromatics come together with harmony in the glass. Medium-full bodied, the palate is densely packed with rich, ripe black berried fruits, black cherries and savoury plums. Complex waves of black minerals, earth, soy sauce, whole cluster dried herbs and stalks, and oak toast grow to show a full array of detail. The depth and intensity is striking and lends a near robust mouthfeel. Fulsome, but fine-grained, powdery tannins coat the palate, with soft acidity providing freshness and energy. The wine carries to a strong, rich, sustained finish that blossoms in nuance. This is a full and complex ‘Kupe’ with an array of rich and ripe black fruits and savoury interest on a powerfully packed, fulsome palate. Match with roasted venison and game meat dishes over the next 8-12+ years. 20.0/20 Jul 2015 RRP $85.00