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


  • Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Chardonnay 2013
  • Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
  • Escarpment ‘Pahi’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
  • Escarpment ‘Kiwa’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
  • Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
  • Escarpment ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013

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