Escarpment Vineyard 2016 Martinborough, ‘Kiwa’, ‘Te Rehua’ and ‘Kupe’ Pinot Noirs
The Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noirs figure among the most important of their variety in New Zealand, and they are generally regarded as world-class in stature. This is a result of over three decades of Pinot Noir making in the Martinborough vignoble by Larry McKenna, and the more complex style of wine he is achieving. Since beginning Escarpment Vineyard, his own venture Larry has made benchmark Pinot Noirs, from his inaugural 2001 Martinborough ‘district blend’, then his single vineyard ‘Kupe’ Pinot Noir in 2003, then his terroir-expressive single vineyard ‘Insight’ Pinot Noirs named ‘Pahi’, ‘Kiwa’ and ‘Te Rehua’, first released with the 2006s. These are site-specific wines that behave consistently, regardless of vintage, while showing the distinctive signature that Larry instils. I’ve been a great fan of these wines, and rate them alongside the likes of Ata Rangi, Felton Road and Valli; I awarded Escarpment Vineyard my ‘Winery of the Year’ in 2015 for the stupendous 2013 vintage wines.
Of course, there have been developments at Escarpment Vineyard. Most importantly, Escarpment was bought by Torbreck Vintners of the Barossa Valley, earlier this year. With original investors the Kirby family withdrawing from the business, this purchase will allow the continuation of the growth of the Escarpment business with investment in vineyard, stock and plant, including further development of the winery. Commercially, the Escarpment Vineyard wines will receive a greater distribution network, and they will be allied with the very prestigious Torbreck wines, complementing the portfolio. Progression towards organic certification of the vineyard continues, and this will be a strong position in sustainability and environmental issues. Just last month, Escarpment Vineyard released their new ‘Artisan’ range which incorporates innovative and adventurous winemaking techniques (click here to see my reviews). I understand they have been well-received in the on-premise market and by forward-thinking sommeliers. The latest news is that Larry’s winemaker of the last 10 years, Huw Kinch will be leaving Escarpment to take over the winemaking role at Pyramid Valley in North Canterbury. The scene in the wine industry is always active.
The 2016 Escarpment ‘Single Vineyard’ Pinot NoirsThis brings us to the annual release of the Pinot Noirs, these being the 2016 Martinborough ‘district blend’ and the ‘Insight’ single vineyard Pinot Noirs. This collection no longer includes the ‘Pahi’ vineyard which was sold to the Crosby family. However the ‘Kiwa’, ‘Te Rehua’ and ‘Kupe’ remain. Larry McKenna and Huw Kinch have been on the lookout for another vineyard that will provide another wine that will be comparable to the others. The 2016s come from the fourth consecutive excellent vintage in the district. Larry reports that the 2015/2016 growing season was exceptional, with no rain in the harvesting period, and thus no threat of dilution or disease. The only spoiler was a touch of frost reducing the yield of the ‘Kupe’ vineyard somewhat. I tasted a selection of the 2016 Pinot Noirs from barrel in February 2017 (click here to see my report), and can say that I was very impressed with the quality of what I tasted. Here, I review the finished wines, due to be released on the market at the start of May. They typically show their site-specific terroirs, but also a slightly more accessible vintage character that takes nothing away from them, but lends a pleasing charm. www.escarpment.co.nz
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2016Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 15-Apr-2018Very dark, black-hued ruby-red colour with purple hues, a little lighter on the edge. The nose is full, firm and solidly packed with deeply concentrated aromas of ripe black cherry and black berried fruits. The aromatics grow in depth, intensity and penetration and unfold notes of black herbs, nuances of whole bunch stalk perfumes and black minerals. This has freshness and vitality. Medium-full bodied, the palate has succulently rich and sweet flavours of ripe dark-red and black cherry and berry fruit entwined with a soft layer of dark herbs, subtle whole bunch stalk nuances, unfolding dark-red and violet florals. The fruit is vibrant and vigorous, and the sweetness is underlined by fine-grained tannin structure, with bright, lacy acidity enlivening the mouthfeel. Some raspberry liqueur notes emerge, and the wine carries with plenty of energy to a long and flavoursome finish. This is a succulently sweet and rich Pinot Noir with ripe dark-red and black berried fruit with subtle raspberry, herb and whole bunch notes on a well-structured palate. Match with lamb, beef and venison over the next 6-8 years. A blend of 84% Te Muna fruit and 16% ‘town’ fruit, all hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented with 40% whole bunches to 14.2% alc., the wine spending 15 days on skins and aged 11 months in 25% new French oak barriques. 19.0-/20 Apr 2018 RRP $50.00
Escarpment ‘Kiwa’ ‘Single Vineyard’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2016Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 01-May-2018Dark, deep, ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim with slight garnet hues. The nose is elegant and harmonious in presentation and proportion with near-ethereal, interwoven aromas of ripe, savoury dark-red berry fruit along with notes of blackberries melded with piquant dark herbs, some whole bunch stalk nuances, and nutty, cedary oak suggestions. This has finesse and integration, with real depth, and unfolds a little raspberry liqueur with aeration. Medium-bodied, the palate has a refined and tightly concentrated core of ripe, savoury dark-red berry fruit intermixed with a layering of spices, cedar and earth, and subtle dark and dried herb detail, and nuances of whole bunch stalk and nutty oak complexities. The flavours form a fine-grained, well-concentrated core with fine, powdery tannin extraction providing structure and grip. The acidity is soft and integrated, and the wine has excellent linearity, carrying to a very long and sustained, rich, savoury and spicy finish. This is a very rich and concentrated, elegant Pinot Noir with a fine core of dark-red fruits melded with herb and spice complexities. Match with coq au vin and slow-cooked game meat over the next 6-8+ years. Hand-picked fruit from the ‘Cleland’ vineyard on Cambridge Road, a blend of clones 5, 6 and 13, vines 29 y.o., indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunches to 12.7% alc., the wine spending 23 days on skins and aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barriques. 19.0/20 Apr 2018 RRP $85.00
Escarpment ‘Te Rehua’ ‘Single Vineyard’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2016Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 15-Apr-2018Even, dark ruby-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is fine in proportion with fragrant aromas of lifted dark-red cherry and berry fruit entwined with dark-red and violet florals, alongside subtle notes of fresh and dark herbs, some whole bunch stalk notes, and aromatic oak. This has excellent fruit focus and expression with vitality and a concentrated core. Medium-full bodied, thwe palate has rich, sweet and lively, vibrant fruit flavours of dark-red berry fruit interwoven with an amalgam of fresh and dark herbs, whole bunch stalk suggestions, and violet florals. The mouthfeel is energetic and the fruit is supported by fine, grainy structure and grip, and the fruit is enlivened by fresh acidity. The flavours are up-front and carry to a ful-flavoured finish. This is a rich, sweet and vibrant Pinot Noir with vibrant dark-red berry fruit entwined with layers of florals and herbs, on a well-structured palate with fresh acidity. Match with roasted beef, lanb and venison over the next 6-8+ years. Hand-picked fruit from the ‘Barton’ vineyard, Huangarua Road, a blend of many clones, vines 24 y.o., indigenous yeast fermented with 50% whole bunches to 13.7% alc., the wine spending 24 days on skins and aged 18 months in 40% new French oak barriques. 19.0/20 Apr 2018 RRP $85.00
Escarpment ‘Kupe’ ‘Single Vineyard’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2016Pinot Noir from New Zealand - Wairarapa & WellingtonReview Date : 17-Apr-2018Full, dark ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, lighter on the edge. The nose is softly full and refined in expression with excellent depth and concentration, opening seamlessly in volume, showing ripe black cherry and berry fruit entwined with an amalgam of dark herbs, whole bunch stalk elements and black minerals. The nose unfolds nuances of spices and violet florals with aeration. Full-bodied, the palate has powerful and intense, deeply concentrated and mouthfilling flavours of succulently sweet and rich, ripe black cherries and blackberries, intermingling with black minerals, subtle notes of dark herbs and nuances of whole bunch stalk perfumes. The fruit is complexed by spice and floral detail, and is balanced by fine-grained tannin structure with bright acidity providing plenty of energy and tension. This has brilliant vitality, richness, drive, along with underlying power. The flavours carry to a very long and sustained finish. This is a rich, succulently concentrated Pinot Noir with ripe black fruits, dark herbs, minerals and complexing detail on a well-structured, mouthfilling palate. Match with grilled and roasted game meat dishes over the next 8-10 years. The twelfth release of the ‘Kupe’ from vines close-planted in 1999 at a density of 6,600 vines per ha. Hand-picked fruit, Abel clone, indigenous yeast fermented with 70% whole bunches to 14.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 50% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Apr 2018 RRP $115.00