Escarpment Vineyard ‘Artisan’ Range, A New Direction

23-Mar-2018
There has been much happening at the Escarpment Vineyard. Just last week, it was announced that Escarpment Vineyard had been purchased by Torbreck Vintners of the Barossa Valley, subject to approval by the OIO. In the partnership of the Kirby and McKenna families, the Kirbys signalled their desire to leave the business several years ago. Despite the uncertainty that this situation caused, Larry McKenna and his team have continued to make and indeed raise the level of sophistication in their wines (Escarpment Vineyard was my ‘Winery of the Year’ in 2015).

Larry McKenna has told me this is a very good move on many levels, though the major reason was for Torbreck to secure distribution of the Escarpment Vineyard wines in Australia. Arguably the most important benefit will no doubt be further investment in vineyard, winery and plant that had slowed down after the Kirbys’ decision to withdraw. The combination of Torbreck and Escarpment is extremely complementary, as Torbreck does not produce Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, and the offering of wines from two different terroirs and regions increases the scope of the portfolio. The Torbreck wines are very highly regarded, and the flagship ‘RunRig’ and ‘The Laird’ fetch some of the highest prices of Barossa Valley wines. This may see an increase in pricing of the top Escarpment wines to match! www.escarpment.co.nz

The Escarpment ‘Artisan’ Range
In the purchase, all of the staff and existing business and distribution arrangements have been retained, so it is business as usual. A focus for the Escarpment team has been their work with Nick and Rowan Hoskins of Vineyard Managers in working towards certified BioGro organic status, hopefully to be completed in a year’s time. Also of note has been a subtle shift in style of the wines supporting the ‘Insight’ single vineyard Pinot Noirs. I’ve mentioned this change before, but the techniques that Larry and Huw have been investigating and trialling are now manifest in the release of wines under the new ‘Artisan’ range. On a holistic level, the development of these wines has been an on-going process for over 35 years for Larry. It had come to the stage to explore the use of organically grown fruit as well as a more ‘natural’ approach to the winemaking. Specifically, this includes the more innovative and risky techniques of skin contact, barrel-fermentation, fermentation and maturation in amphora, and minimal additions, including no usage of sulphur. Here I review the new ‘Artisan’ range which comprises: 2017 ‘Nina’ Rosê and ‘Ryan’ Riesling (a play on Rhine Riesling, and named after Larry’s son), 2016 Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, and a 2017 Pinot Noir. 

FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW

  • Escarpment ‘Nina’ Martinborough Rosé 2017
  • Escarpment ‘Ryan’ Martinborough Riesling 2017
  • Escarpment ‘Blanc’ Martinborough Pinot Blanc 2016
  • Escarpment ‘Gris’ Martinborough Pinot Gris 2016
  • Escarpment ‘Noir’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2017

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