Urlar 2016, 2015 and 2014 Vintage Releases

Urlar, the organic wine producing venture of Angus and Davina Thomson in Gladstone has been undergoing a transition. At the start of last year, celebrated Central Otago winemaker Carol Bunn took over the winemaking duties from Guy McMaster, who had been with the Thomsons for 9 years, moving to a position at Palliser Estate in Martinborough. I’ve been interested in the transitional process, and have made a number of visits to Urlar, firstly just before vintage in 2016 (click here to see my report), then just after vintage to taste the newly fermented wines (click here to see my report), and just before vintage this year, to see how the 2016 wines look after a year (click here to see my report).

What I found was that while the quality of the wines was very high and consistent, reflecting the work put into the fruit in the vineyard over the years, especially since being certified BioGro organic in 2010, the different approach of the winemakers could be seen. Guy’s wines were more savoury, complex and textural from an earlier stage, indicating the serious style aimed for. Carol’s wine were brighter and more fruit-focussed, and possessed very fine textural qualities. There is validity to both approaches, the former appealing to the more sophisticated consumer, the latter with the style that has more accessible and general appeal. My conclusion was that at this period of consolidation and growth for Urlar, the latter pathway might be the more pragmatic way.

Both the Thomsons and Bunn are aware that a sudden change of style might confuse their clients and the marketplace perception of the brand, so a transition in style would be positive, and I think that has happened naturally, whether intentionally or not. The 2014 vintage Urlar wines were made completely by Guy. The 2015 wines were initially made by Guy, but finished by Carol. And the 2016 wines were made completely by Carol. My tastings of wines from all these vintages show a progression from the savoury, structural 2014s to the 2015s which have similar flavours, but appear to be more refined on the palate, to the 2016s which are fruitier and certainly showing finesse in the mouthfeel. It should be noted that the 2016s were made with no viticultural input from Carol, so it will be the 2017s that will show more of her influence again. The other important aspect is that the vineyard has been overseen by Angus from the start, so progress there has been constant. The past year has seen Angus lead his team into incorporating biodynamic regimes. This is another interesting step…

Angus Thomson has sent a selection of Urlar wines from the 2016, 2015 and 2014 vintages to demonstrate the transition in style. I review the wines here. www.urlar.co.nz


  • Urlar Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 2016
  • Urlar Gladstone Riesling 2016
  • Urlar Gladstone Noble Riesling 2016
  • Urlar Gladstone Pinot Gris 2015
  • Urlar Gladstone Pinot Noir 2015
  • Urlar ‘Select Parcels’ Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc 2014
  • Urlar ‘Select Parcels’ Gladstone Pinot Noir 2014

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