Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

This tasting presented at Regional Wines & Spirits,  Wellington,  by Clive Paton (Ata Rangi) and Guy McMaster (Palliser Estate) was full of interest.  Any tasting with Clive available to comment is of critical  interest,  in fact,  because as one of the founding winemakers of the modern Wairarapa wine industry,  he has an overview of the entire scene,  from the outset.  And Guy McMaster has consulted to,  or worked with,  vineyards in each of the three sub-districts,  so the treatment of the wines in the tasting was even-handed.   Presentation was not blind,  simply three Martinborough Terrace wines,  followed by three Te Muna Valley (the district to the southeast of the village,  on the same Martinborough Terrace geological formation,  but fractionally higher and cooler),  followed by three from the Gladstone district,  to the north.  No group preferences were sought for the wines,  so the views presented here are solely mine.

For reviews of the 2013 and 2014 Craggy Range Pinot Noir Aroha wines from Te Muna,  please see this month's Church Road Tom and Craggy Range article.

2013  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
2013  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna
2014  Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noir Kupe
2014  Johner Pinot Noir
2013  Palliser Estate Pinot Noir
  2013  Schubert Pinot Noir Marion's Vineyard
2013  Te Kairanga Pinot Noir John Martin
2013  The Elder Pinot Noir
2013  Urlar Pinot Noir

2013  Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna   18 +  ()
Te Muna Valley,  Martinborough district,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $43   [ screwcap;  hand-picked  @ 5.3 t/ha = 2.1 t/ac,  90% de-stemmed,  10% whole-bunch,  some fermented in French oak cuves,  balance s/s,  wild yeast ferments;  10 months on lees in French oak 25% new;  no fining,  light filtering;  RS nil;  great website;  www.craggyrange.com ]
A perfect pinot noir ruby,  just above midway in depth.  Bouquet is classic Martinborough pinot noir,  fragrant,  more red fruits than black (whereas Otago wines may be darker fruits dominant,  generalising),  nearly floral,  nearly aromatic and hinting at the Cote de Nuits,  compared with the other more Cote de Beaune-like wines in the tasting,  totally pure,  modern and high-tech.  Palate shows fair richness,  good ripeness,  red cherry fruit dominant,  beautifully subtle oak,  admirable balance.  It is not the richest wine here,  but it has an elegance,  charm and varietal precision which earns it high marks.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 05/16

2013  Ata Rangi Pinot Noir   18  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $84   [ screwcap;  Abel clone c.45%,  assorted clones average age c.23 years;  all hand-picked @ c.4.1 t/ha (1.6 t/ac),  15 – 40% whole-bunch (depending on fruit-ripeness and year etc),  wild yeast fermentation;  c.15 months in French oak c.35% new,  not sterile-filtered to bottle;  RS nil;  www.atarangi.co.nz ]
Also a perfect pinot noir ruby,  faintly older and deeper than the Craggy Range wine,  above midway in the set.  Bouquet is redolent of Martinborough,  but that includes a key component I find tending negative,  trace pennyroyal.  Below that is rich red fruit and careful oaking,  slightly moreso than the Craggy.  The richness conceals that though.  Palate is attractive,  more richness / dry extract than some earlier Ata Rangis,   but that hint of mint introduces an aromatic component that detracts.  One of the best Ata Rangis so far,  all the same,  to cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 05/16

2014  Escarpment Vineyard Pinot Noir Kupe   18  ()
Te Muna Valley,  Martinborough district,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $82   [ cork;  tenth release of Kupe,  just released;  close-planted in 1999 at 6,600 vines / ha;  hand-picked;  fermented with around 40%  whole bunches in oak cuves,  18 months in French oak 50% new;  RS <1 g/L,  dry extract an exemplary 31.3 g/L,  not fined or filtered;  www.escarpment.co.nz ]
Much the deepest wine of the set,  deepish ruby and velvet,  the colour here reminding for a moment of earlier Martinborough pinot noir producers who put size ahead of varietal precision.  Bouquet and palate immediately put that thought to rest.  This wine is seriously different from the other eight,  due to 3 factors:  the impression of a high whole bunch component is more apparent than in the other wines,  and you can smell it;  the dry extract / richness is greater than the other wines;  and the level of oaking is pro rata to those two factors.  So the wine is so big now as to seem gawky / adolescent,  an impression exacerbated by this wine too showing a suggestion of pennyroyal.  Fruit flavours are in the darker Abel clone dominant style.  The technical perfection here coupled with the remarkable dry extract figure (for pinot noir) suggests that in 6 – 8 years this wine will score appreciably higher,  and is highly likely to end up the best wine of the set of nine (were the identical testing to be repeated in 6 – 8 years).  A wine to invest in,  therefore.  Cellar 5 – 20  years.  GK 05/16

2013  The Elder Pinot Noir   17 ½ +  ()
Te Muna Valley,  Martinborough district,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $56   [ screwcap;  website gives specs only for 2012 vintage,  if procedure similar,  near-organic viticulture,  the grapes hand-picked;  6 days cold-soak,  21 days cuvaison,  wild yeast fermentation;  MLF and 9 months in barrel,  only 18% new;  RS not given;  website slow to load;  www.theelderpinot.co.nz ]
A very burgundian pinot noir colour,  just below midway in depth.  Bouquet is immediately floral and fragrant,   quite the most burgundian wine on the table,  a beautiful smell.  Palate shows good ripeness,  all red fruits,  total Pommard in style,  not a big wine,  the use of older oak a delight.  This wine will give much pleasure at table.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 05/16

2013  Schubert Pinot Noir Marion's Vineyard   17 ½  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $49   [ cork;  Abel and Pommard clones of pinot noir hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed,  cold soak,  21 days cuvaison,  followed by 18 months in French oak,  35% new;  www.schubert.co.nz ]
A classical burgundy hue for pinot noir,  exactly a Rousseau colour,  the lightest wine of the set.  Bouquet is red fruits,  red roses,  great charm,  very European,  also clearly Cote de Beaune,  more Volnay for this one.   Palate is the same,  better richness than the colour would suggest (never judge a burgundy by its colour),   lovely lingering red fruits,  not too much new oak.  Like the Urlar,  there is the faintest trace of white pepper.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 05/16

2014  Johner Pinot Noir   17 +  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  5 clones hand-picked;  cuvaison c.21 days,  with 30% whole bunches;  12 months on fine lees in Burgundy barrels,  30% new;  not fined or filtered;  RS nil;  extraordinary website with no technical info;  www.johner-estate.com ]
Ruby and some velvet,  the second deepest wine,  tending big for pinot noir.  Bouquet is rich,  ripe and a little old-fashioned,  not as clinical / technical as the top wines here,  so thus for many tasters,  more 'winey'.  Though red fruits dominate,  there is a clear suggestion of black,  not a lot of new oak,  all a trace leathery.  Palate shows rich ripe fruit,  the second richest wine here,  red cherries and a suggestion of darker plums,  seemingly older oak,  and a richness and finish suggesting a couple of grams of residual sugar (nil,  in fact).    The impression of sweetness (presumably from a good dry extract figure) aside,  in its more traditional styling this wine will give much pleasure to many people.  Cellar 3 – 10 years  GK 05/16

2013  Urlar Pinot Noir   17  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ screwcap;  grape production BioGro-certified organic and biodynamic since 2010;  hand-picked;  fermentation in oak cuves and s/s;  matured in French oak 20 – 25% new;  not fined or filtered;  RS nil;  www.urlar.co.nz ]
A more burgundian pinot noir colour,  the second lightest wine.  Bouquet is floral and fragrant and pretty,  a second wine suggesting the Volnay wine style.  In mouth there is fair fruit,  the whole wine close in style to the Schubert but a little leafier,  trace white pepper,  not quite perfect ripeness.  Oaking is subtle though,  and makes the most of the fruit qualities.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 05/16

2013  Palliser Estate Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $53   [ screwcap;  vines 14 – 15 years old;  37% whole-bunch,  all wild-yeast ferments,  c.15 days cuvaison;  MLF and 10 months in all-French oak 23% new;  sterile-filtered;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot noir ruby,  below midway.  Bouquet is highly varietal and winey,  in a more old-fashioned sense.   Red fruits dominate on bouquet,  with savoury complexities suggesting older cooperage.  Palate follows appropriately,  fair fruit,  just a trace of stalkyness  and tannin showing too,  suggesting insufficient sorting for the Palliser vs the Pencarrow labels.  Nett impression though is classic Martinborough pinot noir,  and clearly food-friendly.  Slightly less technical wines actually have an advantage,  there.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 05/16

2013  Te Kairanga Pinot Noir John Martin   16 +  ()
Martinborough Terrace,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested from mostly Abel clone (84%);  all destemmed,  fermented in s/s;  10 months in French oak 28% new;  www.tkwine.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby,  below midway in depth.  Bouquet here is old-fashioned in another sense,  not the winemaking but the viticulture,  the wine showing leafy and stalky qualities even on bouquet.  Palate has a reasonable concentration of red fruits,  but a stalky tannin structure which as it lingers in the mouth,  shows green suggestions.  A new winemaker since then,  and we can expect great changes.  Shorter term cellar,  best 3 – 6 years.  GK 05/16