October 6, 2012

Martinborough Pinot Noir

By In Tasting Reports, Wine Notes
Following on from my dismal attempts at small talk (like speeches, not my forte) I settled in for tasting various wines with the two cheeses that formed lunches third and final course. Around the room the tasting was buzzing – talk of vine clones, CO2, latest weather conditions, wine PH levels, ‘Burgundian style’ and so on; talk I have to be in the mood for and obviously that day wasn’t. As I reached across to grab the remains of a Chardonnay to try with the last morsel of the Lincolnshire Poacher, a jolting realisation hit me that the tasting had actually finished and I seemed to have gate-crashed a private ‘congratulatory’ party for the wine makers; everyone else having left.

Would have thought a little tap on the shoulder and a “bog off, Barrow, the tastings finished and we are having a debrief meeting” to alert me was in order. But no. All I was waiting for was my coffee, as ordered, and petit fours. An embarrased quick exit resulted in a departure sans tasting notes.

Although predominantly a Martinborough Pinot Noir tasting – which showcased some superb wines – the winemakers, being winemakers, also opened various other wines from their ranges. There was a spritzy rosé (Cambridge Road), a rather nice Sauvignon Blanc (Craggy Range) and a 2008, oaky Chardonnay (Martinborough Vineyard) amongst the various vintages of Pinot Noir.

One thing that was apparent, despite the Pinots being delicious when young (younger vintages tended to be from 2010 and 2011) that it was those with some bottle age (2003, 2007, 2008) that really shone. A clear case of cellaring benefits – cellar your recent Martinborough Pinot Noir purchases for at least four, five or six years.

Several wines really stood out – the Brodie Estate had winemaker James Brodie showing his 2009 and 2010 vintages. Both had great ‘expression’ and a wonderful savoury dimension, hints of liquorice perhaps, while Tim Coney of Coney Wines treated us to a comparison of his 2008 and 2010’s; both delicious and beautifully crafted. Sadly neither Brodie Estate nor Coney Wines are available, as yet, in the UK.

In comparison Martinborough Vineyard is well established in the UK; a treat to sample the reserve Marie Zelie Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, ‘exceptional years only’ as Paul Mason explained. “From one of the hottest years on record the 1998 was New Zealand’s first $100 Pinot Noir”. The Marie Zelie 2008 (NZ$180 plus) was blended from just four select barrels and is named after a French woman who planted the first vines in the region during the late 19th century. (Martinborough lies at the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island, to the east of Wellington).

Not a clue on how much the Martinborough Vineyard Syrah-Viognier retails for but it is a stunner. Two vintages were passing around the table, 2009 and 2006. The latter in particular was a gorgeous wine with the Viognier lifting the aroma wonderfully.

Rather than using cheese as my conversational starting point I really should have asked how Martinborough Pinot Noir differs, stylistically and flavour wise to Pinots from, say, Central Otago. As The Wine Opus states “Martinborough is a small but significant region making some of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noirs”. I guess the winemakers from there have better things to talk about than some boring Brits cheese fetish.

Participating producers at this Martinborough Pinot Noir tasting –

Helen Masters of Ata Rangi [Snooth], James Brodie of Brodie Estate, Lance Redgwell of Cambridge Road [Snooth], Tim Coney of Coney Wines [Snooth], Warren Adamson of Craggy Range [Snooth], Larry McKenna of Escarpment [Snooth], Paul Mason of Martinborough Vineyard [Snooth], and John Kavanagh of Te Kairanga.

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Top :: Comments

  1. George - Wine Club Guide October 14, 2012

    Love this posting. It’s stuff like this that reminds me that the Pinot Noir craze of the past decade has not just been a result of a media frenzy but of some actually superb wine. I’m jealous of your tasting of the Martinborough selections! And as for your cheese fetish – we should all be so lucky to have a cheese fetish that accidentally gets us into the private winemaker’s dinner following a tasting session, no? Thanks for an informative post; now I’m thirsty.

  2. Panama October 19, 2012

    The Martinborough region is one of New Zealand’s best sites for growing that most enigmatic of grapes, Pinot Noir. It’s home to several producers who are Pinot experts, including Ata Rangi, Palliser Estate, Te Kairangi and of course Martinborough Estate. Of the wines on show here, only the Riesling was less than very good—in particular, Martinborough really seem to have cracked Pinot Noir, producing tasty, complex, varietally true wines with a little bit of a New Zealand twist to them. Prices are still relatively sane for these wines, too. The pick of the bunch for me was the 1999 Pinot Noir: although the 1998 Reserve Pinot is a bigger, ambitious wine that may well improve in the bottle for some time, the regular cuvée is delicious now and a tad less expensive.


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