My notes taken on Thursday 18th April 2013 at the Martinborough Hotel. I had no idea which wineries had submitted wines, all wines were pre-poured into identical glasses and tasted blind.
This was a genuinely exciting line-up of wines. A spectrum of colours, very different approaches to winemaking from the delicate and perfumed to the dense and robust. There was much more expression and definition in these wines than the a small number of 2006s present (which I also tasted blind). Tannins were present but for the most part, well judged. Tannin can be a good thing in pinot providing it doesn’t overwhelm.
We were asked for our comments after the tasting. My view? That it is still too early to make generalisations about regional similarities in NZ. There wasn’t one ‘defining’ character, not for aroma nor flavour.
Instead, the word that summed up these pinot noirs for me, was genuine.. Whilst some were more successful than others, each conveyed a sense that winemakers were trying their best to express individual site and vintage. Wines of integrity.
2011 Palliser Pinot Noir
Deep youthful ruby. Very opulent exotic aromatics. Fruit falls into dark berry, doris plum spectrum. Quite noticeable oak. Silky and brightly fruited, good thread of acid running through palate. Supple tannins, quite a generous rich style.
2011 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir
Medium ruby. Lifted, slightly spicy notes on nose. Some whole bunch?? Cinnamon. Fruit is ripe and deceptively upfront yet there is a definite backbone of firm tannin. Touch of warmth on the finish. A savoury, less showy style. Great length.
2011 Julicher Pinot Noir
Bright, deep ruby. Very aromatic; dark plum, old rose, star anise. Palate tighter than expected after nose, fruit bright but chewy. Good line of acid. Not as densely fruited as expected so alcohol just sticks out a little.
2011 Murdoch James Pinot Noir
Pale ruby. Intriguing aromatics; faintly rustic and earthy but also a degree of perfume too. Tightly wound on the palate, not fruity but has delicacy of touch. Good length.
2011 Nga Waka Pinot Noir
Deep ruby. Lots of sweet cinnamon and nutmeg on the nose. A big, bold glossy aroma with richness and density. Palate seems a little overwhelmed by the oak at this stage and there is a whoosh of warm alcohol on the finish. A hearty style with good length.
2011 Kusuda Pinot Noir
Pale ruby. Pretty, lifted aromatics showing a good degree of florality. A delicate, perfumed style, not particularly concentrated but with subtle, well judged tannin.
2011 Vynfields Pinot Noir
Big bold colour. Almost super-ripe nose; exotic plum, star anise, and new oak. Big chewy tannins. A dense robust style.
2011 The Elder Pinot Noir
Deep ruby. Very perfumed; strawberry, raspberry yet with a degree of savoury bite. Good density of fruit on the palate, firm tannins, big alcohol and a long sustained finish. Impressive.
2011 Big Sky Pinot Noir
Mid ruby. Very floral and aromatic with violets, strawberry, raspberry and a touch of cinnamon oak too. A structured style, ripe fruit offset by well judged tannins. Less showy than some but with concentration and density. Good length
2011 Cambridge Road Pinot Noir
Deep colour. Restrained on the nose; but touches of plum, sweet spice emerge. Still very youthful. Big, robust style more structured and dense than perfumed and delicate. Backbone of tannin. Good length.
2011 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir
Mid ruby. A glossy aroma with a definite note of new oak. Yet some very pretty, perfumed dark fruit aromatics underneath. On the palate chewy and dense, yet tannins very well managed and silky. Long sustained finish.
2011 Coney Pizzicato Pinot Noir
Very pale. Curious nose; tinned strawberry and cola cubes. Some new oak too. A sweetly fruited palate with a refreshing thread of acid but not much by way of tannin. Quite a plump style.
2011 Dry River Pinot Noir
Vivid purple. Super opulent nose; dark plum. sweet spice. An exotic aroma but not ‘fruity’. Dense and concentrated. Good weight. Firm acid with chewy tannins. Perhaps just a little bit upfront and doesn’t quite follow through to the finish?
2011 Escarpment Pinot Noir
Unusual aromatics; dried spices; cardamon and nutmeg with a touch of cocoa powder too. Quite a spicy style, whole bunch? Firm, well judged tannins that build across the palate and harness the rich dense fruit. Long finish.
2011 Schubert Block B Pinot Noir
An advanced colour, already showing quite a bit of development. Noticeable oak, which whilst giving a creamy edge to the palate rather flattens and dulls the fruit. Very soft, the fruit seems almost a touch cooked.
2011 Te Kairanga John Martin Reserve Pinot Noir
Bright ruby. Stewed plums and blackberry on the nose. A robust wine but not a very convincing expression.
Wines of Martinborough provided a wee snippet of vintage data : “2011 was a warm season with above average March-April rainfall. The result? Average to above-average yields, an earlier ripening season but an extended harvest period due to rain at harvest. Degree days = 1259, rainfall during growing season 369mm”.