Ata Rangi : new releases

2018 Crimson Pinot Noir 13% alcohol $38.00
2017 Pinot Noir 13% alcohol $75.00

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir regularly graces the lists of top New Zealand wines, the likely legacy of great vineyards, increasing vine age, continuity of people and the assured hand of winemaker Helen Masters.  The most recent releases of the flagship estate pinot and its sibling ‘Crimson’ deliver poised and delicious but never showy wines. The pleasure, particularly with the estate wine, is in the way they take time to reveal themselves, allowing the drinker more time to explore them and contemplate what makes stellar NZ pinot noir.

The 2018 Crimson Pinot Noir is styled as ‘an earlier-drinking wine from younger vines’, has a beguiling, expressive nose, more open and accessible with dark cherry, cocoa, spice and roses – there’s lots going on but it’s still fairly subtle. Finely-grained palate with crushed cherry/berryfruit and sandy tannins, a lovely line of acidity and a savoury lick to the finish. Softer and open-knit, this is the obvious candidate for drinking now while you hang on to the estate for as long as you can resist.

The 2017 Pinot Noir is a little tight and angular to begin with – it would be easy to skate past this in a wine show setting – with savoury, sappy elements to the fore. Intense yet not overt, with time in the glass the fruit unfurls with lovely layered berries, sour cherry, red plum, sweet hay, soft five spice, lots of iodine and a touch of something deliciously forest floor. Plenty of layers to explore and a taut line of very fine tannin and acid creating tension, structure and even a certain juiciness on the palate with a firm, dry, fine-grained tannins and a very long finish. Balance is spot on, it’s a very harmonious and calm wine. Seems such a pity to be tasting it now when it’s clear just how young it is. There is a linear, almost slightly unyielding aspect at present, the wine makes you work a bit, with patience and air suggesting what’s to come. A recent tasting of the 2008 blind was a revelation (we would have guessed half that age), the almost 12 year old wine showing Ata Rangi’s hallmark poise, grace and backbone too. Both are utterly lovely wines.

PS the Crimson Pinot also gets bonus points for representing Project Crimson, a rata-restoration conservation effort close to the heart of owner Clive Paton, who has also planted tens of thousands of trees and worked tirelessly via the Aorangi Conservation Trust to re-establish and protect native forests and birds.

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