2010 was an exceptional year for Martinborough pinot noirs

by Fiona Rae / 18 February, 2012
The new vintages are full of the warmth of the long 2010 autumn.

How good are Martinborough’s 2010 pinot noirs, now filtering onto the shelves? Right from the start, producers in the Wairarapa’s most famous wine district gave the vintage the thumbs-up. The season got off to a slow start as cool spring and summer temperatures slowed ripening, but March was the sunniest on record and, Nga Waka reported, “mid-March to late April brought a seemingly endless procession of fine, warm autumn days”.

Larry McKenna, now part-owner of Escarpment Vineyard, won international recognition for his pinot noirs at Martinborough Vineyard between 1986 and 1999. McKenna views 2010 as “an exceptional year for Martinborough, with an average to slightly smaller crop, an average summer and a harvest period which was simply perfect. No rain was recorded in April, allowing picking to proceed exactly as we wished, with no threat of dilution or disease.”

Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 *****

This classic label sprang to prominence 25 years ago and ranks among the country’s greatest reds. Viewed by Ata Rangi as “a finer, more feminine expression of pinot noir than, say, our 2007 or 2009”, it is still a baby. Deeply coloured and mouthfilling, with layers of fresh cherry, plum and spice flavours, showing notable concentration and complexity, it should be at its best from 2015 onwards. $65

Escarpment Kiwa Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 *****

From vines almost 30 years old, this weighty single-vineyard red is a star wine, notably savoury, nutty and complex. Dark and spicy, a “masculine” style with good tannin backbone, it is likely to flourish for many years. $65

Escarpment Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 *****

This district blend is a third-tier label – after the flagship Kupe Pinot Noir ($85) and a trio of single-vineyard wines ($65) – but it is still highly impressive and one of the best yet. Dark, mouthfilling, concentrated and savoury, it is sweet-fruited, with generous cherry, plum and spice flavours and ripe, supple tannins. Lovely now, it should also reward cellaring. $50

Murdoch James Blue Rock Martin-borough Pinot Noir 2010 ****1/2

Estate-grown south of the township, this is a top vintage of this single-vineyard red. Deeply coloured and mouthfilling, with a floral, finely perfumed bouquet, it is a fruit-driven style, ripe and supple, with a subtle seasoning of French oak, gentle tannins and fresh, concentrated cherry/plum flavours. It’s already delicious. $39

Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2010 ****

This second-tier label is based on “younger” vines and is designed for early drinking – within three or four years of the harvest. Ruby-hued, it is very floral, refined and supple, with fresh, intensely varietal cherry, plum, herb and spice flavours, youthful but instantly appealing. $35

Julicher Martinborough 99 Rows Pinot Noir 2010 ****

From one vintage to the next, this is hard to beat in the sub-$30 category. Grown in Te Muna Rd, south-east of Martinborough township, it is fragrant and well-rounded, with an array of cherry, spice and nut flavours, showing excellent depth and complexity. Drink now or cellar. $29.95

Nga Waka Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 ****

Crammed with fresh, vibrant fruit flavours, this wine has a Central Otago-like immediacy of appeal. Deeply coloured, it is invitingly scented, with a subtle seasoning of oak, gentle tannins and loads of buoyant cherryish, plummy flavour. $35

Alana Estate Rapture Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 ***1/2

Made for early enjoyment, this single-vineyard red is mouthfilling and smooth, with a touch of complexity and generous cherry, plum and spice flavours, ripe and rounded. Priced right at $24.

Ashwell Martinborough Pinot Noir 2010 ***1/2

Matured in French oak casks, this floral, ruby-hued wine is medium-bodied and supple, with good depth of cherry and slight herb flavours, gentle tannins and some savoury complexity. It’s a harmonious wine with drink-young appeal. $40

Wine of the week

Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2010 (****) $30

Te Tera ("the other") is made for earlier consumption than its famous big brother. Based on relatively young vines, hand-picked and barrel-aged, it is a full-coloured wine, very graceful and supple, with cherry, plum and dried-herb flavours, showing good complexity and harmony. A top drink-young style.
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