Cambridge Road Martinborough Pinot Noir 2009

When I was in Central Otago recently, I was one of two Australians in the vintage crew, Jimi Lienert being the other. Jimi hails from the Barossa, where his family has a beautiful vineyard. Inevitably we got to tasting a bit while in New Zealand, and again when I passed through the Barossa Valley the other day. Despite growing up surrounded by, and helping to make, traditional Barossan styles, Jimi has a penchant for lighter, elegant wines. After vintage, he toured New Zealand and tasted as widely as possible; this is a bottle he found along the way that he shared with me.

I’m very glad he did, because it’s excellent. Something I’ve often enjoyed about Martinborough Pinots versus those from Central Otago is their shift in balance away from fullness of fruit towards fragrance, savouriness and structure. This is a good example of the style; aromatically it’s spiced and fresh, with berry-cherry compote, just a touch of stalk character (easily carried) and vanilla oak. Although the fruit is present and lush, it doesn’t push its way past the other elements, making this far from a fruit bomb style. With air, further complexities of curry leaf and musk, all aromatic and floral.

In the mouth, structure, depth of flavour, layers and length. There’s something quiet about this wine, though, like a really smart person who just makes enough of a contribution to the conversation. Despite that, its contributions have a tremendous impact, so this wine, although measured, makes itself known. Partly this is due to its acid structure, which drives flavour down the line quite firmly and gives it good length. Partly, it’s due to a complex flavour profile that makes one lean in to look more closely. It’s both sweet and savoury, umami-filled and delicious.

A whole lot of sophisticated, delicious Pinot.

Cambridge Road
Price: $NZ55
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Te Kairanga Casarina Reserve Chardonnay 2006

I’m starting to wonder if I’m ever going to find a bottle of chardonnay that’s a color I want to see in front of me. Once again, this has got that buffed to a sheen glare I’d rather see in a Manhattan lobby than in a glass in front of me. Whatever, though, I should probably find something more serious to talk about than mere looks. Right?There’s a hell of a nose on this wine. It’s like a Supermarket Sweep contestant was so stressed that they filled the cart with Lemoneheads and Fleischmann’s Yeast, sort of: it’s kind of a hypnotic twisting in the breeze between fantastic cleaning products, 1950s style, and something a bit funkier – Thanksgiving Parker House rolls, perhaps, glistening with eggwhite fresh out of the oven. And yes, yes, there’s also subtle vanillin oak there as well, giving you pretty much everything you could hope for in a New World chardonnay.Nowhere near a California butter bomb in the mouth, the bright, sunny fruit is well preserved indeed, not taking a back seat to any kind of winemaker intervention. remaining squarely in the center here. I’m disappointed that the yeasty notes on the nose largely disappear once you taste it, but the texture is lovely indeed, slightly creamy, finishing on a every so slightly bitter note well hidden behind perky acidity. There’s also a subtly woody note on the midpalate which seems slightly off – it’s a little more overt than everything else deserves, I think – but all in all this is a lovely bottle of wine.That being said, I’m not sure what marks this as distinctly Kiwi. I find it slightly hard to distinguish between this, the Neil Ellis Elgin chardonnay from last week, and any number of New World wines. Thankfully, though, this is a fine example of the genre.Te Kairanga
Price: NZ $29
Closure: Stelvin

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Pinot Noir 2006

A single vineyard wine made from Martinborough grapes, made by a Hawkes Bay based winery. At cellar door, this wine smelled a bit one dimensional and fruit bright, but the other half latched on to it and suggested we get another bottle for more leisurely consumption. I’m glad I listened!A lightfooted nose of significant complexity, moving through an attractive spectrum of flavours. Bright red fruits (strawberry/cherry-like), stalk, earth, freshly baked things, a bit of vanilla, etc. There’s a lot in there, and it coheres well. The palate is similarly dextrous, and of good intensity despite being of light to medium body. Entry is slippery and fresh, leading to a middle palate full of bright flavour and interest. A good dose of acidity keeps things lively and adds impact to the wine’s flavour profile. I’ve sat with the wine all evening and it has reached a point of excellent balance between flavour components. Lots of bright fruit, but equally prominent minerality and herbal astringency, with subtle oak adding another dimension. Flavour extends well into the after palate, and the finish sings with very fine tannins and acidity. What a lovely wine. It’s both delicate and powerful, with a most attractive flavour profile. Craggy RangePrice: $NZ50Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Ata Rangi Célèbre 2005

Ata Ranga is well-known for its Pinot Noir, so I was curious to give this blend of Martinborough and Hawkes Bay Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot a go. I have no idea why it’s called Célèbre.
The nose is very expressive and shows a seductive blend of violets, raw meat, dark berry fruits, spice (clove-like) and a good whack of oak. There’s good intensity here, and the balance is impressive (though perhaps with the oak showing too much after some time in glass). The palate again shows good balance and a focused line. The entry is immediately flavoursome and leads to a medium/full bodied middle palate showing intense, deliciously savoury dark fruits and mouthwatering astringency. The finish is especially lovely, and showcases very fine, chocolate-like tannins, framed by caramel/vanilla oak and quite prominent sappiness.
This is an elegant wine, full of flavour and tightly structured. It lacks the complexity of the very best wines, but is seductive and balanced. I asked myself whether there was an element of underripeness, but if there is, for my taste it is question of style rather than fault. It went well with our dinner of beef and roasted vegetables, the fruit having no issues matching the intense beefy flavour of the lovely New Zealand meat.
Ata RangiPrice: $NZ32Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007