Martinborough Tasting Notes

Martinborough is one of the three main sub-regions (Gladstone and Masterton being the other two) in the Wairarapa region of the north island of New Zealand.  Martinborough lies in a rain shadow between the Taraua and Rimutaka mountain ranges, making it the North Island’s driest spot. It has 4 distinct seasons, with warm days and crisp nights during the growing season.  At 40 degrees south latitude it has 1130 growing degrees and a long growing season.  However, it is prone to spring frosts, which necessitates the use of wind machines in some vineyards.

Martinborough produces less than 1% of New Zealand’s grape production yet attracts an enormous amount of attention mainly due to the high quality of it’s Pinot Noir.  The area is interesting because the wineries are usually small and family owned.  There are a large number (over 30) of wineries dedicated to producing high quality Pinot Noir and cool climate varieties from the unique alluvial gravels found throughout the area.  The cute village of Martinborough has been transformed over the last 30 years (since vineyards came) into a trendy wine tourism hub, with excellent accommodation and fine restaurants.  There are only a handful of wine regions in the world that can rightfully claim to make great Pinot Noir, but this is one of them.

Matahiwi Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Vibrant fresh fruit flavours of passionfruit, guava, pineapple and lemons abound. The palate is unoaked, medium bodied and shows similar tropical vibrancy. This is the reason New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is so popular…without falling into the trap of “greenness”. Drink now to 2016. 4 stars

Coney “Rallentande” Riesling 2009

The nose shows classic citrus notes of limes and lemon peel, with a slight gravelly complexity. The palate is medium bodied with fresh fruit flavours of jasmine, honey, stone fruits and some kerosene aged character. The wine has higher acidity and finishes dry and fresh. This cool-climate Riesling has good capacity for ageing. Cellar now to 2020. 4 stars.

Matahiwi “Holly” Chardonnay 2009

There is so much going on with this wine it is hard to know where to begin! Firstly, it is a mid yellow with green hues and shows a highly intense and complex bouquet. The wine has notes of lemon yoghurt, buttered toast, cashews and spicey nuances (due to barrel fermentation and lees stirring). The fruit flavours of nectarine, limes, marmalade and pears are still apparent, resulting in a balanced aromatic profile. The palate is full bodied with peach, hazelnut, spicey oak, and underlying minerality. This is a first class Chardonnay that comes along once in a blue moon. Drink now to 2020. 5 stars.

Te Hera Pinot Noir 2010

This wine comes from a single low yielding 11-acre vineyard planted over deep gravels in the Te Muna rd district. The nose is a complex mixture of mulberries, black cherries, espresso, and hot rocks. However, it is the palate that really sets this wine apart. It has that wonderful, rich, seamless mid-palate with the necessary supporting tannins required in truly great Pinot Noir. This wine is Martinborough’s answer to Chambolle Musigny. Drink 2013-2023. 5 stars.

Te Hera “Awatea” Pinot Noir 2010

This is the “little brother” to Te Hera’s flagship Pinot Noir, but in many ways it is drinking better that it’s sibling. Sourced from the same single vineyard, it has that appealing combination of dark berries and gravelly earthiness. The palate is also very weighty, with an unctuous intensity and soft silky texture. There is less obvious oak influence in this wine, allowing the violets and high notes to shine. The wine finishes with some coffee flavours and a slight resinous quality. Drink now to 2018. 4 ½ stars.

Matahiwi “Holly” Pinot Noir 2009

This is a reserve style wine made via careful fruit selection in the vineyard and barrel selection in the cellar. The wine shows very appealing aromas of red cherry, chocolate, cinnamon spices, smoky oak and dry gravel riverbed. The palate is medium bodied with solid weight and fine-grained tannins. The dark cherry notes linger along with attractive oak nuances. This is an excellent Pinot Noir with good capacity to age. Drink now to 2020. 4 ½ stars.

Matahiwi Pinot Noir 2010

The bouquet is a charming combination of strawberries, rhubarb, red cherries and smokey oak. The palate is medium bodied, soft and round, with ripe red fruit flavours and a subtle earthiness. The wine possesses delicate, yet lingering gamey notes on the finish. Drink now to 2018. 4 stars.

Coney “Que Sera” Syrah 2009

Martinborough is not know for Syrah, however in a good year with low yields it’s amazing what can be done. This wine shows deep purple hues with classic Hermitage notes of black pepper, violets and plums with underlying, idiosyncratic, Martinborough mineral nuances. The palate is medium to full bodied with flavours of cocoa, vanilla beans, and raisins. The wine finishes with higher acid and slightly green tannins that should mellow with age. Drink now to 2020. 4 stars.