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Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2001
The texture is firm, with fine-grained yet sinewy, supple tannin supporting and balancing the characteristic Ata Rangi opulence and rich, lingering flavors.
He was one of a handful of winemaking pioneers in Martinborough, then a forgotten rural settlement, who were attracted to the area by two key features - the localised, free-draining shingle terrace some 20 metres deep and the lowest rainfall records of anywhere on the North Island of New Zealand.
Today Martinborough is a thriving wine appellation with an international reputation, particularly for premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Today Ata Rangi concentrates on hand making world class wines, namely pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and their Celebre (a cabernet blend). Yields are very low, typically 2 tonnes per acre and all grapes are hand-picked. Vines are now 20 years old, a factor in the wines ascending quality. Winemaking is very traditional using small, closed fermenters with wide top manholes which allow hand plunging. 20 hectares of vines are managed from which around 80 tonnes are crushed annually.
A relatively young but extremely promising wine-producing country, New Zealand is widely recognized for distinctive, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. While this is indeed the country’s most planted and successful variety, it is certainly not the only one that is capable of delighting wine lovers—and in a very wallet-friendly manner, at that. The world’s most southerly vineyards are found here, with significant climatic variation both between and within the warmer North Island and the cooler South Island. Overall, the climate is maritime, with plenty of rainfall as well as abundant sunshine. Producers have almost unilaterally embraced cutting-edge winery technology, resulting in clean, high-quality wines at every price point.
Sauvignon Blanc is at its best in Marlborough but thrives throughout the nation, known for its trademark herbaceous and vegetal character. This pungent, aromatic variety accounts for an overwhelming majority of the country’s exports. Chardonnay is the second-most important white variety and takes on a supple texture and citrus and tropical fruit aromas in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, respectively. Pinot Noir, trailing behind Sauvignon Blanc in national production numbers, is at its best in Central Otago, the southernmost winegrowing region in the world. These wines are known for bright, juicy red fruit. Taking cues from the wines of Alsace, aromatic varieties like Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer shine in Martinborough, while red Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have found success in Hawke’s Bay. Throughout New Zealand but especially in Marlborough, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are used to produce traditional method sparkling wine.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.