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Nautilus Estate – A Visit in Early Vintage 2016

By March 23, 2016No Comments
It was a very easy and fun visit to Nautilus Estate, even though Clive Jones and his team were in the throes of the 2016 vintage. It’s a well-oiled machine, Nautilus established in 1985, and Clive at the helm as winemaker since 1998. And, of course, there’s a lot of stop-start, so there is time between the frenetic activity to get some rest and maybe entertain some visitors! Joining Brett Bermingham, Clive’s right-hand man in winemaking, Katy Prescott, sales and marketing manager, and two interns from distributors, Negociants N.Z. Ltd, I had a quick tour, tasting freshly tanked must from grapes that had already been harvested. The fruit for the sparkling base, the earlier Gruner Veltliner, some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir was already safely in. Rain was forecast the next day, so it looked likely there would be a break over Easter, before picking resumed, with the very important Sauvignon Blanc to come in. The indications were for a large harvest with the fruit in very good condition with great flavours, showing slightly lower acidity, resulting in wines that may be a little more forward in character. www.nautilusestate.com


Clive Jones – Nautilus Estate

Tasting some 2016 Vintage Juice
Viticulturists and winemakers immediately see the correlation between the flavours of the berries on the vines, the freshly crushed must and what will eventuate in the finished wine. Consumers find it less obvious, not being used to working with the raw, unfermented base materials. The more you taste the juice of just-pressed grapes and follow its progress through fermentation to the fully vinified wine, the clearer the different characters become. I must admit I still haven’t the experience to understand and see it confidently, but there’s no harm in trying!

Clive, Brett and Katy showed samples of sparkling wine base. Firstly, some clone 96 Chardonnay, almost finished fermentation. Crisp, zesty, lifted fruit and plenty of acidity here. Picked early to retain freshness and acidity. Then Pinot Noir, Dijon clones 115 and 777. This had soft flavours of soft red berry fruits, and the mouthfeel had some presence and weight. The acidity, still a feature, was more rounded. The fruit here was picked at lower sugars. This was followed by some older vine 10/5 clone Pinot Noir, about two-thirds through fermentation. Somewhat funky, but texturally crisp and tight with acid clarity. This was an interesting component. Then lastly, Pinot Noir destined for Vintage Rosé, finished ferment. This was already very attractive with subtle and detailed soft red fruit aromas and flavours, showing good intensity. Pure, and soft-textured, and easily seen as a wine of finesse.

We then tasted the fresh must of some whites and Pinot Noir. These were distinctive, even at this early stage. The small berry clone 1066 Chardonnay, second crop off vines, just picked hours ago and pressed to 1 y.o. oak, This has a golden colour and savoury peach and tea nose and flavour profile, soft on palate with the sugar noticeable. Just-pressed Gruner Veltliner, with aromas of oranges, tropical fruits, and some herbal notes. This has richness on palate, with lusciousness, pineapple and tropical fruit flavours, with piquant herbs. This may be the most flavoursome GV juice to date.

Clone 5 Pinot Noir from Willie Crosse’s vineyard, inoculated. Positive raspberry fruit aromas, unfolding strawberries. Very easy, and still sweet. A sample of Yarrum Vineyard clones 667 and 777 Pinot Noir, fully destemmed. This is soft with savoury raspberry and herb notes. Light on palate, but quite positive in fruitiness. This followed by the same component of Yarrum 667 and 777 Pinot Noir, but with 20% whole cluster. A little more herbal on nose, plus raspberries and green tea. Definitely more depth of flavour, body and already greater textures. But still soft.


Brett Bermingham and Katy Prescott – Nautilus Estate

Tasting Bottled Wine
We then headed to the tasting room where several bottles of finished wines were shown. First the Nautilus Methode Vintage Rosé 2013, the third release of this wine, spending 2 ½ years on lees and 5-6 months on cork. The aim is to give this wine sufficient maturation on lees and cork before release, normally in time for the Christmas market! A beautiful pale pink, this is tight with aromas described as ‘strawberry cheesecake’. Tightly bound on palate too, with subtle bready autolyis and gentle strawberry fruit. Very fine and delicate autolysis, carried along a very fine phenolic line. The textures deemed preferable for the style to enhance the fruitiness, as well as being friendlier with food. This wine paired with the Nautilus Methode NV, Lot 1201. Very pale in colour, and altogether more refined, intense and penetrating, with very definite nutty and bready autolytic complexities. Gorgeous creaminess on the palate, balanced by racy acidity. The mouthfeel has tension and great vitality. This has beautiful delicacy and the line is carried by the acidity. Simply mouth-wateringly delicious.

The next group of wines were the 2014 Pinot Noirs. Firstly the ‘Estate’ blend, now labelled Nautilus ‘Southern Valleys’. A light ruby colour with some garnet. Refined, tightly bound, with dark raspberries and tea, as tasted in the 2016 must! Subtle smoky complexities, and also whole cluster savouriness, this being around 15%. Elegant and simultaneously rich on palate, seamless in flow, the wine is soft and has fine tannins. This will be approachable earlier than the 2013. The Nautilus Pinot Noirs continue to grow in richness and complexity, and the 2014 is yet another step forward. To be released in July.

Nautilus are launching in September two ‘Single Vineyard’ wines with the 2014 vintage, these terroir-expressive wines to replace the beloved ‘Four Barriques’. There is a 2013 ‘Four Barriques’, and this will be the last. The first tasted was the ‘Clay Hills’ Pinot Noir 2014. Soft garnet-red colour, with a full and open bouquet of ripe red berry fruits, rounded and deep. Lovely ripe, dark red berry fruits, mouthfilling and quite voluminous and fleshy. This has power and generosity. The tannins are substantial, but hidden by the fruit sweetness. Then the ‘Awatere’ Pinot Noir 2014. Light ruby-red colour. Tight and elegant, but with sensational intensity, with dark red berry fruits, unfolding layers of herb complexities. Whole cluster character. On palate very refined and elegant, but not lacking in richness or interest. Great linearity, freshness and vibrancy. The tasters were split in their preferences, but my vote was for the latter, for its ‘Burgundian’ style.

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