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Palliser Estate 2016 Martinborough Pinot Noir Barrel Samples

By November 17, 2016No Comments
There is etiquette on the part of tasters when partaking of a barrel tasting, such as where to spit out, if at all, and whether unused samples go back to barrel. The winemakers usually have a format to follow, with the lighter and simpler wines being presented first, moving to progressively more interesting components, and finishing with something that represents the best, or a sample of a wine that is completely out of the ordinary in some way. On one of my first tastings from barrel in Burgundy, I made the mistake of giving extremely high praise to the first sample. From there, I couldn’t say much better or score higher, even though the following wines were clearly superior by far. I’ve learned much since then… www.palliser.co.nz


Allan Johnson, Winemaker Palliser Estate
drawing 2016 Pinot Noir barrel samples
Tasting 2016 Palliser Estate Pinot Noir Barrel Samples
Visiting Palliser Estate, winemaker Allan Johnson and his assistant Guy McMaster took me through a range of 2016 Pinot Noir samples from their vineyards. It is very early days to make a proclamation on the quality of the vintage, but one can, after tasting through a number of barrels, make some general conclusions on how the fruit fared in the vintage and the possible style of the resultant wines. For me, there was an overarching elegance to the wines I tasted. They were generally fragrant with bright aromatics, and the tannins fine in texture with prominent freshness and acidity. The samples were before malolactic fermentation had taken place, so one can expect the sharpness and crispness to be moderated when the wines are finished. In some ways, the 2016s are a continuation of the trend towards elegance that Allan Johnson instigated several years ago. So the wines tasted also reflect the viticultural work and decisions made by the Palliser team in aiming for more refined wines. What I tasted had more than a degree of beauty and finesse. Here are my notes:

Wharekauhau Block, clone 115, no whole cluster, leaf plucked both sides
Dark purple-red colour. The nose is lifted with fine red florals. On palate, the flavours reflect the nose, with red fruits and florals, and the palate has very soft fine tannins and refreshing acidity. This is striking for its beauty, accessibility and elegance.

Wharekauhau Block, clone 115, no whole cluster, hand leaf plucked on the eastern side only
Bright purple red colour, good depth. This is more concentrated with riper, with dark, near black fruit aromas. On palate, the fruit is richer and sweeter, riper with more concentration. The tannin extraction is modest and fine-grained, and the sweetness meets the acidity at a better level. Did having more leaf result in greater ripeness? It tastes that way.

East Base, clones 667 and 777, 36% whole bunch
Dark ruby-purple red. This is bold with rich and ripe black and very dark-red berry fruits on the nose. Rich and quite savoury on palate, with black berried fruits, spices, the flavour of whole bunches not prominent. However this has plenty of presence and structure – the whole bunch noticeable in textural terms. This has firmness allied to richness, and the acidity is noticeable. An attractive component.

East Base, clones 667 and 777, no whole bunch, the block adjacent
Dark purple-red colour. This is all fragrance and aromatics, with bright and vibrant primary red berry fruits and florals, and the nose one of lovely purity. Very finely presented on palate with sweetness and aromatic fragrance. Soft red berry fruit clarity is the feature. The tannin extraction is fine-grained and modest, and the acidity contributes to very good length.

Clouston Block 2, Abel clone, 18% whole bunch
Dark purple red colour. The nose is firm and deeply concentrated with savoury dark-red and black fruit aromas along with whole cluster stalk suggestions, dark herbs and earthy notes. The fruit is succulent and rich, and densely concentrated, with the core showing layers of dark herbs, savoury stalk and earth notes, but in no way green. There’s plenty of balancing structure and grip. Quite complete as a wine, and showing the complexities of the Abel clone as well as whole bunch.

Wharekauhau Block, Abel clone, no whole bunch
Dark purple-red colour. This shows riper fruit spectrum aromas, with plums, boysenberries and a touch of jam, but also with violet florals to lend some finesse. Elegant and very fine-featured on palate with lifted florals, sweetly aromatic fruit, and some ripe dark fruits and jam nuances. The extraction is modest to match, and the acidity light, but fresh.

Winery Block, MV6 clone, no whole bunch
I’ve seen this Aussie import before here. Again impressive. Very dark-red and youthful colour. Very refined and elegant, with fragrant aromatics and florals to the fore. The fruit is tightly bound, and very stylish. On palate sweet and pure fruit expression, dark raspberries and an array of florals. Very fine-grained tannin extraction and supple as a result with poise from the acidity.

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