The ‘Pinot Noir Dinner’, was the culmination of a month long ‘Catch Pinot’ festival promoted by the Wairarapa producers of Pinot Noir with the Wellington restaurant trade. It was a promotion designed to create closer ties between the Wairarapa as a vignoble with its local market (or catchment area, please excuse the pun). The dinner also marked the establishment of ‘Wellington Wine Country’, an organisation which will work in combining the promotional efforts of the greater Wairarapa wine growing districts as an entity.
All of this might seem common sense, but the Wairarapa, along with most other wine growing regions in the country has struggled to work together cohesively over the years. Many Martinborough producers felt that their branding was so strong that there was very little benefit in being associated with the smaller and less known districts of Carterton, Gladstone and Masterton, let alone Te Horo on the Kapiti Coast. Clearly, these junior regions (in terms of size, anyway) had the most to gain by being part of a larger grouping which included Martinborough.
There are, of course significant differences in geography and geology between all of these districts, but there’s also no doubting that there are strong similarities. Most importantly, Pinot Noir is the focussed and most successful variety, and the Pinot Noir wines share the characteristics of more savoury and complex flavours as well as stronger structure, these traits coming from similarities in climate and soil to some degree. From a commercial viewpoint, the Wellington market sees the winegrowing districts as being part of its local area, and make less of the differences of each of the areas; afterall, it’s only just over a half hour’s drive between Martinborough and Masterton, with Carterton and Gladstone in the middle. www.winesfrommartinborough.comwwwwairarapawines.co.nz
The Pinot Celebration Dinner
The coming together of the Wines of Martinborough and the Wines of Wairarapa has taken time, but now that it’s official, all parties seem very comfortable and will be anticipating moving forward in harmony. The ‘Pinot Celebration Dinner’ demonstrated this. As a long-time fan and consumer of the wines from the greater Wairarapa, and a regular visitor to many of the wineries and vineyards, it was gratifying to see producers from all of these different sub-regions in the same room, interacting with the public and each other with real ease. I’ve understood much of the subtle differentiation between Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton, but in reality I group the producers together, and quite distinctly separate as a group from say those of Hawke’s Bay or Marlborough. And I’m sure that’s how the ‘Wellington Wine Country’ sees it.
The ‘Pinot Celebration Dinner’ was held at Te Papa national museum in Wellington, with guest chef Michael Meredith of Auckland designing a special four course menu. Matching the food were 24 Wairarapa Pinot Noirs selected by Larry McKenna of the Escarpment Vineyard and Allan Johnson of Palliser Estate. There were six different selections of four individual wines, served to the tables. There were 40 tables of 8 people at each, with the wineries sponsoring the tables and inviting guests. The attendees were made up of most of the known food and hospitality, and wine trade people, corporate and private buyers of the greater Wellington area.
Though each table was serve ‘only’ four Pinot Noirs, matched to the four courses, there was a large selection of other Wairarapa wines available from the ‘bar’. Besides the degustation dinner, there was a silent auction run to promote the work of ‘Eat My Lunch’, a service providing lunches for children in need. A highlight of the evening was the singing of Coney Wines duet father Tim and daughter Lisa Coney. The event was MC’d by Rachel Taulelei of Kono and the Wellington Culinary Events Trust.
The Menu and Wine
Following is the menu designed by Michael Meredith, and the wines served. Each table was served four Pinot Noirs, the first being “fruit driven”, the second “elegant or fruit forward”, the third “older”, and the fourth “savoury or structured”. I offer my comments on the wines served at our table, our selection being #2, and I list the other five selections that were served to the other tables after.
Ox tongue, chestnuts, wood ear mushroom, bacon and pickled peanuts
Matahiwi ‘Holly’ Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2013
Very dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red, a little lighter on edge. Very good depth and intensity of ripe black berried fruits on the nose with mocha and toasty oak prominent. Subtle complexing game and mineral aromatic elements show. On palate, rich and sweet, lush and bright with fresh acidity and moderate tannins in the background. Liquorice plums and toast oak add detail. Fine-grained mouthfeel, the acidity carrying the finish.
With the food course, the wine lost its strong oak component and melded with the detail and flavours, moderating the saltiness of the food.
Roasted duck breast, black pudding. coffee, blueberries and Jerusalem artichokes
The Elder Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
Dark ruby red, a little lighter on the rim. Fulsome on nose with fully ripened dark red and black berried fruits, plus classical savoury Wairarapa nuances of dark and dried herbs plus game elements. A bigger wine, with rich and succulent fruit. This has generosity of fruit balanced and matched by plenty of structure and grip. This has substance of mouthfeel, and is very satisfying.
The duck breast just-cooked, and thus fairy textural, but matched wonderfully by the tannin structure and grip of the wine. Lovely food nuances that matched well-enough to have synergy as an overall pairing. My most interesting pairing.
Beef rib, black garlic, Brussels sprouts and parsnip
Escarpment Vineyard ‘Kupe’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2011
Very dark, black-red with some garnet on the edge. Full, rich and complex on bouquet with layers of savoury dark-red fruits with integrated whole cluster stalk, dried herb, game and earth, but with balsamic complexities. Certainly secondary now. Full-bodied, but remarkably rich and sweet, with structure in harmony, and fresh, energising acidity. This youthful mouthfeel will carry the growing complexing notes well.
A classical match with the beef rib very textured and enriched by reduced jus flavours. The wine had the depth and range of flavours to match, as well as the extraction and grip. Lovely having the wine’s acidity play a strong role in keeping the meat moist. A faultless match.
Blue cheese, tapioca with almonds and butternut
Brodie Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
Dark ruby-red colour with a dark heart, lighter on the edge. Really quite elegant with harmonious and seamlessly interwoven aromas showing layers of savoury red fruits and subtle savoury earth, herb and nutty notes. Beautifully rich, smooth-flowing, near seamless on palate. Very fine-grained structure in support of the finely rich fruit. Integrated acidity allows the fruit to shine.
The wine and blue cheese carried the match. The tapioca, though savoury, still seemed sweet, and maybe without sufficient texture. A controversial pairing which worked very well for many people. For me, workable, with no real clash, but not quite the closeness I would have liked.
The Other Wine Selections Served
Selection #1: Stonecutter ‘Syren’ Martinborough 2013, Urlar Gladstone 2013, Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough 2007, Big Sky Martinborough 2013
Selection #3: Julicher Martinborough 2013, Coney Martinborough 2013, Palliser Estate Martinborough 2010, Porters Martinborough 2013
Selection #4: Ata Rangi Martinborough 2014, Lynfer Estate Wairarapa 2013, Hamden Martinborough 2011, Borthwick Estate Gladstone 2015
Selection #5: Murdoch James ‘Blue Rock’ Martinborough 2013, Margrain ‘Home Block’ Martinborough 2013, Gladstone Vineyard Gladstone 2009, Te Kairanga ‘John Martin’ Martinborough 2013
Selection #6: Johner ‘Reserve’ Gladstone 2013, Schubert ‘Marion’s Vineyard’ Wairarapa 2013, Cambridge Road Martinborough 2009, Nga Waka Martinborough 2014