For a long time, growers, winemakers and consumers could just not ‘get’ Pinot Gris. Without quality and enjoyment, there can never be any passion. However, the variety seems to have got there, with the successful emergence of a number of consistent, quality focussed labels. James Jones is clearly passionate about Pinot Gris. His aim is to maximise the quality of his Marlborough fruit grown in the family-owned vineyards overlooking the Awatere River near Seddon, and on O’Dwyers Road in the Rapaura region. He has found that the two areas produce such individual styles of wine that the combination of fruit from them can be extremely complementary. That’s where his winemaker Dave Clouston comes in. The two palates working together seem to have an innate ability to come up with something special when it comes to this variety. The Starborough Pinot Gris has proven to be very popular in the marketplace, every vintage selling out before the next release. This is disconcerting for James as he wishes to maintain a consistent and continuous supply to those who are enjoying his wine! The positive of the situation is that there is a growing following…
Tasting the 2011 Starborough wines before bottling, I reckon the Starborough Pinot Gris 2011 may be the best yet. This vintage will be a blend of 75% Wairau fruit with 25% Awatere, and includes a 10% barrel-ferment portion. Already the wine has an accessible and impressively aromatic fruitiness and a crisp, dry finish with real clarity. James and Dave have decided to release a Starborough ‘Single Vineyard’ Awatere Pinot Gris 2011, such was the distinctiveness of the Awatere Valley fruit. It’s a powerhouse with sensational spiced-pear characters that have a Gewurztraminer-like exotic expression. The wine is dense and concentrated, but lively acidity provides great balancing tension. It appears the vintage is a superior one for the variety.
The Starborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 also carries on the success of the previous vintages, but will have 75% Wairau Valley and 25% Awatere Valley fruit, a near reversal of proportion to that of 2010. This has been based on the style of the fruit this vintage provided, and has the benefit of giving a softer, fuller and more approachable wine enabling earlier enjoyment. A Starborough Pinot Noir 2011, the first release from O’Dwyers Road fruit, will be released next year after appropriate barrel aging. Already one can see it is engagingly elegant with bright dark-red cherry-like fruit, fresh acidity, and supple tannins. It will fit in perfectly with the Pinot Gris and Sauvignon from Starborough, offering classical Marlborough varietal flavours and style.
Disclaimer: These wines will be distributed by ‘Wine2Trade’, the company under which ‘Raymond Chan Wine Reviews’ operates.