Ata Rangi pinot power

Ata Rangi is a small, family-owned Martinborough winery with a big reputation, particularly for pinot noir. (Photo: Tourism New Zealand. Photographer: Peter Monk)

Who said what? Match the quotes to the wine critic.

  1. “Ata Rangi is one of the founder vineyards, and arguably the most highly-regarded winery in the Martinborough (and Wairarapa district), perhaps because there have been no pompous claims about their wines – just constant, quiet attention to detail.”
  2. “This stunning estate makes the most revered Pinot Noir in New Zealand.”
  3. “…the long-serving, dedicated team behind Ata Rangi just go from strength to strength. Their Pinots have always been great and yet, even in a world where the Pinot benchmark gets higher every year, Ata Rangi is better than ever.”
  4. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of ‘Best NZ Pinot Noir’ that does not feature Ata Rangi at the top of the list.”

The critics are Lisa Perotti-Brown MW, Yvonne Lorkin, Matthew Jukes and Geoff Kelly (but not in that order). Answers at the end of this article.

In 2010 Ata Rangi and Felton Road were both awarded the inaugural Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa or ‘Grand Cru of New Zealand’ by their peers.

When Ata Rangi started making wine and wanted to get a few runs on the board, they entered some of their wines in competitions. Different vintages of Ata Rangi Pinot Noir won the IWSC London Trophy in 1995, 1996 and 2001. The ten vintages of Ata Rangi Pinot Noir from 1996 each won gold medals and netted a total of seven trophies.

Ata Rangi no longer enters wine competitions, but the accolades continue. In 2010 Ata Rangi and Felton Road were both awarded the inaugural Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa or ‘Grand Cru of New Zealand’ by their peers. That’s a serious pat on the back.

Ata Rangi is a small, family-owned Martinborough winery with a big reputation, particularly for pinot noir. Their grape supply is from nearly 50 hectares of organically grown grapes from 14 small, close proximity vineyards on 30cm of shallow silt-loam on top of 25-metre deep alluvial gravels. A typically cool, windy Spring limits yields to no more than four tonnes/hectare.

Ata Rangi doesn’t have a marketing department. They are very production-focused. Winemaker Helen Masters tastes a wide range of wines from all over the world. She is interested in wine trends but doesn’t make pinot noir for the market. Instead, she devotes all her attention to producing pinot noir with a strong expression of vineyard site and vintage.

Ata Rangi’s flagship pinot noir (they bottle pinot noir under three labels: entry level Crimson Pinot Noir, an elegant single vineyard McCrone Pinot Noir and the flagship) is made from the “oldest and most revered parcels of fruit.” In the 2016 vintage they used 30% whole-bunch, indigenous yeast fermentation, hand-plunging and 11 months in oak (35% new).

The flagship pinot noir is usually quite structured and can be a little closed when first released. A quietly powerful wine, it has a signature savoury element that varies from vintage to vintage but typically includes floral, hay, straw, toast and spice characters. The wine ages magnificently. Ignore the comment about the 2016 Pinot Noir on Ata Rangi’s website which reads “… it is also highly satisfying to drink now”.

They are not wrong, the wine does give great pleasure on first release, but taste it again in 5-6 years’ time you’ll slump into a deep depression when you realise what you missed.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir sells fast and is usually allocated. Put your name on their mailing list to avoid missing out.

I recommend visiting the winery. They have two sessions for visitors each day – at 10am and 2pm (11am and 1pm on weekends). Allow an hour to 1½ hours and don’t forget to book. There is a modest fee for a comprehensive tour and tasting.

Did I mention that Ata Rangi makes wines other than pinot noir? They’re all very good.

The answers to “Match the quotes”

  1. Geoff Kelly
  2. Matthew Jukes
  3. Lisa Perotti-Brown MW
  4. Yvonne Lorkin

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