Today owner Clive Paton visited the fair city of Brisbane on a mild winter day to serve 10 years of his Ata Rangi New Zealand pinot AUS$69 ($57).

Now this bloke has been a pioneer – one of four who planted pinot in the Martinborough area (on the southern tip of the North Island for those yet to cross the ditch).

This is a great exercise to get a real glimpse of 10 wines and decide how a single brand of this one variety expands over time. When are they good drinks – evolved to be seamless but not fully/over-mature when the cow yard characters phase in.

Ata Rangi in this set looks real good at 6-7 years from harvest/vintage; the 2004 smells juicy, sweet, plump in the mouth and complex flavoured while 2003 attractively smoky in nose and meaty/complex mature taste.

That’s the deal: if you wish to keep a treasured bottle or two then set them aside for such a drinking window.

And on the flip side, the 2009 was still in barrel, 2008 hugely-flavoured but exuberent, 2007 quite austere and zippy in acid, 2006 just beautiful, has perfume, a big complex meaty palate while 2005 was dumb (probably in a phase and will come out more mature).

The older wines; 2002, 2001, 2000 are nice mature wines with richness and texture, primary fruit now depleted in favour of secondary bits of herb, leaf, meat, earth, forest floor, truffle and other wonderful older flavours.

Points in descending order from 2009 are: 91, 95, 90, 92, 91, 95, 94, 86, 88, 89.

Clive tells us that 2002 was the wettest season on record since 1860, with the coldest, wet December ever so that he struggled to have the grapes ripen. Two years in ten are wet. When the grapes don’t ripen, the tannin will strangle your tongue.

So here we can summarise the Ata Rangi stereotype pinot noir. It is not a fluffy violet drink but one serious slurp – not pervading much in the florals (except as bottle age progresses), a brooding nose, knitted tight, showing just a tad of black fruit aromas, oak is hidden. Little lolly notes because the company do not use much whole bunches in ferments, and often none for tannin softening.

This company believes in pinot with serious tannin. The grapes are securely macerated to force the hand of nature to make a tightly coiled pinot, then let time uncoil it to produce sumptuous flavours.

And Ata Rangi is a pinot I can write about strenuously.

It is rated Five Stars in the Great NZ Pinot Classification- see; assessed in January over the 2008, 2007 and 2006 released vintages. I tend to make my rating assessment more on its ability to age as this line of wine broods, and only slowly evolves. At the end it smiles and I support its classification.

Winemaker Helen Masters also makes a single vineyard wine – McCrone, who is a nearby grower for the company. Tasted were 2008 McCrone (96) and 2006 McCrone (94).

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