Where are the great Pinots?

The Wairarapa – Wellington Wine Country

 It’s often said that the most important decision in winemaking is when to pick the grapes and a sneak preview of a new Wairarapa wine proves the point.

The wine comes from Urlar’s new winemaker Carol Bunn, who moved north from Central Otago for personal reasons as well as professional ones. And it’s as if she is trying to live up to the truism that great wine is made in the vineyard – which is true as long as you take it to mean that great wine comes from grapes that were in a great state when they were harvested.

This tasted true when it came to a sneak preview of the 2016 Urlar Select Parcels Pinot Noir.

It’s still  work in progress, this wine.

For starters, it won’t be released until next year. More importantly, it was made from grapes that went through painstaking hand pruning – the shoulders of the bunches were pruned, the short shoots were pruned, the crop levels were lower overall – compared to the  Urlar Pinot Noir (not a bad drop either, by the way). So far, business as usual. The Select Parcels label is only in its third year so the very concept of it is a work in progress, so what makes the 2016 great?

Carol says she decided to pick the grapes earlier than usual, so the wine is only going to cruise in at 12.6 (or so) alcohol. This has also kept the tannins softer and accentuated the nerve centre of Pinot Noir; its acidity. That’s one of the keys to great Pinot Noir, to me.

Urlar is owned by Angus Thomson (no relation to yours truly). He’s a Scots-born farmer and an immigrant to New Zealand as well as a man who loves being in close contact with the earth. “Once a farmer, always a farmer,” he says, when talking about the vineyards he is converting to biodynamic growing practices (the extreme end of organics).

The current vintages of Urlar Pinot Noir are… 2014 Urlar Pinot Noir $40 and 2014 Urlar Select Parcels Pinot Noir, $60.

Prices are approximate retail.