Posted 2 August 2015

This column was first published in Living magazine in The Herald on Sunday, Auckland, New Zealand, 14 June 2015.

 

Good bye, shear milking; hello wine..

With those six words, Clive Paton turned his back on his life’s plan: to run a farm. It just wasn’t his thing, he recalls, reflecting on the 35 years since he bought the land that became New Zealand’s best known pinot noir vineyard: Ata Rangi.
The words mean ‘new beginning’ in Maori and Paton, now an active environmentalist more than a hands-on winemaker, was careful to ensure that local iwi were consulted before he chose to bestow a Maori name on his Martinborough winery. This year he and Helen Masters, the winemaker who now oversees Ata Rangi, hosted retrospective pinot noir tastings around the country; the 2006 and the 2013 were my faves. But all their wines have stood the test of time and, generally, the older they were, the better they tasted. Masters and Paton exude humility when opening older bottles but there’s an undercurrent of perfectionism in their quiet approach. Why else would the wines taste so good?

What: 2013 Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir

Grapes? 100% Pinot Noir from Martinborough; a windy little town just an hour’s drive from the windy city, Wellington.

How much: $75

Why: Fierce spring winds decimate vines and make grape growing a tough way to earn a living in Martinborough; the flip side is that small grapes make for deep colour and powerful flavours; meet Ata Rangi pinot noir.

Where from: Specialist stores or www.atarangi.co.nz