Martinborough winemaker makes his first sulphur free drop

It’s unfined, unfiltered, sulphur free and Noir, pictured left, is Larry McKenna’s first foray into “the hipster world of organic, minimal intervention winemaking”, says the Martinborough winemaker.

The grapes in the wine were grown on McKenna’s Escarpment Vineyard on Te Muna Road, 9 kilometres west of Martinborough. He used the Abel clone of Pinot, which was fermented with wild yeasts in clay amphora. McKenna then left the wine on skins for 270 days, prior to pressing the skins and bottling.

Escarpment Vineyard winemaker Larry McKenna

It’s the purist expression of Pinot Noir that McKenna says he has made yet under the Escarpment label, due to the lack of sulphur dioxide, fining or filtering. For these reasons, however, he suggests drinking the wine over the next year rather than aging it.

Noir is part of his new range of Artisan wines, which is all about experimenting and pushing boundaries. There are five wines in the range but the Noir is the only one with no added sulphur dioxide (SO2). The others wines contain about half the usual amount of SO2 and they are:

2017 Nina Rosé 13.3% ABV

Named after McKenna’s daughter, Nina Rose, and made 100% from Pinot Noir which was left on skins for six hours to gain a pale salmon colour prior to being fermented in old oak barrels to enhance the softness in this wine.

2017 Escarpment Noir 13% ABV

Organically grown Pinot Noir grapes were fermented in clay amphora with wild yeasts and left on skins for 270 days; it’s unfined, unfiltered and has no added sulphur dioxide so it’s a wine to drink now or within the next year, suggests winemaker Larry McKenna.

2016 Escarpment Blanc 13.4% ABV

Barrel fermented and aged in oak for 11 months prior to bottling, this wine is bone dry (it contains less than 1 gram per litre of residual grape sugar). It was inspired by the German wine region of Kaiserstuhl; well known for its spicy Pinot Blanc wines.

2017 Escarpment Ryan Riesling 11.3% ABV

This wine is named after McKenna’s son, Ryan, and it’s dry with a full bodied style, thanks to being fermented in oak and left on lees (decomposing yeast cells, left over from fermentation). It’s dry with just (1 gram per litre of residual grape sugar.

2016 Escarpment Gris 14.1% ABV

This is a barrel fermented Pinot Gris made as part of McKenna’s exploration into skin contact whites; after crushing the grapes, he soaked them overnight to dial up the colour in this wine. He then treated it to partial malolactic fermentation and lees stirring to enhance the wine’s texture and create a full bodied white that makes a valid alternative to Chardonnay, thanks to its body, its creamy notes and its dry style.

  • Larry McKenna is one year away from BioGro NZ certification.
  • Follow Larry McKenna on twitter @LarryMcPinot.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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