David Kermode, writing for Vinosaurus, recently spent time visiting New Zealand’s wine regions where he enjoyed a tasting with Larry McKenna, amongst others:
Martinborough has a few pioneers of its own – and Larry McKenna is one of them. His Escarpment wines have been trailblazers for Pinot in this part of the world; he’s a slightly gruff, modest Ozzie, who seems devoid of ego. There’s not much ‘showbiz’ to be seen in the ‘tasting room’ either, a wooden hut at the edge of the vines: in this place, the wines do the talking.
Accompanied by Larry’s protegee, winemaker Huw Kinch, we take a tasting that kicks off with a relatively new rosé named Nina, after Larry’s daughter. Made from Pinot, of course, it’s distinctly perfumed, with abundant strawberries and a twist of white pepper. A range of whites follow, including a delicious Chardonnay that also uses Burgundy as its reference point, with peaches and nectarines, creamy texture and delicious textured mouthfeel, from careful work on the lees. And then the real stars of the show, starting with the 2015 Escarpment Pinot Noir, a blend of Larry’s sites, hand-harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts, to create a ripe wine, bursting with smooth red cherry and plum and just a little green pepper. The flagship is Te Rehua, from a single vineyard, close to the town. The 2016 has many years ahead of it, but already exhibits tempting savoury character, with succulent black and red fruit character and beguiling floral notes, fine-grain tannin structure and layers of complexity.
Sitting on the edge of the escarpment that inspired the name, the winery itself seems to be a hotbed for experimentation, the latest being amphora winemaking. I take a sample of a Pinot being made with no additions of any kind, which tastes seductively pure. It’s like a spiritual experience.
David Kermode, Vinosaurus