Ask any aficionado of New Zealand pinot noir to name their top five producers and I'm sure that Ata Rangi from Martinborough would be on the list every single time. But ask those aficionados how often they drink the Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir, and I'm sure they would say, "not often". That's because at the current price of $NZ65 a bottle it's not priced to be every day drinking wine - not if you're on my salary anyway.
So if you are an aficionado looking for value in Pinot Noir -or just someone who wants a exceptionally good bottle of Pinot Noir that's not going to break the bank, it's hard to go past 'Crimson', the second label of Ata Rangi.
Ata Rangi Martinborough Crimson 2006 not only looks great in its bottle form with its striking artwork on the label depicting a pohutukawa flower, it has a rich red colour in the glass and smells and tastes delicious too. With fruit cake cherries and blackcurrant aromas carrying through to the velvety textured flavours this 'pretty' wine, with musky floral notes and hints of dried herbs, has a reasonable amount of power with an underlying fresh acidic bite that adds to its overall charm. The bright yet savoury finish is long and lasting, the spicy oak is integrated, the fruit is ripe, it's ready to drink, it's easy to drink and it's definitely a real crowd pleaser.
The wine, which spent 9 months in French oak (25% new), has 13.5% alcohol by volume and it costs $28 a bottle with sales supporting Project Crimson, the charitable trust whose mission is to plant and protect New Zealand's native rata and pohutukawa trees.
I grew up in Auckland and just love the pohutukawas, the gnarly old trees that grew along the North Shore coast and on the shoreline of so many beaches. We'd climb the trees, we'd swing from the trees and we'd picnic in their shade. Some of those very old trees in the reserves, the trees that haven't been forsaken for development, still remain. Now we have a property with 8 or 9 pohutukawas that simply look stunning when in flower as well as attracting tuis in droves. Being a little inland from the coast, they seem to flower later, and as I write this, the last of summer blooms persist.
If you love your pohutukawa and rata trees and love pinot noir, this is definitely the wine to buy. It even comes in a 375ml bottle size ($15) which is perfect to take on a picnic - or 1.5 litre magnums which would be perfect for the dinner party - especially if you are serving lamb.
Last year Ata Rangi won a business category in the recent Wellington Region Conservation Awards "for an outstanding contribution and for incorporating conservation outcomes in Ata Rangi's business and for nurturing similar projects."
Find out more from www.atarangi.co.nz and www.projectcrimson.org.nz
Martinborough - and the Wairarapa in general - has totally come back to form with the 2006 vintage. Please let it continue.
PS If you loved the Champion Julicher Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006, you'll love this 'Crimson' too. Both are made from 'young vines'.
© Sue Courtney
14 Jan 2008