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Wine of the Week for week ending 17 May 2009
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Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Gris 2008
Martinborough, New Zealand

In the spare room clearout the other day I found a bottle of Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Gris 2002. It was in a 'drinking' box, so not sure where it came from. I'd tasted this wine in December 2003 and rated it five stars. "Rich, full-bodied, luscious, mealy, use of subtle oak adds some vanilla, a touch of honeycomb too. Lovely mouthfilling wine with a good spicy backbone," I wrote back then.

With a sample of Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Gris 2008 arriving about exactly the same time as the clearout, it seemed like a good idea for a mini-mini vertical. So the two wines were put aside for tasting.

The wines were opened and poured and served beside each other. Neil put them in random order but it was easy to pick the older wine - colour alone gave the secret away.

Seven years after vintage, Martinborough Vineyards Pinot Gris 2002 is a deep yellow gold, clear and bright. A little mellow on the nose - oh dear, a hint of oxidation, I think. Mellow and honeyed to the taste with lanolin-like nuances up front, it's texturally rich and although there's a moment where you think the wine might be dried out, spicy, nutty flavours kick in with orange peel notes coming through. Suddenly the wine seems lifted and bright with that initial oxidative note long forgotten - not even a memory. It's full-bodied and rich and simply fascinating with exotic spices, hot Asian spice, a hint of floral musk - like aged Gewurztraminer in a way - and hints of honey and apricot. There's some underlying mealy notes and a faint suggestion of that once rather more obvious oak now so harmoniously integrated into the structural backbone. Still a gorgeous wine to savour with or without a meal. The wine has 13.2% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a cork.

The current release and one year on from vintage Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Gris 2008 is straw gold coloured and in comparison to the 2008, quite pale. Savoury and a little smoky on the nose and initially quite neutral scented in the fruit department but soon reveals ripe apple and pear. In contrast to the 2002, this is immediately spicy to the taste - a high-toned wine with juicy apple and pear-like fruit infused with tangelo juice and zest and a slightly musk-infused finish that is dry, clean and bright. Yes, according to the notes that accompanied the wine it has had 50% barrel fermentation in old French oak with natural fermentation while the reminder is fermented in stainless steel. But it's certainly not vanillin oak like the 2002 displayed when young - in the 2008 the oak is neutral in flavour but adds to the overall textural complexity and fullness of the wine. The notes also tell me it is fermented to just 4 grams per litre of residual sugar, so is technically quite dry. Some of the fruit was the first pick off a new block while the remainder would have been the same source as the 2002. The wine has 14.5% alcohol by volume and a screwcap closure. The website states RRP $40 but $32 mail order price.

We matched the wines to a favourite recipe - a derivation of several that I now call Neil's Pork - check out the recipe here.

If you don't like Pinot Gris because it's boring, then this one might make you change your mind, because it's very very good. Winemaker Paul Mason has carefully created a wine to carry on the five star tradition.

Check out for more.

© Sue Courtney
10 May 2009

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