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2020 Pinot Noir, Ata Rangi

July 2023

2020 Pinot Noir, Ata Rangi

A great wine and a great story to boot

£285 per 6 bottle case in bond


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Situated east of Wellington, towards the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s North Island, Ata Rangi is firmly established as one of the top four or five New Zealand Pinot Noir producers, yet few estates have such a colourful story to tell.
The majority of their vineyards consist of a specific clone of Pinot Noir, referred to as the Abel or Gumboot clone; this clone was propagated from one single cutting taken from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and brought back to New Zealand in the 1970s. Legend has it that it was hidden in a gumboot when it was smuggled into New Zealand as strict laws concern the import of flora and fauna to New Zealand. It was discovered by a customs officer named Malcolm Abel, who was also fascinated by wine production – after a period in quarantine he passed the cutting to a state-owned viticultural research unit. Abel planted a vineyard with that clone in Auckland, which sadly was subsumed into development land after he passed away a year later. It was there that Clive Paton, founder of Ata Rangi, met and worked with him. Clive subsequently took cuttings to establish the Ata Rangi vineyard as we know it today.
Ata Rangi, meaning ‘new beginning’, was founded in 1980 on a small sheep paddock on the edge of Martinborough village. Clive’s sister, Alison, bought a neighbouring block soon thereafter, and Clive’s partner, Phyll Pathie, a winemaker in Marlborough, moved back to Martinborough and bought a stake in the fledgling estate. And the rest, as they say, is history. Today Alison Paton runs the estate, which now extends over 32 hectares and 14 different vineyard parcels and Helen Masters crafts the wines.

The 2020 tasted just recently is an outstanding example of the Ata Rangi style – I always tend to find darker, more forest/hedgerow fruit notes in their Pinot, and the 2020 is no exception. The original vines are now in excess of 40 years of age, and I find that shows in the depth of fruit and finesse of the tannins – this isn’t one of those New Zealand Pinots that hinges on bright, sappy fruit, there is far more complexity and concentration on show. Notes of spice, violet scents and a stony, mineral accent all register on the palate, which possesses a silky, seamlessness. The 2020 is very impressive indeed, delicious even now, though it will certainly reward time in bottle. I recall tasting some much older Ata Rangis courtesy of friend some time back, I was impressed by how they had evolved 10 years or more on from vintage.
One debate surrounding New Zealand Pinot Noir concerns vineyard identity. To my mind, most examples say more about the winemaker’s know-how, than they do about regional style. That said, the Martinborough wines I have tasted from the likes of Dry River, Escarpment and Ata Rangi seem to share in that forest fruit flavour profile. Amongst that set, Ata Rangi is certainly the pick.

2020 Pinot Noir, Ata Rangi
£285 per 6 bottle case in bond


96 points, Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous
The 2020 Pinot Noir reminds me of walking into a cathedral - that quiet, cool hush that falls as you walk through its doors. This is harmonious, supple, unshowy and unforced. Hailing from old vines and delicately textured despite the abundance of fruit concentration. Refined tannins with the finest of gravelly textures, akin to licking a stone. Scented yet restrained, with a fragrance of sweet red fruit, tea leaf and cedar spices with persistent acidity that carries it. Very complete and already approachable. Drink : 2023-2038

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