Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Wairarapa town toast of global wine world

Larry McKenna of Martinborough's Escarpment Vineyard, which ranked seventh in Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of 2015 with its Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2013. Photo / File
Larry McKenna of Martinborough's Escarpment Vineyard, which ranked seventh in Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of 2015 with its Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2013. Photo / File

The little Wairarapa village that's won the hearts of the world's top wine writers is now to be toasted in a prestigious New York City showcase.

Larry McKenna of Martinborough's Escarpment Vineyard will this month speak about his pinot noir to around 1000 people at the NZ$3500-a-head New York Wine Experience, after it ranked among the top 10 in a leading magazine.

The winery's Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2013 placed seventh in Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of 2015, whittled down from more than 20,000 labels.

It earned McKenna an invitation to the glitzy New York gala event, hosted each year by the US-based magazine.

"It really is an amazing opportunity for New Zealand pinot noir to be recognised at such a prestigious event," McKenna said.

"If you can make it in New York..."

In another coup for Martinborough, winery Ata Rangi scored the highest ever placing for a New Zealand wine after its 2013 pinot noir landed the fifth spot in James Suckling's top 100 wines of 2015, while also ranking at 73 in Wine Enthusiast's Cellar Selection top 100.

For McKenna, winning Wine Spectator's best-yet ranking for a Kiwi wine was enormous praise not just for his vineyard, but for Martinborough's growing role as a major player in the global boutique market.

He noted that Martinborough, population 1,326, still only produced one per cent of New Zealand wine - itself just a drop in the global bucket with a mere 0.5 percent contribution to volumes - yet accounted for eight per cent of the country's brands.

"So we have a lot of people speaking about a small amount of wine."

McKenna put the district's success, particularly with pinot noir, down to ideal growing conditions - provided by its cool climate, unique topography and mineral-laden soils - and strong support from neighbouring Wellington.

That what was only a 35-year-old local industry was performing so well against some of the oldest and most famous wine-growing regions in the world meant its best days were still ahead, he said.

"One of the most important factors here is vine age: we think we get better quality from vine age here, and we've only got vines in this district up to 30 years old."

McKenna said the New York event, where he'll serve around six dozen bottles of the pinot noir and host a five-minute talk, would be a huge opportunity for his vineyard, which imported around 60 per cent of what it was produces to the UK, China, Australia and the US.

"This will really cement the US for us ... it's significant business for us, and therefore our district."

Other New Zealand wines that placed in the top 100 lists included the Neudorf 2014 Moutere Chardonnay, Te Mata 2013 Coleraine, Trinity Hill 2013 Homage Syrah and La Collina 2013 Bilancia Syrah, respectively being ranked by James Suckling at 11th, 48th, 69th and 80th out of 9000 tastings from around the world.

Three other Kiwi wines also made Wine Spectator's top 100: Cloudy Bay 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Felton Road 2013 Pinot Noir and Kumeu River 2012 Chardonnay, ranking at 21st, 49th and 54th.

Small town, big reputation

Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2013 - #7, Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2015

Ata Rangi Pinor Noir 2013 #5, James Suckling's Top 100 wines of 2015, #73, Wine Enthusiast Cellar Selection Top 100 of 2015

- NZ Herald

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