What is it about the Scots and making wine as far away as possible from the heather clad hills, mist across the lochs and the skirl of the pipes?

For two families, the journey from Scotland to Wairarapa is paying off. I have long referred to the Wairarapa as the mouse that roared - tiny but perfectly formed, and deserving of more attention. It produces some excellent wines and not just pinot noir, for which it is probably best known.

Most of the vineyards are on the small side but some of the country's best winemakers choose to reside here, probably because of the long sunshine hours and gentle, warm temperatures with a fine array of vine-loving soils.

About 80 minutes' drive over the Rimutakas from Wellington, you feel transported to a different place. It's no wonder some astonishingly wealthy high profile individuals from far-flung corners of the world have finished up here. Titanic director James Cameron is one.


Essentially, the Wairarapa wine region consists of three distinct areas. The best known is Martinborough, where some of the nation's most-revered pinot noir producers reside. The next is Masterton, where the first grapes were planted a century ago but commercial winemaking is a relatively new endeavour. And finally, Gladstone, where the industry didn't really take off until the late-80s and where we find two Scottish families making an array of lovely wines.

Urlar Estate was founded by Angus and Davina Thomson. The couple sold their farm in Scotland after falling in love with Gladstone. They set up home here with their young family, got planting and production started in 2006 with sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, pinot gris and riesling. With a family history of distilling Scottish whisky, the leap to table wines didn't seem too great.

Not too far away as the crow flies, Gladstone Vineyard is in the capable hands of Christine Kernohan, a Scottish woman with a background in business and agriculture. Husband David, an architect, is there to lend a hand as chief taster, but it's Christine who is in the driving seat and is one of only three Scottish women winemakers in the world. Look for well-made riesling, viognier, pinot noir and a classy Bordeaux blend.

2010 Urlar Pinot Gris, $28
For lovers of this popular style, this is worth seeking out. Some pinot gris can be insipid but not this one - it's opulent with beautiful, brash flavours of sweet pear and stone fruit. Generous with a lasting mouth feel.

2010 Auld Alliance, $45
With an alcohol level just under 15 per cent, this is a surprisingly elegant and moreish wine with an excellent blend of merlot, malbec and cabernet franc. And it's going to be brilliant in another decade with huge flavours of boysenberry, cedar, cigarbox and spice.