2004 Alana Estate Terrace Block Pinot Noir
Too often we hear the words “No expense spared on viticulture and winemaking practices...The best people are employed and the best and sometimes very innovative practices are also employed.” An approach that many aspire to, but in reality, fall short of. This is also Alana Estate's credo, but in this case, the ambition is warranted and even fulfilled. Situated in Martinborough, New Zealand, Alana Estate came to our attention via a customer who was holidaying in the region. Mesmerized by their wines, he wanted to purchase some in Australia but Alana was not exporting. After several months of negotiation, the first direct shipment has arrived – bypassing the middle man thus making these wines highly affordable, given the extraordinary quality.
Alana Estate began when Ian and Alana Smart purchased 50 acres on the northern edge of the Martinborough Terrace in 1993. Planting of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling commenced shortly afterwards. The first vintage was in 1997. In Martinborough, the growing season is long, and dry in spring and summer with moderate day temperatures and cool nights. It is this diurnal temperature difference that contributes to the flavour profile of Alana's Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Chris Archer (winemaker for Alana Estate) explains “...our wine philosophy starts as usual in the vineyard. Our first principle is that we treat all our plants as individual identities. We therefore in all our treatments such as pruning, fruit thinning, canopy training respect the subtle difference of each vine and respond with differing treatments available to promote the health and structure of the vine. This style of management will create a vineyard with greater complexity and sturdy vine health throughout the property. We then carry this attitude into the winery where we endeavour to identify significantly different parcels of fruit which we keep separate and make in a style that promotes the positive attributes of that specific parcel. Once these wines are blended, we take away the knowledge of what part of our vineyard is performing and contributing more than its weight in the blend. Vineyard areas that are under performing will be identified and focus of our attention will be drawn to the remedy. The final resulting wines from Alana should demonstrate a collage of subtle complexities which are a combination of terroir, climate of the growing season, viticulture and winemaking.”
The Alana winery is located within a few hundred feet of the vineyard which gives the winemakers the ability to rapidly deliver the hand picked fruit into 15kg bins, about the size of a wine box. (In many vineyards, these small bins are emptied into large ½ tonne bins which are then loaded onto a truck and driven to a nearby processing facility). At Alana, the need for double handling is eliminated. Instead, the winery is designed on a gravity flow system, (the 'Brothers in Arms' winery at Langhorne Creek is an Australian example designed on the same principles). The top floor is used for red fruit sorting and de-stemming as well as holding a small tank farm. The second floor contains the red fermentation vats, air bag press and laboratory. The bottom floor contains the oak maturation cellar together with the administration department and restaurant. One may ask why go to all the trouble to create a gravity fed winery? The top Pinot Noir producers will all say that by eliminating mechanical pumping the Pinot is not ’bruised’ in any way, thereby enhancing the quality of the final result.
A top New Zealand Pinot produced from a vineyard obsessed with excellence.
Tasting Note: The grape bunches for this wine were 100% de-stemmed and then gravity fed to the fermenter. Fermentation proceeded slowly with indigenous yeasts. The skins were plunged down into the fermenting juice several times a day to maximize colour extraction, tannin and flavour. Most batches were then allowed a period of extended maceration on skins. Pressing took place with the hard press juice returned to the free-run wine immediately, at which time it is transferred to French oak barriques. Maturation occured in 30% new oak, the balance being two and three year old barrels. A natural malolactic fermentation was completed in barrel the following spring. Sufficient maturation had occurred after twelve months in barrel. Medium body. Crimson mauve colour with crimson mauve hue. Lifted nose delivering strong varietal character. Perfumed with top note of strawberry jam, spice and violets followed by end notes leather and game. The palate delivers a superb flavour profile with explosive depth and length of flavour. Violet infusion, blackberry and spice are meshed over a very spicy background. Excellent varietal character with black and sour cherry back palate flavours and aftertaste.
Cellar 4-5 years (2011-2012)