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Porters ‘Reserve’ Martinborough Pinot Noir 2009

Recent review from Raymond Chan Wine Reviews.

Although Porters Pinot is one of the smallest commercial Martinborough wine producers, it is an enduring one, now in its 22nd year. Proprietor John Porter is a hands-on winegrower and winemaker, when not at his legal firm in Wellington, and he has developed a more elegant and ethereal style of Pinot Noir that suits his 6.4 ha of vines. Those who appreciate the likes of Volnay and Chambolle-Musigny will be in a good position to understand the Porters Pinot which is markedly different to most from the district. In 2009, John made his first ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir, much bigger than what is normally made, the wine reflecting the vintage (click here to see my review). In the cooler 2012 vintage, John made his second ‘Reserve’ wine, and this is a wine of “elegance rather than brute force” according to him, the wine more his ‘house style’. While so, I find it has real depth and concentration. Here is my review of the wine.


Even, garnet-red colour, with pale brick-orange hues on rim. This has an elegantly proportioned, intense nose with concentrated red berry fruits intricately interwoven with aromas of herbs, mineral and earth. With aeration an intriguing array of complex, savoury meat, spice, oak and cedar aromatics unfold, the bouquet growing in depth. Medium-full bodied, a tightly packed core of savoury and spicy red berry fruits is the feature, showing with richness and sweetness. Layers of earth, game, spices, meat and cedar unfold providing great interest and detail. The fruit is supported by fine-grained tannins and fresh, lacy acidity. The mouthfeel is elegant, but concentrated, with real vitality, freshness and energy, and the wine carries through to a very long, lingering finish of red fruits, spices and game. This is an elegantly concentrated, complex and detailed Pinot Noir with a full and lively array of savoury red fruit, spices, game and cedar. Serve with casseroles, duck and lamb dishes over the next 6-7+ years. Hand-picked fruit from the older vines, nearly 20 y.o., clones 10/5, Abel and some 5, fully destemmed and 85% indigenous yeast fermented to 13.8% alc., the wine spending 20 days on skins and aged 9 months in 30% new Francois Freres oak. 18.5/20 Jul 2014 RRP $75.00

Dominion Post – Wine Of The Week

Joelle Thomson from The Dominion Post featured Porters Pinot in her Wines Of The Week.

Suit Yourself by Joelle Thomson copy

2010 Update

Time seems to be moving faster than ever! It is now almost 20 years since we first planted our vineyard in Martinborough. Our now mature vines are showing their real potential and we are very proud of the wines we produce. Whilst our production is small, we continue to sell our wines in the best restaurants here in New Zealand, as well as in Sydney and London.

Although many in the wine industry are experiencing very difficult times, we have actually increased our production by purchasing an adjoining 5 acre vineyard which is planted in French clones of Pinot Noir. I am looking forward to harvesting fruit from this vineyard next month - as it will enable us to increase the quality and quantity of our production.

As a small “boutique” producer, we do appreciate your custom and support in these uncertain times. Our commitment to sustainability, and producing the highest quality grapes and wine which merits international recognition remains paramount.

I hope you enjoy our wines as much as we enjoy producing them.

Porters Pinot Celebrates 20 Years

In January, I had the opportunity and pleasure of catching up with John Porter of Porters Pinot, arguably the smallest commercial winery in Martinborough. He told me his story. In summary, John and his wife Annabel, enamoured by the Pinot Noir wines from this new grapegrowing region joined the fray and established 600 vines in a small vineyard opposite Palliser Estate on Kitchener Street in 1992. They added Pinot Gris during their expansion of what they called the ‘Old Block’. In 2009, they purchased another block, an old Lintz vineyard, next to their home, now called the ‘House Block’ bringing the total vineyard plantings to 6.4 ha. Over the years, they’ve had the assistance of the local winemakers, with Larry McKenna having considerable input, but from 2001, John has taken over the full responsibility of the winemaking. When showing me a number of barrel samples, John mentioned that Porters Pinot would be celebrating their 20th year in 2012.

An invitation duly arrived to attend a celebratory luncheon at Wellington’s iconic Boulcott Street Bistro which has been a strong supporter of Martinborough wines, especially those of Porters Pinot. In attendance were John and Annabel, and the representing the next generation, son Hugo who has a keen interest in the family vineyards and the winemaking process. They celebrated with a number of wine industry and Wellington hospitality trade who have supported them over the first two decades. It was a very relaxed affair with a selection of their wines, some from theie library stock, served to a ‘grazing lunch’ of small dishes prepared by star chef and BSB partner Rex Morgan. The situation wasn’t conducive to make full tasting notes with the good natured banter going on, but I registered the following impressions.

The Porters Pinot Grazing Lunch


On arrival, guests were served the ‘Cuvee Annabel’ Methode Traditionnelle 2001. 55% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 5% Pinot Meunier from the ‘Eden’ vineyard. I believe it was made concurrently with Allan Johnson making the Palliser Methode, and no doubt there would have been a cross-flow of ideas and techniques. The Porters have consumed most of what was made among themselves and their friends! Here, a decade plus later, it looked impressive with richness, rounded mouthfeel and plenty of toasty and autolytic interest. Annabel preferred it when it was younger, but it was still very well received. There can’t be too much left now…

BSB owner John Lawrence and his team served Rex’s creations to match. A Beetroot and citrus cured salmon dish was rich and oily, but very fresh and nicely perked by the lemon. The beetroot was very subtle, allowing the fish to feature. Then a Rock oyster pannacotta with saffron crab. Ultra-smooth, bur sensationally strong in oyster flavour, with the crab textures providing it with substance. Deliciously unusual, and one for seafood lovers especially. Then Vietnamese style crayfish salad, a near-deconstructed roll that was fun to eat with the coriander and slight heat, and plenty of crayfish flesh.

Pinot Gris

The first poured was the Pinot Gris 2009, golden coloured and quite buxom with rich yellow stonefruit and honeysuckle aromas and flavours. Dry to taste, this had good textural line and grip, very much in a serious Alsace style. John Porter voiced his concern that the Pinot Gris 2001 would not be showing its best due to its age, but he needn’t have worried as it was in very good condition. Quite pale in colour with just a little secondary nutty-savoury aroma, this was clean, crisp and elegant to taste, distinctly north-east Italian Pinot Grigio in character. I couldn’t see this deteriorating in the immediate future, and just to reinforce its sound condition, it made a very good, crisp, food wine. The Pinot Gris 2006 sat between the 2009 and 2001 in style, with penetrating aromas and flavours of stonefruits, steely and zingy, possessing some textural body and grip on the palate. It had the best of both worlds and was generally adjudged the most preferred by the diners on my table. Seemingly variable in style and weight, these Pinot Gris wines had ageworthiness and strength of personality on their side.

The accompanying dishes were quite varied, but all excellent. Crumbed snapper wings and cheeks with tartare, in reality classical fish ‘n chips (without the fries), the fish moist but firm. Especially noteworthy was the Paua tortellini with curried cream, an unusual combination for many, the robust texture and flavour of the paua quite easily handling the richness of the curry, served sweet and creamy rather than hot and spicy. I wished I had some pasta (or for me, rice) to soak up the excess sauce! And then some comfort food, BBQ braised shortrib tortellini and ketchup manis mayonnaise, fall-apart meat packed with barbecued flavours.

Pinot Noir

To celebrate 20 years, John and Annabel have released their first ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir to mark the occasion. This ‘Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2009, is the result of a special vintage that provided Pinot Noir fruit different to what the Porters normally seek. The Porters Pinot style is normally one of finesse and ethereal beauty, ‘feminine’ for want of a better word. Volnay and Chambolle-Musigny would be the burgundian models. However, this ‘Reserve’ wine is bigger, more fleshy and structured and quite ‘masculine’. I had a preview six months ago, and found it that way. Then, it had layers of spices, cedar and mushroomy flavours. (Click here to see my review.) On this showing, the dark red berry fruit flavours were more prevalent, the wine even more complete (meriting an even higher score), and clearly it would benefit from further cellaring. It’s a sizeable wine that makes a statement and will be drinking well when the Porters celebrate 30 years. Then came the Pinot Noir 2006, archetype Porter Pinot style, possessing elegance and finesse, but no shortage of depth and drive. The brightness of fruit and lively acidity indicated that it’s still early day for this wine. The final red was the Pinot Noir 2001, fully developed, broader and full of savoury secondary game, undergrowth and mushroom flavours. A wine with flesh and plumpness and drinking on its plateau. There’s no hurry, even though it is 10+ years old.

Meaty courses were matched to the Pinot Noirs. Roast duck, beef and venison on baguette with creamy mushrooms. This morsel had everything that mirrors the flavours in Pinot Noir. And indeed, all the meat and mushrooms were compatible in strength of flavour, weight and texture. The Lamb Danish with smoked tomato relish, essentially an up-market sausage roll, the lamb with a little bit of heat and also the relish. Party food! And a hearty Venison and forest mushroom shepherd’s pie, the ultimate Kiwi food servable anytime to anyone. As a dessert, a hedonistic, satisfying and friendly classic Crème brulee and berries was served to cap off a very filling, entertaining and interesting menu. Thanks Rex for putting this together.

Finishing in Good Spirits

As a parting salvo, a Grappa, made by son Hugo was served. John denied any responsibility for it, but it was clear he was pleased with what Hugo had created. Made from 100% Pinot Noir lees, aged in magnum with oak stave insert. Most of it triple-distilled to approx. 70% alc. Though very alcoholic in the mouth, it exuded caramel notes from the oak, and featured surprisingly fine spirit and texture, with no rusticity. Reminiscent of cognac on steroids! A dash of Antipodes water reduced the oiliness and calmed the spirit down a little, but I preferred it full-strength. Obviously the desire and spirit (excuse the pun) of working in the winery is alive and well in the next generation of Porters. Succession should not be an issue!

2010 Porters Estate Pinot Gris

When we first planted the vineyard, we were fortunate to obtain cuttings of the small berried Pinot Gris clone, thought to be derived from the original Pinot Gris pre-phylloxera stock from Alsace which was imported into New Zealand in 1886. This clone has low cropping levels, and the flavour and concentration of the fruit produces wines of power and texture.

The very dry vintage, and the cool evenings prior to picking produced a level of concentration of flavour and richness. Once again, the wine is pale straw coloured, with intense varietal notes of pear and quince. It is a wine with both texture and balance.

2009 Porters Estate Riesling

Last year we had the opportunity to obtain a small amount of Riesling grapes from a neighbouring winemaker. The fruit was exceptional – ripe and full of flavour, yet retaining a delicate hint of limes and ginger.

These characteristics have shown through in the wine, which I am pleased to say is only 10.5% alcohol – perfect for lunch. We made only 65 cases of this wine.

2009 Porters Estate Pinot Noir

After being handpicked in April 2009 the grapes were destemmed and then soaked on their skins for a lengthy prefermentation maceration. This serves to extract colour and flavour. The grapes were then fermented in small open fermenters for up to 28 days, being hand-plunged four times a day. After fermentation the wine was run to barrel, French oak barriques one third new, for 12 months prior to bottling.

This wine is fragrant and spicy on the nose, leading into a rich palate of sweet cherry and damsons, partnered with soft, fine-grained tannins. This wine is drinking superbly now and will develop further complexity with cellaring.

This wine was recently awarded four stars when reviewed by Michael Cooper in International Winestate Magazine “Floral and vibrantly fruity, with ripe plum, strawberry, herb and spice flavours, showing some savoury complexity. Still very fresh, with good concentration and texture. Well worth cellaring.”

2007 Syrah (Hawkes Bay)

For those of you who have enjoyed this wine in the past, we have 10 cases left. This wine is showing all the benefits of bottle age and is drinking better than ever.

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