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Winegrowers of Ara

© 2009 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Winegrowers of Ara, New Zealand. See all Winegrowers of Ara stockists on wine-searcher.

Ara Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
A special label, roughly on the same quality level as 'Pathway' but for the on-premise trade only. Tank sample. Bright, quite herbaceous nose, with a touch of green bean and soft, leafy herbs. The palate is nicely dry, with a lovely, refined fruit and that pithy, dry finish and quite a rich, mealy texture. Needs time to integrate, but very good quality. 87/100

Ara Pathway Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Meant as the fighting, supermarket brand. Only 10,000 cases of this 2008 were produced, but there will be 30,000 cases of the 2009 as more fruit comes on stream and markets grow. Machine harvested, as short a skin contact as possible (around three hours), with a long cold ferment. The difference between this and many Marlborough Sauvignons is around three months lees contact. Lovely unctuous element to the passionfruit and gooseberry notes here, with a hint of smokiness. The palate has a full, rich texture, the fruit quite intense as it bursts across the mid-palate, but juicy too, with lots of pithy, dry lemon acidity playing against the richness. Lovely, balanced style. £7.99, Morrison's (from mid-December 2009). 88/100

Ara Composite Sauvignon Blanc 2008
About 20% hand-picked and whole-bunch pressed. Looking for more texture. "The very gentle whole bunch pressing and the very clean juice is somehow more textured." Normally around 20 components managed for final blending. Five months lees contact. Not released until around nine months after vintage. Again there's a nicely smoky, schisty note here, a certain sense of richness and depth with passionfruit and elderflower in the background. Rich and juicy, with a bit of orangey fruit tang, and again a very dry, lemon pithy acidity. This has real texture that builds on the palate making it a complex, savoury wine with layered depth on the finish. £10.99, independent merchants. 90/100

Ara Resolute Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Cropped as low as one and half kilos per vine, at about 40 hectolitres per hectare. 100% handpicked and whole bunch pressed, with a large amount of juice fermented in barrique-sized steel barrels, with lots of lees stirring and contact. Hugely leesy nose, with a crushed oatmeal richness and a certain lemon rind waxiness, with a sense of power and just a background hint of herbaceous aromas. That smoky minerality is there too. Seems very powerful. The palate has lovely texture too, and a green bean dryness and pithy quality, the texture rolling across the palate with that mealy richness. This is a complex, understated wine with a grapefruity finish. £13.99, Majestic. 92/100

Ara Pathway Pinot Noir 2008
Younger fruit, machine harvested and fermented in closed-top fermenters - warm ferment at 35/36 degrees for two weeks, then around 40% is put into older French oak. Released around December of same year. Very smoky on the nose, with a beetroot quality and dried strawberry fruit. There's a hint of sappiness and freshness to the character that carries through on the palate. The finish shows some more of that sappy, earthy character. Dry and food-friendly stuff. 88/100. £9.99, Morrison's (from mid-December 2009)

Ara Composite Pinot Noir 2008
All hand harvested, de-stemmed but not crushed, hand-plunged in open-top fermenters over 3 to 4 weeks. All into oak for 10 months, about 25% new. Shares a very similar smoky quality of minerality, but seems to add an extra layer of sweetness, possibly both from oak and more concentrated fruit. The palate is very cool and dry, with a firm edge, but no heaviness. A lick of liquoricy dry extract adds another tightening character into the mix, and the long, spicy finish has interesting layers of earthy, vegetal fruit and smoky tannins. 90/100. £13.99, independent merchants. 2007 vintage is in Berry Bros. & Rudd at £12.50

Are Resolute Pinot Noir 2007
Similar winemaking to the Composite, but a barrel selection of the best barrels from the best parcels, kept in barrel for a couple of months more. Again that earthy, mineral family trait is here. The nutty, creamy oak sits beneath a touch of leafy, brackeny character and the ripe, strawberry fruit is there in between the layers. The palate has very good concentration: the sweetness of the fruit is there, but swept up in leafy, cedar and dry extract character. 93/100. £19.99, Majestic.

Are Resolute Pinot Noir 2006
There's a more plummy, deeper fruit quality here, but it is soft and brackeny too, with strawberry pulp and a touch of redcurrant. On the palate this has really good, vegetal Pinot character, with good concentration, but retaining that light and elegance, and the dryness of the acidity. Drinking really nicely, this has tight tannins and a finesse, in a subtle balanced finish with a bit of spice. 91/100.

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