Helen Masters from Ata Rangi Talks with Specialist Cellars

Mel Brown sits down with Helen Masters from Ata Rangi to discuss all things wine in our “Down In The Cellar” series.

Who do you admire most in the world of wine and why?

It’s too hard to pinpoint this down to just one person….

What wine variety are you most excited about for it’s future in NZ?  

Chardonnay! I think that people are making more effort, understanding what chardonnay means to them, less about winemaking more about expression – there were ideas that certain oak had to be used, and certain techniques such as bâtonnage had to be done (This is a funky french word describing the process of periodically stirring lees) but winemakers are now asking “how do I want my chardonnay to look?”.

We’ve all been talking about Pinot Noir – which is moving extremely rapidly for New Zealand – BUT – Chardonnay has longevity and legs to what it can deliver in the future… watch this space. 

What is your favourite Ata Rangi drink now wine for 2018?

The wine that I will always pick up, is the 2016 Craighall Chardonnay – so balanced, and makes me feel happy. Often when you taste your own wines you can be super critical, looking at it from every angle – when I pick that wine up, I’m not – and that’s a super happy space to be in, particulary you’re drinking your own wine.

What are your 5 favourite wines available at Specialist Cellars?

You know what, there’s such a great selection, but you know what is really exciting me of late… Black Estate – cool, awesome people, who are making wines that they want to make, they just work for me… There’s an energy about them that excites me and North Canterbury is a little gem! Different soils and exposure which makes it super exciting!

Have you tasted many Australian wines? If so what Wine Region do you think is producing the most exciting wines at the moment?

I do actually, Australia is getting stronger and stronger in Pinot Noir, more interesting and enticing. But do you know what, Chardonnay – Giant Steps, Ocean Eight. I was first so excited by Chardonnay, but what is starting to unfold is the excitement around Pinot. Aussie wines are losing that eucalypt character from 10 years ago. It might be more about root depth, the roots are no longer operating at the top – the roots are deeper, and the wines are now expressing the characteristics typical of older vines.

We’ve been talking about Tasmania for an AGE – and we’ve all been waiting and hoping, and its all happening now.

Is there a specific wine region you use to benchmark against your wines?

You know what, I do buy a lot of Burgundy and I will continue to do so, even though they continue to get more expensive – you know they’ve got history, vine age, they’ve been doing it for an incredibly long time and its really good to go back and look at them.

Interestingly enough Burgundy is becoming more like the New World and the New World is becoming more like Burgundy. So, we should meet in the middle and shake hands.

It seems like most wineries have a #winedog – Do you have one at Ata Rangi? Tell us about them…

Harry, The Schnauzer (pictured below) – a true gentleman who is composed, admirable and one of our favourite pets.

What was your biggest learning curve when you got into the industry?

The biggest learning curve is that we are never in control, and just go with it…. Whether it’s in vineyard or winery, whether its meeting people you just have to roll with stuff!

You are drinking a 2016 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir – Who are you with? What are you listening to and what’s for dinner?

A long unfolding Japanese meal, savoury umami flavours with a little background music from Leonard Cohen, his narrative is much like our Pinot’s. I’d be with a pack of winemakers from New Zealand, mainly the dodgy fun ones… (Yes, Duncan Forsyth – this is you)

Ata Rangi wines are available from The New Zealand Cellar with free delivery UK wide on all orders over £150.

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