Episode 24 - A New Dawn
On the next episode, screening 26 August 2018 at 7pm on TVNZ 1:
At the start of the 1980s, the Wairarapa town of Martinborough was dying as farmers fought against a series of droughts.
A young local sharemilker, Clive Paton, read a soil scientist’s report that said although the stony soils and dry, windy conditions made farming a struggle, the area was ideal for growing grapes.
“By the end of the day I had bought a piece of land and decided to be a winemaker,” Clive says. “Nuts, I know, but Kiwis do that sort of thing.”
Clive called his patch Ata Rangi, or New Dawn, and planted it in a pinot noir clone called Abel that had been smuggled into New Zealand from France in a gumboot.
His wines soon started winning awards, more vineyards popped up around Martinborough and within a decade, the town was known around the world as a producer of superb wine, especially pinot noir.
With Clive’s wife, Phyl Pattie, his sister, Ali Paton, then, later, winemaker Helen Masters on board, Ata Rangi grew in strength and reputation but it’s still a small family business with deeply held values.
Their wine is made in a natural way that expresses the location and they also work to the highest standards of environmental and organic practices.
Looking after the long-term health of the soil ensures the vines stay healthy for longer, which means greater depth and complexity to the wine.
They continue to win awards, but every harvest is a time of tension.
“I do get sleepless nights,” Helen Masters says. “If you pick too early you might not get the flavours you want, but if you leave it too late the fruit starts to degrade, so it’s all about keeping your nerve.”
Everywhere you look at Ata Rangi, there are native trees, in shelter belts around the vineyard and on a separate bush block – a 120-hectare treasure trove of Miro, Matai, Totara and even Northern Rata, which till recently was thought to be extinct in the area.
Till 15 years ago, most of the block was in bare paddocks, grazed by cattle. The returning forest is the love child of Clive and Phyl and many friends and family, who give their time to fence, plant and tend the young natives.
“I feel it’s getting its soul back,” Clive says.
Find out more about Ata Rangi here.
Read more about the Family of Twelve winemakers here.
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