Interesting Marlborough: Corofin, with Mike Paterson

Mike Paterson, Corofin, in the Settlement Vineyard

Mike Paterson, Corofin, in the Settlement Vineyard

Mike Paterson used to be the winemaker at Jackson Estate, but now he’s making his own wines, along with his wife Anna, under the Corofin label. The idea behind Corofin is to make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from privileged vineyards in the Southern Valleys of Marlborough, and to allow these sites to speak through the wines. I spent an afternoon with him visiting some of his key vineyard sites and then tasting through the wines.

Aunts field, owned by the Cowley family: this is where the Cowley Vineyard wines come from. It's hidden in the Wither Hills, right at the back of the southern valleys.

Auntsfield, owned by the Cowley family: this is where the Cowley Vineyard wines come from. It’s hidden in the Wither Hills, right at the back of the southern valleys.

Cowley

Cowley

First vintage was 2012, and since this start new vineyards have been added. Mike says that he’s begun picking earlier, because there’s no one who regrets picking too early, but plenty of people who revisit their wines and then wish they’d not waited so long to pick. Part of the problem is waiting for uniform ripeness, which usually means that a lot of the fruit is a bit over-ripe. ‘It is easier said than done,’ he admits. ‘We are lucky that we are only taking three or four tons, so this allows us to pick on the cusp of ripeness.’

corofin3

The Marlborough story is evolving as quite a few people are now focusing on making single-site wines. ‘In Marlborough there are plenty of great vineyards,’ says Mike, ‘but for many of these sites, there’s only one person speaking about them.’ He envisions a scenario where there’s a collective realization of which sites are effectively Marlborough’s Grand Crus. This could happen if in addition to the winery vineyard owners, other people made wine of these top sites.

The Churton vineyard, source of Pinot Noir. It's a sizeable site on a ridge between the Omaka and Waihopai valleys

The Churton vineyard, source of Pinot Noir. It’s a sizeable site on a ridge between the Omaka and Waihopai valleys

Abyss block, Churton

Abyss block, Churton

Mike really likes working with Chardonnay. ‘As a winemaker you have a bit more impact with the Chardonnay,’ he says. ‘There’s always a sense of detail. With Pinot, if you pick it at the right time, then you do pretty much the same thing all the time.’ For his Chardonnay he does not battonage, and the wine is sulphured and then goes to stainless steel for the last six months. He doesn’t use sulfur until this stage, but he thinks that if you only sulfur just before bottling, then it disappears, so the wine looks good for a while, but then looks tired. It needs to be built up, hence sulphuring before the six months in tank. In 2015 he filtered the Chardonnay, but in 2016 he didn’t. All the wines are cork-sealed.

In Churton

In Churton

Corofin Folium Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Dry grown, Brancott Valley, mix of clones. Old puncheon and a stainless barrel. Natural ferment, natural malolactic, racked and sulphured in February then goes to tank for six months. Really focused with a lovely delicate, saline personality here. It’s really elegant with nice finesse and a delicate saline, mineral character under the fruit. Very subtle smokiness. Lovely finesse here, with such well integrated acidity. Very fine. 95/100

Corofin Carter Ashmore Vineyard North Corner Chardonnay 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
20 year old Mendoza clone at the back of Arbour restaurant. New barrel and an old puncheon. This is spicy and taut with citrus and pear fruit. The oak is nicely integrated, and the fruit has lovely presence to it, with good acidity. Refined with nice acid structure and a slight saltiness on the finish. Very fine and expressive, and probably needing a few years to show its best. 94/100

Corofin Folium Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
Delicate but with lovely presence. Good acidity here with mineral, saline notes, nice ripe citrus and pear fruit, but it’s really light on its feet. There’s an amazing textural quality to this wine with fine spiciness. Really expressive and detailed with lovely precision, and just a little more presence than the palate than the 2015. Very fine. 95/100

Corofin Carter Ashmore Vineyard North Corner Chardonnay 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is fabulous. Really refined and mineral with lovely balance between the fresh citrus notes and the riper pear and apple characters. Good acidity, integrated well, with very subtle mealy notes and a touch of biscuit on the finish. Has great freshness and focus, with good concentration and presence. 94/100

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Corofin Settlement Vineyard East Slope Pinot Noir 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Debut vintage, which was the third crop from this vineyard. No whole bunch, destemmed. Made at Sugarloaf winery then transferred it to Fromm. There’s a bit of development here, with a nice savoury, grainy character as well as sweet, autumnal cherry and berry fruits. Nice density and weight on the palate with sweet cherries and plums, and a fine spiciness. Textural with finely spiced tannic structure. Has some warmth and sweetness, but very well balanced, finishing with a slight twist of mint. 93/100

Corofin Settlement Vineyard East Slope Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
777 and a bit of 667. 10% whole bunch. Only on skins for 13 days. Really interesting nose with savoury spiciness: ginger, mint, pot pourri and Mediterranean herbs. The palate has incredible presence and concentration, with lovely structure and freshness. There’s a dense black cherry fruit presence here with good structure and intensity, and a real spicy, meaty core. There’s a strong mineral dimension. This isn’t just about fruit but has a lovely savoury character, too. 95/100

Corofin Cowley Vineyard Main Slopes Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
667 and 777. Very fresh with a good concentration of red and black fruits. Nice freshness with good acid and fine tannic structure. Supple and fine with nice black cherry and raspberry fruit. Really focused and bright. Still quite tightwound but with lots of potential. A serious wine, but give it time to add flesh and elegance. 94/100

Corofin Churton Vineyard Clod Block Pinot Noir 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is the first vintage of this wine, which comes from an east-facing block. This is completely different again. Grippy and dense with lots of structure and focus. It has ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit but also some firm, grippy structure. The fruit has some ripeness: it’s quite silky and there’s some prettiness. But there’s also a lot of structure here that at the moment dominates a touch. Still, this wine is drinking really well now, but it has massive potential when these tannins resolve a bit. 95/100

UK agent: Flint Wines

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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