In Te Reo Māori, Ata Rangi means “dawn sky” or “new beginning”. It is a name that honours our land and reflects the work we do here. Making wine is all about working in sync with the changing seasons and conditions on the land. We strive to craft wines that capture the essence of our place: Martinborough, Aotearoa-New Zealand. We are a small, family-owned organic winery with a reputation for pinot noir, located at the southern end of the North Island.
Ata Rangi was founded by Clive Paton in 1980. The first vines were planted on a small, stony sheep paddock at the edge of the Martinborough Village. Clive’s sister Alison bought an adjoining block soon after and in 1986 Clive’s partner Phyll Pattie bought a share in the business after moving from Marlborough where she had been working as a winemaker.
40 years on, we continue to work diligently to nurture Ata Rangi’s enviable reputation as one of the new world’s most respected pinot noir producers. Today, Alison Paton heads up day-to-day running of the business, with Helen Masters crafting the wines aided by the vital stewardship of vineyard manager Ian Ewart.
The Ata Rangi team farm around 32 hectares, spread over 14 vineyards clustered around the village of Martinborough. The sites feature the characteristic Martinborough Terrace profile of 300-600mm of shallow silt-loam overlaying 25-30 metre-deep alluvial gravels. The McCrone and Masters Vineyards are differentiated by a higher percentage of clay within the gravels.
Ata Rangi’s home vineyards attained full organic status in 2014. Weeds are managed with under-vine weeding tools, with a combination of cultivation and mowing. Our vineyards’ biodiversity is enhanced by a mixture of native and exotic shelterbelts and inter-row wildflower planting that provide havens for native predatory and beneficial insects. We make compost on site from grape stalks, skins, and yeast lees, mixed with seaweed, forest floor duff and harvested green crops. This mix is utilised in the vineyard to make compost tea for vine health and boost organic matter within the soil.
Our dedicated vineyard team does all vine work by hand from pruning in winter through to harvest in autumn.
We draw our fruit from a diverse range of vineyards, each managed to suit its soil and clonal diversity. This individualised care, alongside the age of the original vines which are now reaching 40 years old, are both major factors in the quality and consistency of our wines from year to year. Spring is often cool and windy which reduces fruit set, so yields are naturally low. Summer days are consistently warm, though nights are generally cool. Autumn is often long and dry, perfect for hand harvesting.
The Ata Rangi winemaking philosophy is a simple, hands-off, traditional approach focused on finding the true expression of our place. We see wines from Martinborough as having real depth of palate with texture and length. These are qualities we focus on as we approach each vintage. We aim for balance in all our wines, so thoughtfully use winemaking practices such as whole bunch and barrel ageing to ensure that vineyard expression remains the hero.
Each season brings its own unique growing conditions. Cooler vintages express more herbal and spicy notes, whereas a warmer season delivers fuller fruit aromas. Staying true to the vintage means the wines will express these features. We focus on harvesting at the point where ripeness is “optimum” i.e where sugar, tannin and acid intersect at a “just on the cusp of ripeness”, and tension and vibrancy of aroma are balanced with tannins.
Our minimalist approach means that cultured yeast, enzymes or fining products are not employed. Filtration is used only for the white wines.
Whole bunch inclusion plays a role in the fermentations of our pinot noir — the level of which varies according to site and vine age, which can be from 20 to 100% with the remainder de-stemmed. The fermentation that takes place within the whole berry along with the contact with the stems, lifts the aromas and gives a fine flow to the tannins.
Whole bunch and on-skin fermentation is also utilised in our sauvignon blanc. Here we ferment portions of the blend just as we do for red wine. This technique allows more extraction from the skins which gives a more savoury texture and an exotic spice lift to the aroma.
Wines that age.
Due to the close-proximity to the South Pacific Ocean, our temperate climate results in an extended growing season, allowing the fruit to ripen slowly. This enables the tannins in the seeds and skin of the grapes to fully ripen. This is reflected in our style, a backbone of fine tannins, supported by vibrant acidity which give a structure to the wines that affords them real age-ability.