John Kavanagh obviously had a plan when he took over the reins at Te Kairanga in 2012, and It didn't take him long to find his feet. He's now strapped on the track shoes and is going for gold each vintage, capping a run of consecutive wins at the Decanter World Wine Awards with the ultimate accolade - Best in Show for his 2017 John Martin Pinot Noir.
You can take wine awards with a pinch of salt, many do, but at the end of the day, coming out on top in a list of thousands of wines, scrutinised by some of the world's top MWs is no mean feat (only 0.3% of wines entered were awarded Best in Show). What's more remarkable is that this was achieved in a tricky vintage, and this is where John's accomplishments become really telling. Tasting John’s wines at Regional Wines was proof that wine making skill and ability only count for so much in Martinborough and that it is having the prowess and experience to work with the vintage and think on one’s feet that makes the difference.
Demonstrating this, the tasting finished with a vertical of the John Martin Pinot Noir 2017,’16 and ‘15 which were strikingly different wines. The ‘17 aromatic and savoury, linear and precise compared to the warm, friendly embrace of the ‘16 with its exquisite typicity, and the ‘15 a gruntier wine with lip-smacking concentration. Three different wines that you'd love to have in the cellar for different occasions, if life were so kind. And of course, these were surprisingly different vintages. 2015 a vintage of two halves that resulted in super low yields, ‘16 a dry and warm benevolent El Niño year and 17 cool and wet. To aim at the same wine for each of these vintages would of course be madness - and yet it takes real winemaking courage to let the fruit sing without hiding it behind an orchestra of new oak and high extraction, and this is what John has done.
The new lease of life at TK is exciting and bodes well for Martinborough in general and the recent accolades will help to put the region back on the world wine map - something it thoroughly deserves. TK’s future certainly looks bright too, with a high percentage of the oh so special Abel Pinot clone, some sexy and diverse sites on the Martinborough Terrace, Longbush Valley and Ruakokoputuna Valley - and with John at the helm.
That said, the wine industry is without a doubt fickle. You’re only ever as good as your last vintage, and to rest on one’s laurels is certainly foolhardy; in many ways Te Kairanga’s recent history prior to John’s arrival is proof of this. 2019 looks set to be a stunner, so it will be fascinating to see what John comes up with, and of course, the expectation for more trophies will be high. But John won’t be fazed by this, he doesn’t seem the sort to get flustered and will have his sights set firmly on the future, after all, he’s been in the game long enough now to know that wine making is a marathon and not a sprint.
Click here to purchase Te Kairanga wines from Regional Wines.