A village with a fiery red heart, Martinborough – along with Gladstone and Masterton – is one of three rubies in the crown of the Wairarapa wine region.
Carving out a successful career in winemaking on a small but powerful scale, Helen Masters of Ata Rangi wines is one of the most well-known and lauded of the locals.
So what makes Wairarapa, and Martinborough in particular, so special in the eyes of someone who knows, loves, lives and breathes the wine here?
Big families, small villages, great vintages
Helen, the youngest of 12 siblings, is well accustomed to the juxtaposed feeling of ‘small but large’ that is tied in to life among the vines in Martinborough. It’s a small village, forthrightly forging its own path on the international wine scene but, at the same time, it’s a big family.
“I think what’s really interesting here is that within the terrace we’re all really interwoven with each other. We all have very small blocks that are almost touching. I would say that it’s very much a labour of love. It is very much about running small vineyards and managing them [in a way that is] very hands on.”
The scale is what gives Martinborough its edge, creating something unique and ‘custom’ – drawing visitors to the region from New Zealand, Australia and beyond.
Tenacious, complex, and totally unafraid (of missing out)
Helen describes the Martinborough Pinot Personality as a fiery younger sibling, making its mark on its own terms. “It’s a small region, so it’s compact, but [it’s] more about tenacity. There’s an element of independence and people doing their own thing,” she says.
The winemakers of Martinborough, Helen included, are all about authenticity and letting the wine speak for itself. “There’s a lot of interesting diversity and a lot of people with compunction and passion to make wines that they feel are compelling,” she says. “They’re and not necessarily trying to be fashionable. They don’t necessarily suffer from FOMO.”