Helen Masters, Chief Winemaker
Ata Rangi, Martinborough

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.”

There’s an element of independence and people doing their own thing.

Helen Masters, Head Winemaker, Ata Rangi

Eat, drink and be Martinborough

Despite being born and raised on the Kapiti coast, Helen is a Martinborough local through and through – and she’s willing to give up her secrets on the best ways to enjoy everything the region has to offer.

“The wines aren’t that fruity, they’re more savoury,” Helen says, enjoying them at home with ‘anything cooked over an open fire’. For visitors to town wanting to experience local hospitality, she recommends a trip to the Martinborough Brewery, followed by local favourite Poppies. For those keen on picking up some Pinot to take home, Martinborough Wine Merchants stocks ‘everybody’s wine’ according to Helen.

Another of her top picks is tapas bar Mesita, which offers a range of fresh local ingredients teamed with a top notch selection of local wines, beers, gins and more – because while it may be all about the food and drink for Helen, she knows that Martinborough offers much more than pitch-perfect Pinot.

Tiny, mighty and utterly original, Martinborough is well worth a visit – even if it’s just in your imagination, through a bottle or two of Wairarapa wine.

“We make wines that represent a village,” says Helen, and that village has got the goods to take on the world.

Is Wairarapa your spirit region? Or is your Pinot Personality tied to someplace else? To find your Pinot Personality and go in the draw to win a trip for two to New Zealand, take our quiz!

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Angelo Tilocca says:

    Would love to win and meet Helen and the other amazing winemakers of Martinborough

    • Natalie Corkery says:

      Good luck Angelo – the prize is for a trip to Queenstown, but it’s a short flight to Wellington and across to Martinborough if you’re the lucky winner and are keen to extend your stay!

  • Anne says:

    Would love to win this gorgeous break away to meet and taste The Real Deal in NZ 🎉🥂

  • Karen Hinds says:

    The coal river valley is within eyesight!
    So you can imagine our surroundings. I love sparkling and pinots. It would be lovely to visit another iconic wine area!
    It would be on a bucket list!

    • Natalie Corkery says:

      There’s certainly a few places in New Zealand that would fit the bill. Hope you took the quiz so you’re in with a chance to win a trip across the ditch!

  • Alan Pringle says:

    Please do not take this the wrong way, I’m a very progressive person, but I would love an opportunity to learn the art of appreciating a NZ Pinot, as my palet is King Valley and Adelaide Hills. I would love a new experience especially as I have not learnt the berries and spices of the NZ wines.

    • Natalie Corkery says:

      We’d love an opportunity to convert you to a NZ wine lover! Good luck for the prize draw Alan and hope you keep an eye out for NZ Pinot in your local bottle store or restaurant to continue your wine discoveries 🙂

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