Martinborough is a small rural village located near the bottom of the North Island, an hour’s drive from Wellington across the spectacular Remutaka mountain range.
The valley is protected from rain by mountains on three sides. Harvest days are warm, yet nights are cool year round due to direct exposure to the southern ocean. These factors contribute significantly to the consistency of quality, both by preserving fruit intensity and facilitating a long, slow, steady ripening through the autumn. The stony river terrace on which most of the vines are planted is made up of very shallow silt-loam on top of 25-metre-deep alluvial gravels. The stones are mostly quartz-threaded greywacke and to a lesser extent volcanic basalts. This very free-draining profile, combined with the windiest and driest climate in the North Island – around 700mm rainfall a year – means humidity and therefore disease risk is low. Spring is typically cool and windy, often resulting in imperfect flowering which keeps yields naturally in check, at a much lower average tonnage per acre than the rest of the country.
Ata Rangi attained full organic status in 2014. Weeds are dealt to by under-vine weeding tools, and insects biologically with options such as predatory wasps for leaf roller caterpillar. Large scale compost is made on site from grape stalks, skins, pips and yeast lees. Biodiversity is enhanced by mixed native shelter-belts and inter-row wildflower planting.
The Ata Rangi team hand-harvest grapes from around 120 acres. Sites are all very close together and feature the characteristic Martinborough Terrace profile of about 30cm of shallow silt-loam on top of 25 metre-deep alluvial gravels.
Spring is often cool and windy which takes its toll on fruit set, so yields are naturally low – no more than 4T/ha. The original vines are almost 40 years old, a major factor in the quality and consistency from year to year. Ata Rangi is one of only a handful of ISO-14001 certified wineries in the world. This management standard calls for continual commitment to improve on practices which impact on the environment. The vineyard and winery are also founding members of SWNZ (Sustainable Winegrowing of New Zealand)
Ata Rangi founder Clive Paton is a respected conservationist and founder of the Aorangi Conservation Trust. The ultimate aim of this trust is to one day re-introduce threatened native birds, while protecting the regenerating native forest. Clive has planted over 75,000 trees in the past 15 years, both native species and ground-durable eucalypts for use as future vineyard and farm posts.
His involvement with the restoration of the iconic red-flowering Rata led us to the close association with Project Crimson, inspiring our younger vines Pinot Noir to be called Crimson.
Ata Rangi has been the recipient of a number of awards related to conservation, perhaps most significantly when Clive was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his contribution to conservation and viticulture in New Zealand.