“We are obsessed with quality – every decision is based around what is best for the vines and the wine. We are happy to push the boundaries and to try new things, but everything revolves around attention to detail.”
Not knowing much about wine and originally graduating with a BSc in Geography, Tim Bourne found work at a local vintage after his OE and was instantly hooked. Returning to university to study Oenology, Bourne worked to become a senior winemaker at Escarpment.
Beginning in 1999, Escarpment was a joint venture between “the Prince of Pinot”, Karry MeKenna and the Australian family, the Kirby’s. It was later sold to Torbeck, a Barossa Valley winery. Currently, the winery focuses on Burgundy varieties with Pinot Noir while slowly growing Chardonnay and bits of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.
Bourne describes their wines as underpinned by savoury notes and structure. Grown in lean, young soil with free draining, their vines get a lot of UV intensity and high wind, making the grapes thick-skinned and adding to the Pinot Noir intensity. Their methods are based on minimal intervention – a hands-off approach that means hands-on.
“We work with sustainability in mind; we are weary of our input in the vineyard and in the winery,” Bourne said.
One of the most successful harvests they’ve had was in 2020, known as the unicorn vintage, where quantity and quality were high. With all the unpredictable rains of 2022, that year became their most challenging, yet it was one of Bourne’s proudest vintages due to their team’s hard work to create great wines.
Though covid has been tough with being unable to travel and push their wines on international markets, Escarpment saw successful growth through negotiations during the pandemic. Through Torbeck ownership, they export to 25 countries and counting.
“My time at Two Hands and then working with Corey Ryan at Sons of Eden was pivotal in shaping a lot of my understanding of making fine wine. Then, of course, working here at Escarpment with Larry McKenna. Everyone I have worked with has influenced me in one way or another.”
With goals to be top producers in New Zealand, Bourne dreams of Martinborough’s wine region being celebrated on a global scale.