Grapevine Archive for marlborough
I was fortunate to work a number of vintages in New Zealand from 2010 to 2013, mainly at Wither Hills in their pinot noir cellar. The sun-filled days of vintage, the hustle and bustle of a working cellar and the smell of new French oak barrels, fresh ferments and pristine fruit left an unforgettable impression of not only New Zealand but also of their winemaking capabilities.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Marlborough is all about the sauvignon blanc grape. However, chardonnay and aromatic white varieties such as pinot gris and riesling thrive here along with the classic red grape pinot noir.
Situated to the North of New Zealand’s South Island, this remarkable region is bathed with large amounts of summer sunshine and is just a stone’s throw away from the Pacific with its cooling sea breeze. The region came to prominence in the 1970s when a number of producers experimented with growing the sauvignon blanc grape variety. The results, which have been remarkable, have led to many a winemaker aiming to replicate this unique style. Such was their success that the rest, as they say, is history.
Pinot noir was first planted here in the early 1970s. Critics were highly sceptical at first and many doubted whether this variety actually establish a strong regional base. Many producers didn’t begin to start growing or making pinot noir until the mid1990s, but by 2009 the region had around 2,000 hectares of area under vine – about half of the country’s entire pinot noir output.
Marlborough pinot isn’t red Burgundy and nor does it pretend to be. Producers have created their own unique style and each vintage gets better and better. Yes, there are certainly influences from the likes of Volnay and Pommard (indeed, many a New Zealand winemaker will have often worked a vintage or two in Burgundy and inspiration from the region is certainly evident), but they remain distinct.
Pinot from Marlborough is delicate, supple, balanced and, most importantly, a style which remains unique. It could be said that Marlborough pinot noir sits somewhere between that of the bolder and fruitier Central Otago style and that of the elegant, layered and spicy pinot of Martinborough, just a short hop north by plane.
Two Marlborough pinot noir highlights from our current New Zealand offer:
Wither Hills Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 (£10.50)
The 2010 vintage was the first to benefit from Wither Hills’s newly acquired and automated ‘vistalys’ optical berry sorter. This high-speed conveyer-based grape-sorting system selects only optimum grapes, free of any defect and also prevents any vineyard detritus from being included in the fermentation. The blend of individually sourced parcels from the southern Wairau valley vineyards of Ben Morven and Taylor River have produce a plush wine, with deep fruit, silky structure with smooth flavour. It also benefits from integrated acidity and tannin. Excellent depth of flavour and a superb example of a cracking value Marlborough pinot noir, which shows how long this variety can keep and improve. A worthy 2014 Wine Society Wine Champion that has repeated last year’s feat in this year’s competition too.
Fine and perfumed on the nose, with subtle red fruits which, builds slowly as it aerates in the glass. This wine has excellent balance and length of flavour on the palate. French oak has been delicately intertwined to produce a velvety texture with redcurrants and sour plum.
An unusually wet winter in 2010 provided the perfect conditions for rapid spring growth. Warm conditions followed and allowed for a high level of fruit set. This led to a heavy crop allowing the vines to be ruthlessly thinned at the start of 2011 to enhance fruit quality, advance the ripening of the grape leading to increased flavour concentration.
This is a classic and understated style with body but if resisted will stand the test of time.
New Zealand’s diversity, sustainability, rich farming history and tradition provide all the ingredients for exciting food and wine match. Think fresh Easter lamb cooked on a spit over hot coals in the vineyard, fresh venison from the hills overlooking the Wairau valley and seared Asian spiced duck breast with a sweet pinot reduction… all of these certainly hit the spot!
Pour yourself a glass and enjoy!
This is a direct quote from one of my best friends, when he is at any bar or restaurant – it’s his favourite order.It is also a common phrase I hear when indulging in my hobby of blind tasting because Marlborough sauvignon is a blind taster’s best friend: this aromatic and distinctive wine is one that most blind tasters would see as a ‘banker’ because there are a few certain traits:
• Highly aromatic (at drinks parties if the hosts tipple of choice is a Marlborough sauvignon you can usually get a whiff of the heady perfume from the car as you pull up!)
• Consistent and precise aromas and flavours of intense gooseberry, fresh asparagus, cut grass and passionfruit.
• Light body and crisp acidity that makes you crave the next sip.
The consistent quality and recognisable style of Marlborough sauvignon I am sure goes a long way in explaining its popularity.
However, times are changing!
As Marlborough’s wine industry develops and matures, winemakers are noticing subtle differences in the grapes grown across the valley, and are experimenting more with the juice once in the winery.
Cloudy Bay for example produce two sauvignon blanc – one a very refined yet classic example and a second, Te Koko, that they treat very differently in the winery including the use of barrel aging.
As the style of Marlborough sauvignon develops I feel that, as a buyer, it starts to get a little more challenging, but also more rewarding – and I hope that our range accurately represents the best from Marlborough with a good number of classics – led by our Society and Exhibition wines, and supported by members’ favourites such as Three Terraces, Stoneburn and Wither Hills.
However, I hope you might also enjoy a few less typical but nonetheless delicious sauvignons from Marlborough such as Dog Point’s refined house sauvignon and ageworthy Section 94 and te Pa’s fresh flinty coastal wine.
A selection of Marlborough sauvignon blancs from the fresh 2014 vintage is available here, including a mixed case.
Kevin Judd was born in Totton, Hampshire, emigrating to South Australia aged nine (“my parents went, and at that age you just go with the flow”) and then, with his wife Kimberley, on to New Zealand in 1983 where along with David Hohnen he was founding winemaker at LVMH’s iconic Cloudy Bay. He stayed there for 24 years. He says that his one regret is that he didn’t stay for his 25-year gold watch (LVMH also own TAG-Heuer!) but he certainly has no regrets about the path he has followed since.
2009 was the first vintage of Greywacke, so named because most of New Zealand lies upon the eponymous bedrock. The range comprises Sauvignon Blanc, Wild Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. At the end of January 60 members were fortunate enough to try six of these seven wines at Peter Gordon‘s Kopapa Café and Restaurant which had been expertly matched by Peter himself and his head chef Leigh Hartnett. We were delighted that both Kevin and Kimberley were there to talk to members about the wines in detail.
The aperitif of Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2011 was a sprightly, fresh, lime and fresh grass sauvignon which demands you have a second glass.
Kopapa’s speciality is tapas-style dishes, and so we had four shared small plates as our starters. The two dishes of goat’s curd panna cotta, beetroot yuzu salsa and black olive tuile, and then smoked monkfish carpaccio, white balsamic, caper & parsley dressing were a marvellous foil to the rounded, ripe, savoury, almost minty character of the Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2010 (due in February). Rich and yet palate cleansing at the same time, the savoury notes melded with the smoked monkfish as well as the classic sauvignon marriage with goat’s cheese.
The second pair of dishes (pan-fried Scottish scallops, sweet chilli & crème fraîche – Peter’s signature dish – and tempura spicy dhal inari pocket, caramelised coconut, plantain, pickled green papaya) were beautifully matched with Greywacke Riesling 2011 (it’s first showing anywhere in the world – due in June). The wine is fresh, off-dry, open, appealing with lime and mineral notes and should come with a label that says simply ‘Drink Me!’ The 20g/l residual sugar, and the lovely crisp acidity countered the sweetness of the coconut and the chilli spice perfectly.
Next to the cheese course, and a twice baked Crozier Blue soufflé (no mean feat to produce 64 individual soufflés all at the same time!) with Jerusalem artichoke cream and a pomegranate dressing went superbly with the soft green apples and tropical fruit of the Greywacke Pinot Gris 2010, with its 8 g/l of sweetness balancing the light saltiness of the soufflé.
The beautifully cooked main course of lamb cutlet & braised lamb shank with white bean purée, kale and fig jus fitted hand in glove with Greywacke Pinot Noir 2010 (due in June). The wine, with its lovely waft of sweet cherries and cream, showed a savoury and mineral depth of huge proportion, and a fresh, almost eternal savoury finish.
To finish, Greywacke Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2009 (we believe these were the last bottles in existence) with its 90 g/l of residual sugar and its trademark lychee and Turkish delight character, and yet a freshness rarely displayed in gewurz found elsewhere, with another signature dish of banana tarte tatin and sea salt caramel ice cream.
As well as arguably being New Zealand’s top winemaker, he is a very talented photographer. He has published three books – details and several images can be found by clicking on this link – and members enjoyed browsing through the books as we ate and drank.
It was a night to remember and to savour. Kevin and Kimberley moved on the next day to Denmark in their four week odyssey of the northern hemisphere, but we look forward to their return to these shores, as well as the very welcome arrival of the new vintages later this year.
Head of Tastings & Events