MARLBOROUGH – New Zealand In A Glass (Dec 2017)

Over half of New Zealand wine is from a single grape variety grown in a single region – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.   Reflecting the soaring international demand, many wineries – from Northland to Central Otago – that are not based in the famous region, still feel a need to include a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in their range.

So it’s easy to overlook the exceptional diversity of Marlborough’s output.   In a recent tasting of the region’s wines, sauvignon blancs accounted for just 30 per cent of the entries.   Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noirs and sparklings were out in force, together with Rieslings, Merlots and rosés.

When a region builds a powerful reputation for a varietal wine – think Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or Central Otago Pinot Noir – other varieties tend to be overshadowed.  But Marlborough has many strings to its vinous bow, including some of the country’s greatest aromatic white wines, Chardonnays  and Pinot Noirs.

After the remnants of two cyclones dropped torrential rain in early April – the main harvest month – most wineries agreed the 2017 vintage had been ‘challenging’.  Some contract-grown grapes were turned away by the wineries, but the top-end producers, who typically ripened and picked their grapes earlier, fared better.

With strong, herbaceous aromas and garden-fresh flavours, the 2017 Sauvignon Blancs in the tasting had vivid varietal characteristics, with lots of youthful impact.  A quartet of refined sparklings under the Deutz Marlborough brand, all offering good value, was a highlight, and the Pinot Noirs from the unusually warm 2016 vintage were attractive – generous, ripe and well-rounded