Day 4 New Zealand Trip, Marlborough


This morning Marcus Pickens is waiting for me in the lobby of the Châteaux Marlborough in Blenheim. We are driving to Wine Marlborough were 37 wines are waiting to be tasting. Before that Marcus showed me a presentation on Marlborough and its key facts.

Marlborough is New Zealand’s flagship wine region. The biggest of all with a total producing surface of 23.232 ha.  In 2013 it count for about 73% of the total New Zealand crush.
Early pioneers first planted in 1873 in the Ben Morven Valley, with further vineyards established through to the 1960s. Marlborough is one of the sunniest and driest regions. The Wairau River bisects the valley west-to-east with the Richmond Ranges to the north and medium sized foothills to the south.

On this 42ºSH, Marlborough favours a unique combination of cool yet high sunshine climate, low rainfall and free-draining, moderately fertile soil to produce a wide range of wine styles. Annual average sunshine in Blenheim is 2409 hours with 655 mm of rainfall. The success-soil is ancient glacial deep free-draining stony soils. The river left the landscape with this stony sandy loam over very deep gravels.

There are 3 sub-regions in Marlborough:

  • Wairau River, oldest and biggest, just north of Blenheim. It runs inlands (the more inlands the more frost risk) Lower Wairau has more loam and thus water retention.
  • Southern Valley is more inlands they tend to be colder at wintertime which gives higher risk of frost. Clay is prevalent in the Southern Valleys better for Pinot Noir
  • Awatere, South of Blenheim is windier. Awatere is more fragmented with gravelly silt-loams and wind-blown loess but favours the coolest temperature of Marlborough but is the driest. The wind acts here like a hair dryer.

A variety of grapes are planted but the far majority is Sauvignon Blanc. Styles varying from pungently aromatic, vividly pure fruit, herbaceous and exotically tropical to mineral depths wines. The use of oak is getting more common now. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is an international brand on its own.


  • 78,8%            17.829 ha. Sauvignon Blanc
  • 10,6%            2.397 ha. Pinot Noir
  • 6%                 1.360 ha. Aromatics (Pinot Gris (946 ha.), Riesling (309 ha.). Gewürztraminer and Viognier
  • 4,5%               1.027 ha. Chardonnay

Sauvignon Blanc winestyles
Winemaking is changing in Marlborough for Sauvignon Blanc. The pronounced, pungent aroma and flavour which flows away quickly, is now more and replaced by more body length and complexity, by the use skin contact and lee treatments and even some (used) oak. Lee treatment gives some solid, contracting mouth feel (as with skin contact).

The very intense capsicum (bell pepper) flavour in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is still a truly hallmark. Winemakers get these ‘Metoxyparzyne’ in the wine which starts in the vineyard. By harvesting on or just before physiological ripe, (NOT unripe), quickly very cold harvest, quickly processing the grapes, low temperature fermentation, avoiding oxygen and with the use of dried ice. So more use of oak (micro-oxidation) and warmer fermentation temperature and with lee treatment resulting in more full-bodied wines.
Consumer wants more and more richer sauvignon with lesser acidity and lesser pronounced aroma and flavour. Sauvignon Blanc will definitely change within the years to follow.

It is very common for Marlborough companies to do not have land or facilities; instead they make their wine on contract. Pernod Ricard is the biggest wine company in New Zealand, Villa Maria is 2nd.

For the overview tasting on Marlborough wines we need a corkscrew for only 3 out of the 37 bottles. Edel Everling of Johanneshof Cellars guided me helpfully through the wines.

The Highlights of the tasting.

Riesling 2013 Johanneshof
Very small producer. 10 ha. German (Rheingau) origin. Only 3 months in bottle.
medium lemon colour, lovely papaya, mango, tropical. medium dry, high acidity, lot of fruit, peach, mango, lychee, grapefruit, lovely perfume, very nice finish very well made, lots of fruit and balanced High acidity with medium-dry sweetness. Length 17/20p.

Sauvignon Blanc Greywacke 2013, Kevin Judd
Richer style sauvignon, quite complex. Lee, toast, green apple, acacia. Leafy. Dry, Medium intense, very fresh, vibrant, crispy acidity, showing complexity, bit creamy, toasty. Fresh medium plus finish. Very well made. Crispy style but showing nice texture, and not too much solids. Very good. 17,5/20p.

Pinot Gris 2013 Select Blocks, Ara
Tasted a lot of disappointing Pinot Gris (Too much alcohol, too sweet or with lack of freshness)
Medium, waxy nutty nose, quince, floral. Medium-dry, well-integrated alcohol. Medium acidity, neutral fruit of pear, wax, nutty, acacia, well made. 16/20p.

Chardonnay single vineyard 2010 Walnut Block
Very fresh herbal citrus nose, bit nutty, very nice oakwood fo which the use is almost invisible giving just a little touch.      Dry, Crispy fresh medium plus acidity, very well integrated oak, fennel, lemon, cashew nuts, and long finish. 17/20p.

Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 Waira River
Colour seems more matured ruby rather than purple. Very delicate medium intense nose, earthy, with fruit, Burgundian style, smokiness meat, black cherry, pomegranate, refreshing acidity, not to oaky, very vibrant, with nice complexity. 17,5/20p.

Gewürztraminer 2013 Johanneshof
Pronounced very to the varietal, orange blossom, litchi, pink grapefruit,
Sweet, medium acidity, rose, orange blossom, 23 gr. Sugar/ltr. Spicy, acidity balanced with the sugar level. Not to alcoholic 13% well made. 17/20p.

After this nice overview tasting with Edel Everling I met Josephine Maasdam. She is the daughter of Ruud Maasdam of Staetlandt, which I going te visit this evening. She promised me to cook!

Clos Marguerite, Awatere
Marguerite van Hove of Clos Marguerite is waiting for me to drive me to her estate in Seddon, Awatere, South of Blenheim.

The Belgium couple Marguerite and Jean-Charles van Hove started in 2000 to plant the first vines of the 8 hectares in total. Jean-Charles studied Agronomy in Leuven and later he went to Bordeaux University together with the Dutch Kees van Leeuwen. Jean-Charles did several studies on soil profiles and it took several years till he found the right spot to plant his vines. the vineyard is high density planted on 4000 vines/ha. Normally in Marlborough is 1800 vines/ha the norm! (In Bordeaux 6.000-10.000). Pruning is at a very low double Guyot. Vines are treated not really organic but very sustainable. yields are between 3 and 5 tonnes/ha for Pinot Noir and 9-10 tonnes/ha. for Sauvignon Blanc.

Click on the movie to see the interview with Marguerite van Hove.

The estate makes thus yearly only two wines. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The first sauvignon was bottled in 2002 and the first Pinot Noir in 2005.

I tasted 4 Sauvignon Blanc wines (2013, 2012, 2010 and 2007) and 4 Pinot Noirs (2011, 2010, 2009 and 2007)

Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Clos Marguerite  
Medium lemon colour, nice developing nose, some toasted brioche, herbal chervil aroma. Reine claude plums, Much less capsicum than usual, pear, yellow apple, very nice, mineral. Very nice, dry, great attack, nice fruit, little hay, fresh plums, pear, bits solids in the finish due to lee treatment. Juicy, very nice clean fruit; very well concentrated without oak wood a very great balance. Very good wine. 17,5/20p.

Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Clos Marguerite
Aged wine, little nutty, little hay still nice pear fruit, camomile, bit dried yellow plum, and a little hay. Dry (all Sauvignon Blanc wines have less than 3 gr/ltr. Sugar), great texture, almost creamy on the palate but with still high acidity, long finish with great personalia. 18/20p.

Pinot Noir 2010 Clos Marguerite
It has lovely fresh strawberry and red cherry on the nose. Nice use of oak wood, very refined. An elegant wine with medium flavour intensity and very soft ripe strawberry fruit. Nice concentration with layers of fruit, oak and earthiness. Very fine-grained integrated tanins. Long finish. This great wine can age well. 17,5/20p.

Pinot Noir 2007 Clos Marguerite   
The appearance is nice garnet, with a very ripe developing nose with still nice fruit, almost black cherry, bit of dried plums, earth, game, spices., almost sweet and dried cherry, plum. A lovely texture with well-integrated fine grained tannins, with medium plus body (rather high for Pinot Noir). Very well done, great wine with a long finish. 18/20p.

All the Pinot Noir wines have less than 1 gr/ltr. Sugar and are made in an Burgundian style and matured in French oak from 3 coopers, many Sylvain.                      

The Tasting of Clos Marguerite

The Tasting of Clos Marguerite

The importer in Netherlands is les Généreux.

After a tour through the vineyards Marguerite prepares a wine pickers lunch with a very nice salad and a terrine which matches very nice with the wines.

Dutch meeting.
Marguerite is bringing me back to my hotel, Château Marlborough in Blenheim. I have organized a meeting with Jaco van Hensbergen, the former sommelier of restaurant Parkheuvel in Rotterdam, and his wife Sandra. They picked me up for a drink in downtown Blenheim. Jaco and Sandra arrived in New Zealand the first week of January to go working at Eradius Estate in Wairau, Marlborough. They are now busy helping with crop thinning (green/summer harvest). It seems 2014 for Marlborough is going to be a huge yield. More than 50% of the bunches are removed before the grapes changing colour (véraison). In this way the energie of the vine is concentrated on lesser grapes with more quality.


Edwin Raben, Sandra en Jaco van Hensbergen in Blenheim

Edwin Raben, Sandra en Jaco van Hensbergen in Blenheim

We are picking a nice bottle of Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc to fill the hour. Jaco and Sandra are driving me back to the hotel and Ruud Maasdam is very surprised to meet three Dutch and is confused about the appointment. Hilarious.

Staetelandt Vineyard
Ruud, the Dutch winemaker and owner of Staetelandt, is driving me from Blenheim east towards the coast parallel on the Richmond Range. He tells me a lot about the history of Marlborough and is talking so fast and enthusiastic, it is hard to follow. Even in Dutch! Ruud is member of the Marlborough Wine Board.

The cellar door, just an efficient barn, sits in the middle of the vineyard. Ruud is explaining me the hard research he did with a French specialist to profile the soil in this area. He mapped his whole property with great care and matched each variety to the proper soil. So in the vineyard you will find suddenly a few rows of Viognier among Pinot Noir.

Ruud Maasdam at his Cellar door.

Ruud Maasdam at his Cellar door.

The name Staetlandt was given by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman when he visited the South Island in 1642 and mapped the coastlines. For the owners, Dorien Vermaas and Ruud Maasdam, it was an easy decision to use the original name. This single estate was established in 1998 and planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Later a small amount of Riesling, Viognier and Syrah. After this visit we drives to the private house of Ruud to taste some of his wines.

The Highlights of the tasting

Pinot Gris 2011
Whole bunch picked, fermented in Demi-Muid (500 litres barrels), lee-stirring, 1/3 underwent Malolactic fermentation, added with chardonnay lee.
Medium intense lovely nose, yellow apple, pear, bit of toasty.
Dry, nice yet creamy texture with medium acidity and flavour characteristics of yellow apple, peach, a bit contracting (of lee-treatment), pear, medium plus alcohol, medium plus body and with a very good length. Alsatian style. 17/20p.

Sauvignon blanc Anabel 2013
Wine named after the youngest daughter Anabel. Mostly handpicked, 30% aged on used barriques (225 litres barrels).  Variety of yeast strains used.
A pronounced, intense aroma of fresh green apple, grass, green herbs like chives and chervil. On palate also an intense wine with crispy acidity, moderate medium alcohol and very Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but no capsicum more on the herbal side. The finish is medium plus and is very well made. 17/20p.

The Tasting at Staetelandt

The Tasting at Staetelandt

Chardonnay Josephine 2011  
Josephine is the oldest daughter of the 3 children (one sun is studying in Dunedin.
Fermented and matured on Demie-Muid (Barrels of 500 litres) rather than the smaller 225 litres barriques. “for better terroir expression” Ruud refers. “But every year I buy one new Demie-Muid (out of the total 10, so 5%) for structuren.
The wine has a medium plus aroma intensity of peach, mango, quince and hazelnuts. The wine is dry with a lively, medium plus acidity a great integration of the oak, very nice creamy texture. long finish, very good wine. 17,5/20p.

Viognier 2012
Made from the very difficult varietal Viognier. Gives lot of problems during flowering and thus very irregular in yield. “nasty plant”.
Lovely Medium plus intense nose with fresh juicy apricots, white peach and mandarin On the palate dry with a medium plus acidity and medium plus alcohol giving a round, complex multi-layered sensation. Very well made Viognier greatly balanced by the lively acidity, Great! 18,5/20p.

Pinot Noir Paladin 2010
Open medium plus intense nose with black cherry, strawberry and a little smokiness and meaty impressions. Very European style also on the palate with medium plus acidity well integrated medium tanins. Structure and finesse. Very good wine. 18/20p.

After the tasting the two daughters Josephine and Anabel are cooking a nice meal while Ruud and I are handling the beef on the barbeque. The salad, and especially the oven prepared capsicum, were delicious. This was an unforgettable visit with the additional fact of talking Dutch

Edwin Raben and Ruud Maasdam after a few glasses..

Edwin Raben and Ruud Maasdam after a few glasses..

The Dutch importer of Staetelandt Vineyard is Okhuysen in Haarlem

See Day 1 New Zealand trip
See Day 2 New Zealand trip
See Day 3 New Zealand trip

Day 3 New Zealand Trip, Hawke’s Bay.


This Sunday a late checkout has been arranged for me at the Harvest Lodge accommodation.  A nice opportunity to grab a breakfast in downtown Havelock North. I can also publish my first day on my weblog.
Around 11.30 Steve Smith of Craggy Range Winery is picking me up at the Harvest Lodge. Steve is a Master of Wine and as Director of Wine at Craggy Range Winery responsible for all its wines.

Craggy Range Winery
The arrival at Craggy Range is impressive! The nature’s grandeur, in the form of Te Mata Peak, is echoed by a winery, cellar door and “Terroir” Restaurant. What a gorgeous buildings with a sophisticated use of materials like natural stone, wood, glass and steel. Modern but suited to the surrounding nature.

Craggy Range’s idea was born in 1997 and launched in 2003, an inspired fusion of vision and capital. Millionaire Terry Peabody and the talented viticulturist and winemaker Steve Smith MW set out to build a winery specializing in single-vineyard wines grown in very selected sites around the finest terroirs in New Zealand. With its buildings and location creating as well one of the key wine-tourism attractions.The sophisticated rectangular tasting room offers views toward Te Mata Peak on one side, and a nice garden on the other.

Steve Smith MW
When Steve Smith became a Master of Wine in 1996 he was the first specialist viticulturist in the world to gain this rare qualification. “I am more a winemaking viticulturist” Steve recalls. He works together with a team passionate winemakers, but Steve’s passion is Sauvignon Blanc and the Bordeaux blend “Sophia”. The answer on my question what his most favourite wine or world is make this clear: “Château Latour, definitely”.


Steve Smith MW of Craggy Range

The wines of Craggy Range
Three tiers make up the superb Craggy Range portfolio. The Family collection, well made  the Prestige Collection, made from special blocks in special vintages, and the Limited Editions, which are rare and prized expressions of terroir.
All the wines have a simple philosophy. To select and source the very best vineyards in the country, plant them with only the vines that are perfectly suited to that terroir. Bottle them all as single estate wines.
In the Gimblett Gravels winegrowing district in Hawke’s Bay, Craggy Range has 100 hectares planted with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. In the “warm-cool” regions of around 40 latitudes, Martinborough, Marlborough and Nelson are selected. In Marlborough Craggy Range has a spectacular vineyard on Te Muna Road, mostly planted with Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc on rocky soils.  Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc is also sourced by excellent contact farmers in Nelson and Marlborough. In the cool-continental climate of Central Otaga, Craggy Range owns a small parcel in the Bannockburn region, great for Pinot Noir. In the Waitaki Valley (north Otago) Craggy is pioneering a new cool climate region with plantings of Pinot Gris in limestone rich alluvial soils.

The Highlights of the tasting
Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Te Muna Road Vineyard, Martinborough
Made out of 14 different parcels, 10-20% fermented in barrel depending on the vintage. The wine presents an austere flavour intensity for Sauvignon Blanc, very floral on the nose with flint and minerality, Sancerre like. On the palate, dry with juicy texture, crispy acidity, mineral layers and austerity. Young wine, very good. 17/20 p.

Chardonnay 2011, Kidnappers Vineyard Hawke’s Bay
Parcels situated just beside the ocean planted in 2004. 60-70% fermented in large oak and aged on the lees. 9 months on French oak, 10% new.
The wine has a clean very fresh fruit like apple, peach, lemon, little honeyed and toast with a nice dry layered minerality on the palate. Fresh, crisp fruit and solids in the finish with a salty tang. Very elegant and layered Chardonnay of great personality and class. 17/20 p.

Pinot Noir 2011 Te Muna Road Vineyard, Martinborough
A site of 30 ha. planted with 7 different clones on different rootstocks. In the past separately fermented nowadays more and more co-fermented. 10% whole bunch fermenting. 10 months on French barriques (25% new).
A lovely nose full of red strawberry fruit, black cherry and floral rose petal aroma typical for Martinborough Pinot Noir. Delicate strawberry fruit on the palate with lively acidity, earthy, mushroom and savoury along with the cherry fruit. Good complexity and well-balanced tanins. 17,5/20 p.

2014-01-26 01.20.07

Sophia Bordeaux blend 2011, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay
A blend of 60% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Warm vintage due to the La Niña Summer. Low yield (45 hl/ha.) 100% destemmed, 19 months on French oak (37% new).
Dark Garnet colour with and austere nose of black fruit, chocolate and oak. Still a very young wine. The wine is on the palate very dense and packed with flavour but still showing austerity. Savoury, chestnut, oak. Dried black fruit and a very subtle outstanding long finish. A futures promise. 18/20 p.

Aroha Pinot Noir 2011, Martinborough
The prestige line made of 2 excellent clones.
Very ripe, black fruit with minerality, oak, bit of and herbal notes of estiva (rock rose) great nose with austerity. Juicy on the palate with layers of fruit and some spices. Firm tanins but well-integrated with a long length of great quality. 18/20 p.

Further recommended wines: Riesling Te Muna Road Vineyard 2013 Martinborough (16/20p). Syrah Gimblett Gravels Vineyards 2011 Hawke’s Bay (16/20 p.)

Terrôir – The kitchen at Craggy Range
The name Terrôir reflecting that its food, the vineyard’s wine and its culture, come together sublimely, in a unique and dramatic setting. Sited inside a stone turret with French country furniture, rustic chandeliers and a large fireplace. Modern upscale bistro dished with great refining. Runner-up in the Best Winery Restaurant category in the 2012 Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year awards.

I’ve enjoyed a very nice dish called “Terroir forage, flavours and textures from our garden”. A salad 3.0. The Line caught snapper with green lip mussels and sea foliage was perfectly prepared and the sea foliage paired very well with the Sauvignon blanc, Te Muna 2013.

Dutch importer of Craggy Range wines: New World Wineries, Maastricht.


William Murdoch at Gimblett Gravels
After this (way to short) visit the young winemaker of William Murdoch, Hayden Penny, age of 33, is picking me up at Craggy Range. We drive up north from Havelock North to the heart of the Gimblett Gravels region near Hastings.
New Zealand’s climate is more diverse than just cool. Gimblett Gravels winegrowing district in Hawke’s Bay is an unique place. By the movement of the river this land was left behind with stones in different sieze. Earlier on it was an abandoned spot were no crop would grow and simply was playground for the local youth. This Hawke’s Bay subzone defined by soil type consist of deep layers of gravel stones, layered with sand, silt and clay. The subzone is in total 800 ha. Big and is fully planted. In the past worthless now high prices are paid. Today Sir George Fistonich of Villa Maria owns the biggest piece of the cake. With a recent purchase of another 41 ha. on February the 5th 2014, Villa Maria own one third of Gimblett Gravels. Craggy Range owns some 100 ha.

These stony soils of Gimblett Gravels located on the same latitude as Madrid, sheltered from the cooling breeze of the South Pacific. This create a warm environment and infect this is the only part of New Zealand that is warm and dry as the great French regions of Bordeaux and Hermitage. So late ripening varietals as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah flourish here. Also Merlot is doing well.

A special restriction is built in the wine law: if Gimblett Gravels is stated on the label, 95% of the fruits must originates Grimblett Gravels. Originally most legislation, also European, restricts to 85%.

William Murdoch and Hayden Penny
William Murdoch has 32 hectares in total and only in the Gimblett Gravels. It make of course only red wines, 6 in total. Hayden Penny is the young well talented winemaker and manager. Well, he is the only one on this estate so he is more or less responsible for every task on this small winery in the heart of the region. Poor guy, who’s just married on Valentine’s day 2014…

Plantings with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec are the ingredients for very nice wines. 1 site is not planted now and it is a great wish of Hayden to plant Chenin Blanc. This estate of owner Brett W. Murdoch is entirely certified as Biodynamic estate. Everything is natural only a little sulphur is added prior to bottling. All the vines were planted in 1999 and till 2009 it was all sold to Villa Maria and Te Awa Estate. From the 2009 vintage all the grapes are kept for the William Murdoch label.  All wines are matured in bigger, 500 litres demi muids of French origin. Instead of screwcap this estate uses only natural corks, very unusual for the Kiwi’s.

See the video of Hayden Penny

The Highlights of the Tasting
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon / Cabernet Franc
80% CS / 20% CF. aged 19 months in French Demi Muids (500 litres barrels), 50% new.
Deep colour with pure fresh black fruit on the nose and a bit austere. Black cherry, camomile, flowers, mineral, strawberry and some leather and chocolate. 16/20p.

2010 Syrah
40% new oak use.
Intense colour with perfume of pomegranate syrup, pepper, leather a bit farmyard and very Cornas style on the nose. On the palate a nice fruit expression, meaty, black fruit, modest alcohol level (indigenous yeast strains) and still very ripe fruit, with velvety but firm tannins. Good texture which is difficult with Syrah (done by stirring the lee during malolactic fermentation). Very nice wine 17/20p.

The Guardsman 2009
The flagships wine of this winery with the majority Cabernet Sauvignon (65%) Merlot and Malbec. Selection of the low cropping parts, more full bodied, stirring the lee and ages 18-24 month in oak.
A very dense ripe, almost stewed plums, cinnamon, oak and liquorice showing some complexity. On the palate the wine opens up and shows packed black fruit, cherry, sweet spices and lively acidity and firm, a bit grippy tannins but well-integrated in the flavour characteristics. 2009 was the first vintage of this flagship wine. 17/20 p.

William Murdoch is looking for an importer in the Netherlands (A warehouse in Antwerp had the wines on stock)

Another flight
After this visit, Hayden is bringing me to Napier airport for a flight to Wellington were I have a transfer to Marlborough in a very tiny airplane with 5 other passenger…..and a great view on Marlborough sounds. Tomorrow a busy day is coming.

Read more:
Day 1 Auckland
Day 2 Hawke’s Bay

New Zealand Day 1, Auckland

New Zealand day 1, Friday 24 January 2014

logoThe fantastic Airline of the Middle Earth, as Air New Zealand is also known in its publicity campaign, I get my way trough the international airways to reach Auckland via London and Los Angeles.

Wines on board of Air New Zealand


2014-01-22 22.49.10On board I experienced a great service and I tasted really good wines. Served out of standard bottles in proper glasses. The sauvignon blanc Marlborough 2012 from Cotterell’s 1843 was very pungent and obvious a Marlborough sauvignon blanc with both aroma and flavour of gooseberry, leafiness, herbal and long persistent length. The chardonnay from Neudorf 2011 from the small Nelson region was very pronounced peachy. Remarkable fruit intensity almost unusual for chardonnay, personally I found it a bit to much overwhelming. But with a nice job on the oak wood use though, very well integrated. Finally the pinot gris from Framingham 2012, Marlborough. Pinot gris is a newcomer in the New Zealand’s vineyards. Very well accepted locally but hardly seen in the Netherlands. Medium intensity on the nose of both floral and fruity. Acacia, pears with a mandarin tang.  Off dry, nice and creamy texture, the result lee treatment.
The food on board was very good. I enjoyed the salad of potato with crispy cooked asparagus and tenderly smoked and salted halibut. The stew of New Zealand lam was excellent.

New Zealand Winegrowers
A cab brought me right in the centre of Auckland after landing, were my hotel, the Stamford Plaza, was situated. The first minutes were a bit odd, driving on the left side of the road. Traffic is much more calmer and relaxed than a used to be at home.

Karyn Murray of NZTE (New Zealand Trade and Enterprise) picked me up by the hotel to take me to the appointment with Chris Yorke (Global Marketing Director) and Philip Manson (General Manager Sustainability New Zealand Winegrowers). Philip and Chris explained me very clear the aim and goals of the sustainability program of the New Zealand winemakers, which are created on 7 pillars. Biodiversity, Soil, water and air, energy, chemicals, by-products, people and finally business as well. The total certified sustainable producing vineyard area in 2013 was 94%. If a winery wants to export abroad it must be certified on both vineyard and winemaking practices. It is a grower initiative. The use of agrochemicals is at own responsibility. The New Zealand Winegrowers is an industry body not a regulation body.

Organic farming is growing as well, now more than 7% of the vineyard area is organic. By 2020 the goal is put on 20%. So they need to keep going to reach this goal. Organic, and especially biodynamic winemaking is growing fast. There is a huge growing interest in the philosophy of the antroposofen Rudolf Steiner.

Some figures on New Zealand.
The capital is Wellington were the government is seated, but 2/3 of the population lives in the Northern city of Auckland. Australia is 1600 km. to the west and separates New Zealand by the Tasman Sea. Amsterdam is 12.000 km away. The county is as big as Japan or Great Britain and measures 1500 km. long. It holds several islands the biggest 2 are the northern and southern islands. It is surrounded by two oceans, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific and they are the key influence on the climate.
It is a glorious, unspoilt landscape – clean & green with no nuclear power stations. NZ relies on renewable energy sources for 70% of its power with a goal of 90% by 2025. There is no polluting landmass nearby. The population of Human is 4 million, and 39 million sheeps!

Map New Zealand

There is a climate variation. Most of New Zealand has a cool or moderate maritime climate – furthest point inland is just 130 km. to the sea so the influence of water bodies is very high. The average temperature is higher on north island. But overall cooler then same (Mediterranean) latitude on Northern hemisphere. Hawke’s Bay for instance it pretty similar as Bordeaux in terms of climate.

The Southern Alps provide a rain barrier coming from Australia. But in far north Auckland it is a warm maritime climate with hot humid summers and moderate, wet winters (rarely below 10ºC.). In Central Otago, the heart of the southern island, the foothills of Southern Alps provides a cool to moderate continental climate with very hot summers, early autumns and very cold winters. Perfect for their amazing pinot noir wines. Vineyards are here at high altitudes.
Irrigations is by drip and sprinklers. In Gisborne, the most eastern vineyards in the world has no irrigations, and 70 % of Marlborough, the biggest wine region, is irrigated, despite the frequent rainfall.
New Zealand has long sunshine hours (average 2,200 annually). The Ozone layer is very thin in this corner of the earth, but were global warming has very little impact on the fruitproduction. The cooling sea breezes are always present and the cool nights combined with the long ripening period develops a great acidity retaining and fruit balance in the wines. The wine regions have a span latitude of 34 and 47º SH. The total plantation in 2013 is only 35.733 ha. Bordeaux for example has 117.500 ha. New Zealand accounts 1% of the total world wine production, but has very good reputation and is very well exposed throughout Europe and the Netherland.
There are 698 wineries in 2013 and 833 grapegrowers in total. Half of them are hobby farmers, and a 100 exports. The average yield is 9,7 tonnes/ha. The Kiwi’s consume 21,1 litres per capita annualy.

As a new world wine country New Zealand has a very huge vintage variations. In 2013 Hawke’s Bay experienced the best year they ever had. 2011 was difficult and 2012 was very wet and little cooler, so fresher style wine. The vintage of 2014 in Marlborough is the biggest ever so an intense crop thinning (green harvest) is just done by 50%. Picking in New Zealand varies from March April or even May in 2014.

Sauvignon blanc is the most planted variety, 68% of the New Zealand production of wine in 2013. (83% of the export). Marlborough on the southern island is the biggest source (17.829 ha.). Long, cool growing seasons promote stronger, more vibrant fruit flavours and higher acidity levels. The resulting wines are more pungent, and crispier, with passion fruit and other tropical fruit flavour, red pepper (capsicum) and gooseberry characters. 2nd is Hawke’s Bay (1.004 ha.) with it warmer, milder growing conditions giving richer styles, with melon, nectarine and other stone fruit flavours.


Babich winery in Henderson Valley, Auckland

Chardonnay 9% (Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay & Marlborough).
Pinot Noir 9% (Wairarapa, Marlborough & Central Otago)
Pinot Gris 5% (Hawke’s Bay & Nelson),
Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon blends 4% (Hawke’s Bay & Auckland),
Riesling 1% (Marlborough & Waipara)
Syrah 0,6% but rising quickly (Auckland & Hawke’s Bay)
Other varieties as gewürztraminer, sémillon, cabernet franc, malbec, muscats, müller-Thurgau, pinotage, chenin blanc, reichensteiner and even arneis, vermentino and albariño are planted. These fresher crispier and more aromatic varieties are very well suited for New Zealand and are matching the cuisine trend in more fresher dishes as well.

Babich Family Wines.
The first visit is at Babich in Henderson valley, just a 10 minutes car drive from Auckland, were the headquarter is situated. Babich is an old winery started founded in 1916 by the Croatian immigrant Josip Babich. Today Peter, Joe and David Babich are leading this excellent experienced winery with a total of almost 350 ha. vineyards in Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland. 75% of the production is exported to the main counties of Australia, USA and China. The Dutch importer is Jos Reinaards.

I had a very interesting conversation on the future of Marlborough’s sauvignon blanc with is distinct flavour profile. Philip Babich worries about the future. Will it stay on such high demand? He is afraid of the same situation as occurred on the oaked chardonnays of Australia in the 90s, as the market suddenly disliked over-oaked chardonnay and changed to reductive, fruity chardonnay with higher acidity. I personally believe that New Zealand can switch easily to a riper style of sauvignon even with a profile as the white Bordeaux with some lee and oak treatment.

David Babich, Edwin Raben & John Lang

David Babich, Edwin Raben & John Lang

The highlights of the tasting
Black Label Sauvignon blanc, Marlborough 2013
Estate owned restaurant label. Pineapple, apple, bit creamy, toasty on palate, dry with a refreshing acidity with a medium intensity flavour. Fruit driven, tropical with nice oak wood, From Waihopai Valley, well integrated oak use. Stylish, very light barrel treatment, bit of lee stirring. In Australia Huge success. Points:15/20.

Syrah Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Winemakers Reserve 2011
Fruity, black cherry and pepper on the nose with very refined acidity and ripe but present tannins. Very pure and ripe syrah with elegance. Points: 16/20.

The Patriarch, Hawke’s Bay Gimblett Gravel 2010
Blend made in honour of the founder Josep Babich. Cabernet sauvignon, Merlot with a little Malbec. The nose is lovely fresh black fruit, very cabernet: cassis, brambles and vanilla. A lot of fruit for a 4 years old wine. On the palate also black fruit, brambles, cassis, tobacco and vanilla with savoury notes, and nice acidity, very well balanced wine, still elegant, great wine, well integrated silky tannins, refreshing acidity, fruit driven but well integrated oak. Well done. 17/20
The wine was heavily crop thinned, intense punching down, post fermenting treatment of 1 week in tank on cold ice, keeping it reductive.


Dinner in Auckland
In the evening I had a great dinner in S’Oul Bar & Brasserie at Auckland Harbour together with SabinaFehrmann (Business Development Manager in Hamburg, Germany).
I tasted the great flavourful oysters on ice “Southern Glory” from the south of the southern island. With a glass of sauvignon blanc 2012, Brancott Reserve Marlborough. Classic open and pungent typical Marlborough. Crispy and fresh acidity with grass and gooseberry flavours. 16/20.


With the pan seared fish i tried the Chardonnay Kumeu River 2012. A great wine made in the Burundian style. Very nice texture, toasty, hazelnut, peachy flavour, very nice acidity and a great craftsmanship showing on the oak use. The finish is complex with a great length. Outstanding wine. 18/20. It was a great dinner at one of the best restaurants of Auckland.

Tomorrow an early flight to Napier, the heart of the Hawke’s Bay region.

Edwin Raben visits New Zealand


Edwin Raben will visit very soon the major wine regions of New Zealand and also the 10th Pinot Noir Festival in Central Otago, in the inlands of the south Island.

He will arrive Friday the 24th in Auckland where he will meet the people behind the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and as well the New Zealand Wine.

Furthermore a visit is arranged to Hawke’s Bay near Napier, Marlborough, Canterbury and Central Otago. His trip will end on Saturday the 1st of February. Yeah it is a short one…

Edwin will report on a daily basis his opinion and remarks about the fascinating wines, winemakers and nature of New Zealand. A trip full of Wine, Food and Travel.

Please check the webpage as of next week or his Facebook page: Edwin Raben or Edwines.

Viña Vik. De ontdekking van terroir.

Terroir is een veel gehoord begrip als het gaat over de beoordeling van wijn. “De wijn heeft terroir”, hoor je regelmatig zeggen. Maar wat is dat eigenlijk precies? Er zijn nogal uiteenlopende verklaringen van de term ‘terroir’. Sommigen zeggen dat het ‘bodem’ betekent, anderen ‘klimaat’, ‘meso-’ of ‘microklimaat’ en weer anderen bedoelen er het druivenras mee, waar de wijn van is gemaakt in combinatie met de bodemsoort.

Zelf leg ik de term ‘terroir’ uit met het begrip “oorsprong”. Met oorsprong bedoel ik letterlijk waar de wijn vandaan komt. Het begrip omvat alle omstandigheden van een bepaalde plek die van invloed zijn op de smaak van de wijn. Hellingspercentage, bodemsamenstelling, ondergrond, afwateringscapaciteit, de aanwezigheid van watermassa’s, wind, klimaat en ook bergketens. Zelfs flora en fauna horen hierbij. Denk aan de aanwezigheid van eucalyptusbomen welke in sommige wijnen te herkennen is als een mintachtige toets. Dat alles is voor mij terroir, een begrip waar alle omstandigheden onder vallen die te identificeren zijn in een wijn. Ze zijn herkenbaar, aanwijsbaar en bovenal uniek.

Terroir in de nieuwe wereld?

Het duidelijk herkennen van herkomst in verschillende wijnen werd mij laatst weer prachtig duidelijk tijdens een studiereis.

Ik was in Chili. Nou had ik nooit echt het idee dat er werkelijk terroirwijnen gemaakt worden in wijnlanden in de ‘nieuwe wereld’ omdat hier vaak technische wijnen worden gemaakt buiten de individueel werkende topproducenten om. Dit zijn wel mooie stijlen wijn, maar ze hebben geen echt aanwijsbare overeenkomsten. Het is dan frappant, dat na een aantal dagen veel, heel veel wijnen proeven er een herkenbaarheid in sommige wijnen te ontdekken valt.

In dit werkelijk schitterende Chili zijn bijvoorbeeld de witte wijnen uit Aconcagua Costa te herkennen aan een zeer frisse, tuinkruidenachtige neus en zilte toets op het palet. Zo is bijvoorbeeld ook de zeer herkenbare toets van het eerder omschreven mint subtiel aanwezig in wijnen van de cabernet sauvignon-druif uit Alto Maipo ten zuidoosten van Santiago op de uitlopers van de Andes. De herkenning is zelfs zo duidelijk dat je wijnen er blind uithaalt en direct kunt relateren aan Alto Maipo.

Viña Vik

Een ander fenomeen doet zich voor in Millahue in Cachapoal Valley. Waar aan de zuidkant van de heuvel Orelio Montes en Casa Lapostolle verbluffende wijnen produceren, voltrekt zich in Apalta in Colhagua Valley aan de noordkant een wonder. De zeer vermogende Noor Alexander Vik heeft met het aankopen van grote stukken grond een start gemaakt met het creëren van hetgeen een buitengewone Zuid-Amerikaanse Grand Cru moet worden. Alles wordt op alles gezet om dit te verwezenlijken. Patrick Valette (ex Neyén en Château Pavie in Saint-Emilion) en Gonzague de Lambert (ex Château de Sales in Pomerol) zijn aangetrokken om dit project vorm te geven. Eerst zijn beetje voor beetje de gaarden aangeplant met hoge dichtheid met diverse rassen, waarbij de cabernet suavignon een hoofdrol heeft. Daarbij wordt alle geënt op Amerikaanse onderstammen, omdat men hier vindt dat dit het mooiste fruit geeft. Dat is echter zeer ongewoon in Chili. Hier staat namelijk bijna alles direct in de bodem. Phylloxera, een zeer gevreesde en schadelijke druifluis die in de negentiende eeuw die door de mens werd meegenomen uit Noord-Amerika, heeft dit geïsoleerde wijnland immers nooit bereikt. Om deze druifluis te bestrijden, moesten de boeren in Europa namelijk hun druiven op inferieure, maar wel resistente stokken uit Amerika enten.

De plaats van God

De windstromen die hier in Millahue (dal van God) door de heuvel waaien, zijn uniek. Dat is de bodem, die volledig en zorgvuldig in kaart is gebracht om het planten te bepalen, ook. Bijzonder is de ondergeschikte rol voor de carmenère-druif, die elders de eerste viool speelt.

De eerste oogst in 2009 van Viña Vik is een juweel van een wijn die sinds december 2012 in mijn assortiment opgenomen is. Viña Vik is wellicht het best bewaarde geheim en de volgende terroir-impressie van Chili. Klik hier voor Viña Vik in de winkel.