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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Dutch importer of Staetelandt Vineyard is Okhuysen in Haarlem