New Zealand has emerged as the Sauvignon Blanc capital of the wine world, and among the best-known makers of the variety in that island nation is Oyster Bay.
Oyster Bay is part of a family company, completely New Zealand owned, and its stated vision is to become one of the world’s truly great super-premium wine producers. In that regard, it got off to a good start, as its very first vintage earned the coveted Marquis de Goulaine Trophy for “Best Sauvignon Blanc of the Competition” at the 1991 International Wine & Spirit Competition, held in London.
Oyster Bay takes its name from the body of water in Marlborough, on the tip of New Zealand’s majestic South Island. The winery’s reputation has been built from the fruit of vines grown in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, which has come to be recognized as one of the great winegrowing regions of the world.
Now gaining equal acclaim is Oyster Bay’s other Marlborough grape source, the Awatere Valley.
These two valleys provide Oyster Bay with the perfect microclimates for producing wines of great character—distinctive, assertive, cool-climate Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir that define the very essence of New Zealand viticulture.
And by being among the first to recognize the potential of the Marlborough region, Oyster Bay was able to secure many of the best vineyard locations—plots of land that benefit from the ideal mix of soil, sun exposure, etc.
While Marlborough was the birthplace of Oyster Bay, Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of the North Island, is now its second home. It was during the 1990s that work began there—in the Gimblett Gravels and Crownthorpe areas—to develop a Merlot that would set a New Zealand benchmark for the variety. The silty, sun-drenched alluvial plains have subsequently provided the fruit for some of New Zealand’s most elegant, intense, cool-climate Merlots.
The winemaking philosophy is to produce elegant and assertive wines with glorious fruit flavors, and that vision is embraced in every step of the farming process, from the painstaking way the vineyard locations were chosen through the picking and processing of the grapes.
Growing exceptional grapes is a key step in the process, and just as important is how the fruit is handled once it has been harvested. Oyster Bay’s Marlborough home is no conventional winery; it’s an architectural tribute to the region, built to capture the individual characteristics and complexities of each and every vineyard.
Incorporating the most advanced wine processing technology available, the winery features a distinctive curved and layered roof that reflects the nearby Richmond Ranges and enables Oyster Bay to naturally maintain a cool and consistent winemaking environment through the hot summer months.
The roof also protects the winery and surrounding vineyard area from run-off caused by heavy rain. All water used in the winery is retained, purified and recycled.
Beneath the same roof and enjoying the same energy-efficient environment, Oyster Bay’s “Barrel Hall” houses premium oak barrels sourced from sustainable forests in France and, California.
Leaving nothing to chance, French and Italian winemaking technology, including a Bucher Vaslin press gallery, is used throughout the facility. The centerpiece is a temperature-controlled cellar, six stories high, that was purpose-built to capture and retain the fresh, vibrant flavors of Oyster Bay’s cool-climate grapes.
The owners of Oyster Bay also are passionate about protecting New Zealand’s pristine natural environment, since it is that environment that ultimately delivers, and defines, the quality of the wines on the world stage. The pure glacial waters, clear sunlight and nutrient-rich soils that bring such abundant life and flavor to the wines are viewed as the winery’s most precious assets.
The commitment to preservation is reflected not only in Oyster Bay’s founding membership in the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (a comprehensive, integrated and internationally-accredited sustainable winegrowing program), but in every part of the winemaking process.
It’s a commitment that can be tasted in Oyster Bay’s acclaimed Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot, as well as in its Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.