Marlborough is New Zealand’s flagship wine region that, in combination with its expressive renditions of Sauvignon Blanc, has elevated the country to the international wine stage.
But as we’ve learned in recent years, Marlborough offers depth in both grape varieties and terroir.
Pioneers first planted the region in 1873, with further vineyards established gradually into the 1960s. Following a lull, grapes were planted again beginning in 1973, despite stiff opposition from local farming and forestry interests.
Today, viticulture is dominant, with nearly 50,000 acres of vines (approximately two-thirds of the national total) under the care of wine producers of all sizes.
Consistently ranking as one of New Zealand’s sunniest and driest regions, Marlborough’s Wairau Valley was referred to by the Maori as “Kei puta te Wairau” — “the place with the hole in the cloud” — reflecting the outstanding protection offered by the topography. The Wairau River bisects the valley west to east, with the Richmond Ranges to the north and medium-sized foothills to the south.
The combination of a cool yet high-sunshine climate, low rainfall and free-draining, moderately fertile soil produces uniquely vivid wines across a wide range of varieties and styles.
Alongside the increasing range of varieties, the diverse soils and meso-climates have revealed sub-regions — including Southern Valleys, Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley — and it is within these that Marlborough’s exciting future lies.
In the Southern Valleys area, soils and meso-climates vary, but tend to be heavier with more clay than seen in the Wairau Valley. It gets cooler and drier farther south into the valleys.
Old riverbed and riverbank soils, along with diverse aspect and rainfall, provide numerous meso-climates within the Wairau. Broadly, it covers cooler, drier inland sites; barren, stony, early-ripening sites; and sea-breeze moderated coastal sites. The soils are more gravelly to the north, closer to the riverbed.
The Awatere Valley is the most geographically distinct sub-region. Situated south of the Wairau Valley and stretching inland from the sea, it climbs toward the inland Kaikoura ranges. Cooler, drier, windier and often with a degree of elevation, the vineyard sites with typically lower yields produce bright, aromatic Pinot Noir and dramatic, distinctive Sauvignon Blanc.
If you’ve never had Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, you need to check out Vinesse’s latest Sauvignon Blanc Sampler. You can enjoy expressive Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and compare it different with bottlings from different countries. The whole collection is on sale through this week only.