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NZ Sauvignon Blanc past one dimensional label

Jul 21, 2017

The perception that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is “one dimensional” is rapidly diminishing, says the chief winemaker of Brancott Estate, as winemakers up their efforts to highlight sub regional difference and explore the effect of different winemaking techniques.

Patrick Materman, chief winemaker at Brancott Estate
Brancott Estate was the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough in 1973, with the estate then known as Montana. Of the total 36,192 hectares of vineyards planted in New Zealand, 24,020ha are in Marlborough, with 21,016 Sauvignon Blanc.

The variety has become emblematic of the region, with its distinct gooseberry and passionfruit aromas winning over consumers – a style that has proven commercially successful but drawn criticism of Marlborough for being “one dimensional.”

“It’s worth remembering as well that the Marlborough region has had less than 40 vintages and the global popularity of the varietal is relatively recent,” said Patrick Materman, chief winemaker at Brancott Estate.

“Also winemakers only get one vintage a year to experiment with, so it takes time to perfect and then release new expressions or new techniques.”

Developing and expressing Marlborough’s sub regional difference is the next step, says Materman, as part of the region’s efforts to premiumise and protect the reputation of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

“We recognise the need to showcase the diversity and expressiveness of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and we are seeing a lot more discussion about subregions, terroir and the impact of different winemaking techniques,” he said.

“This is being reflected in a changed perception of what Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc should taste like and we are seeing a greater recognition of different expressions of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at an industry level, and greater consumer interest in, for example, sub-regional, wild-fermented or oak-influenced Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.”

Brancott is currently working with Marlborough Wine Research Centre on a study to better understand the impact of terroir across its three sub regions.

The research has already identified three clear profiles across Marlborough’s three sub regions. Aromas of passionfruit were notable in wines from Rapaura; the Southern Valleys produced wines with a more herbal character with stone-fruit/citrus and gooseberry notes; while the profile of wines produced from the Awatere Valley had a distinct grapefruit nose and accentuated notes of tomato leaf.

“We are seeing growing interest in our Brancott Estate Terroir Series Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which delivers the signature savoury, herbal notes that the Awatere Valley is known for,” added Materman.

“So as more people understand that there is a particular profile from a particular sub region, and understand how winemaking techniques like oak infusion or wild fermentation make more approachable, food-friendly wines, they will start to seek out particular expressions for specific occasions. We are seeing this start to happen and we will continue to do our part to educate consumers on how the different locations or techniques impart particular flavour and aroma profiles.”

Looking ahead, the biggest challenge for Marlborough, says Materman, will be communicating this message of diversity and sub regional difference, while not “undermining the strong and successful identity that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has created for itself globally.”

“We still have to stand for something unique and special within the world of wine to maintain our success,” affirms Materman.

As for emerging grape varieties, Materman cites Sauvignon Gris, of which there is currently just 113 hectares in New Zealand, as a grape with growing potential, while building upon Marlborough’s reputation for Pinot Noir will also be a focus.

“I think Sauvignon Gris has great potential to open up new consumer interest for Marlborough,” he said. “It’s a richer, more textural wine with lovely stone fruit and citrus flavours. We have been seeing a growing awareness and enthusiasm for this varietal over the past few years, particularly in the UK, and we are looking forward to seeing that enthusiasm grow.”

“We are also focusing a lot more on our Pinot Noir programme. While Marlborough is mostly associated with Sauvignon Blanc, we planted the first Pinot Noir vines in Marlborough in 1975, at the same time that we planted Sauvignon Blanc. We are seeing a growing appreciation for Marlborough Pinot Noir and this is a varietal that we are definitely keen to explore more and see it reach its full potential globally.”


Source:  Drinks Business