Marlborough Man meets Goats

Welcome along to my Down Under wine blog! I’m now in Marlborough in the north of the south island of NZ. Arrived in Christchurch yesterday to rain and grey skies, nicely replaced today by clear blue and sunshine. After driving in Dubai the hire car I’ve got looks like a piggy-bank on wheels but it got me here.

Marlborough is the real engine room of NZ wine, it’s the source of those remarkable, lively, piercing Sauvignons that have so changed the face of white wine the world over in the last couple of decades, and produces over 60% of the total NZ harvest. It’s great to be back amongst the vines and the people and characters that make wine so interesting.

Morning was a meeting with baby-faced Delegat’s winemaker Ryan Wabels – he looks after all their Marlborough production and makes the hugely popular Oyster Bay range of wines. It’s a big job, a big vineyard area and an impressive modern winery that he showed me around. Consistency is the key to Oyster Bay and they have vineyards dotted all around the region to provide a great selection of fruit styles for the final blend. Ryan told me that the 2011 vintage looks very promising, particularly for Sauvignon.

Not a mixed bunch! This is 'veraison' where the ripening red grapes change colour over the course of a week or so

Saint Clair winery set me my afternoon challenge of tasting an impressive line up of 20 wines. Tough work I know…. Anyway I’m happy to report a very good tasting. Saint Clair are a family owned estate focusing mainly on Savvy and Pinot Noir but also making good lesser varieties such as Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. Their wines are available in Abu Dhabi already and on the strength of today may well be available in Dubai very shortly.

Lastly I’m staying with the delightful Tiller family of Isabel Estate, a real family operation here, all 4 sons and daughters now fully involved and hands-on. Isabel are now fully organic certified and have been practicing (the now trendy) sustainable viticultural methods for years  – they are a much more hand-crafted winery than most here and really striving to increase quality with every vintage. A glass of their Riesling in the garden by the cellar door went down a treat. They’ve put me up with a herd of goats in the vineyards so could be a noisy night.

My Wine of the Day (so far. It’s only 6pm!)…… is Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010  – really good flavour and depth but very easy to drink.

Q – Do you remember your first taste of NZ Sauv Blanc ??


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