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Visiting New Zealand's wine regions 
Part 4: Tasting at Montana

Patrick Materman (above), Marlborough winemaker, hosted my tasting. After a bit of a false start – he studied horticulture with a view to growing flowers for a job - Patrick has been with Montana for 18 years, spending 4 years in Auckland and the last 14 based in Marlborough.

About 70% of what goes through the Marlborough winery is Sauvignon Blanc: this year (2008 vintage) 30 000 tons will be processed, of which some 20 000 will be Sauvignon. Method Champenoise is a big part of the business, and for Deutz 1300/1400 tons of fruit are hand picked in mid-February. The last fruit to come into the winery (the Bordeaux-style reds, or in some years a late harvest Riesling) is in the first week of May most years.  

The centrifuge used to treat juice prior to fermentation

In the early days the trend for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was to make it with a nettly, grassy nose with lots of methoxypyrazine. Then things went the other way, and winemakers opted for a riper style, with sweaty passion fruit. The trend now is to mover away from super-ripe to go for wines with a herbal element (blackcurrant) and high thiol (volatile sulphur-containing compounds that are an important part of the varietal typicity of Sauvignon Blanc) character – these are the wines that are winning the shows. Montana tend to start ferments relatively warm, let them run for 2–3 days to build yeast numbers, and then cool to 12–13 degrees Centigrade for the remaining time. This gives a big thiol lift. Materman says that they look at copper trials pre-bottling (copper removes any unwanted thiol notes – there are bad thiols as well as good ones), and use the lowest amount needed to clean the wine up, if any. In vineyard areas with young stony soils they are looking to use fertigation to improve nitrogen levels, which helps ensure a healthy fermentation. Yeast strains are chosen with the required flavours in mind.

Interesting fact: Montana is one of the world’s leading Pinot Noir producers in volume terms, crushing some 3000 tons annually.

The wines:

First, a couple of fizzes.

Montana Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuvée NV
Tight, bright, lemony fresh nose. The palate is tasty and fresh with good acidity and some lemony fruit. Focused and pure but with nice toastiness – a really nice wine. 88/100

Deutz Blanc de Blancs 2002 Marlborough
Just 2300 cases made of this, compared with 50 000 for Deutz. Fresh nose has a subtle herby edge to it. Quite elegant: focused and pure with a bit of toastiness. The palate is crisp, broad and fruity with some nice toastiness, subtle herbiness and good acidity. Complex and full. 90/100

Then the new series of ‘terroir’ Sauvignon Blancs, made in quantities of 1000 cases each designed to show the regional differences within Marlborough. The differences aren’t huge, but they are there: I reckon you need to be quite a keen follower of Sauvignon Blanc to be able to spot them in a blind tasting.

Montana Conders Forest Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Rapaura, Marlborough
The ripest of the three. Rich, ripe fruity style with a rounded palate that shows fresh, slightly tropical herb-tinged fruit. Some sweetness here and nice presence. 88/100

Montana Festival Block Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Brancott, Marlborough
This has more palate weight and will age best. Bright, rounded, slightly herby fruit here. Nicely savoury with good acid and some sweetness on the finish. 87/100

Montana Railbridge Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Awatare, Marlborough
Herb-tinged tomato leaf character here: it’s fresher and slightly greener, with some methoxypyrazine character. Nicely savoury and tasty. 89/100

Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough
400 000 cases. From young soils in a warmer part of the valley. Very attractive aromatics of ripe tropical notes together with some flintiness. The palate has a bit of sweetness as well as the riper, warmer fruit, finishing with some precise acidity. A lovely wine. 87/100

Montana Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough
Fresh, bright green herby edge to the nose. The palate has a generous fruity quality with a bit of herbal interest. Quite a rich, mouthfilling style.

Montana Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough
Best part of 1 million cases annually. A Marlborough classic. Winemaker Patrick Materman thinks it’s a better wine now than it used to be, despite the volume, because of improved viticulture and winery know-how. A lot of this is because of the juice quality, centrifuging the juice and managing the ferments better. It has bright green grassy aromatics with some warmth, too. The palate is rounded but fresh with good acidity and a bit of chalkiness. Lovely. 86/100

Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough
Intense aromagtics: bright and a bit herby, with some richness. Very ripe, bold and full on the palate with intense fruit. A striking style, but if I’m fussy it’s a little cloying. 87/100

Montana Brancott Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough
Fresh, focused green herby nose is refined and expressive, with some restraint. The palate has a lovely mouthfeel: it is rich and focused with nice balance and minerality. 92/100

Montana Pinot Grigio 2007 North Island
Rounded, slightly confected fruity nose. Soft, bright, dry fruity palate shows clean, pure fruit with a hint of grapiness. 83/100

Montana Pinot Grigio Reserve 2007 Hawkes Bay
Rounded and smooth with nice pure fruit and some grapiness. Nice concentration and softness of texture, but it’s quite dry. 86/100

Stoneleigh Pinot Grigio 2007 Marlborough
Lovely aromatic complexity: this is very Alsatian. Grapey and a bit spicy. The dry palate has good concentration and nice smoothness of texture. Some minerality. 88/100

Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Pinot Gris 2007
Nice smooth aromatic nose. The palate is rich and smooth textured with nice richness and some complexity. Melon and lychee notes, too. 90/100

Montana Riesling 2006 South Island
From Marlborough and Waipara regions. Big, limey, herby nose with really intense aromatics. The palate is warm and brightly fruited with some sweetness. It’s just off-dry. Very rich and citrussy. 88/100

Montana Reserve Riesling 2006 Waipara
Tight herb, lime and floral nose is quite refined. The palate is expressive with nice texture and some delicious spiciness. Dry but richly textured. Lovely. 90/100

Stoneleigh Riesling 2007 Marlborough
Taut, fruity limey mineralic nose. Palate is rounded and fruity with nice acidity. Bit of herbal character, too. 84/100

Camshorn Dry Riesling Salix Clays 2006 Waipara
Fresh, precise and limey but still fruity and not austere. Nice balance: mineral and fresh. 89/100

Montana Unoaked Chardonnay 2007 Gisborne
Rounded, fresh and a bit nutty with a touch of herb and straw character to the ripe fruit. Nice. 86/100

Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Chardonnay 2007 Marlborough
Lovely warm, smooth nutty nose is a bit buttery. Very inviting. Lovely broad, smooth palate with rounded nutty flavours. Mealy and delicious. 91/100

Montana South Island Pinot Noir 2006
This even has a bit of Central Otago fruit in it, as well as some from Waipara. The bulk is from Marlborough. Lovely fresh, herby nose is bright and berryish. Juicy, fresh palate has lovely bright character. Cherryish and delicious. 88/100

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough
Lovely smooth nose has rich berry fruit. The palate shows focused berry fruits with a primary quality and good acidity. Very smooth. 89/100

Montana Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough
There’s some spicy structure here to this fresh, bright Pinot, which has some dark cherry fruit, herbs and spice. Quite a fresh style.


Montana Forgotten Valley Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough
From an unirrigated vineyard next door to the Brancott Estate. Smooth, ripe dark fruits nose is ripe and quite precise. Elegant red fruit purity. Really smooth palate with pure elegant red fruits and nice intensity. Lovely stuff. 92/100

Montana Corbett’s Legacy Pinot Noir 2006 Waipara  
Bit of spicy, earthy presence to the meaty dark fruits nose. The palate has a nice spicy, earthy depth to it with good acidity. A really lovely complex, savoury wine. 93/100

Montana Gabriel’s Gully Pinot Noir 2006 Central Otago
Aromatic, smooth dark fruits nose. The palate shows lovely focus of sweet dark cherry fruit with a nice smoothness and elegance. A beautifully expressive wine. 93/100

Stoneleigh Rapaura Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough
Smooth elegant nose with supple dark cherry fruit. The palate is smooth and sweetly fruited with a subtle herby, spicy edge. Lovely presence and density here: nice fruit purity. 90/100

Montana Terraces Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough
Smooth, refined, elegant dark cherry nose. The palate has good focus with cherryish berry fruits and good acidity. There are also some tarry spicy notes. Very refined and polished. 91/100

Montana Terraces Pinot Noir 2003 Marlborough
First crop was 2002, so this is young vines. Some evolution, with nice earthy spiciness. Rich and smooth, but evolved, so drink soon. 89/100

Stoneleigh Merlot 2006 Marlborough
Fresh, juicy and quite bright with leafy blackcurrant fruit, as well as some herbiness. Soft sweet fruit – a commercial style, but still nice. 86/100

see also: New Zealand series part 3, Montana
(Tasted 11/07)

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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