I’m beginning to get to know my way around Marlborough now. It’s a region with an incredible story, springing up from nowhere in the 1970s to its current position as New Zealand’s number one wine region.
For many, the Marlborough story is still all about Sauvignon Blanc, but as I was to find on my short visit, there’s a lot more going on here.
So, one day, four visits. Lawson’s Dry Hills was the first, Barbara Lawson and winemaker Marcus Wright. Some lovely wines, including a mini-vertical of Sauvignon Blanc. 2012 is laser sharp and precise, 2010 is evolving in a nice direction with nice texture, and 2006 is quite delicious, with fresh green apple and pear flavours. Generally, you aim for the youngest Marlborough Sauvignon, but these wines seem to age surprisingly well.
The 2012 Riesling is worth looking out for: precise, taut and with just a tiny hint of sweetness. 2010 Gewurztraminer is aromatic and richly textured, and shows lovely balance. The stand-out, though, was The Pioneer Pinot Gris 2011, which is one of the best examples of this grape I’ve tried from New Zealand: concentrated, textured and with some savoury depth.
Next up, Villa Maria with winemaker George Gheris. Villa is a big company with a boutique feel to it. Their wines are consistently good, readily available in the market place, and offer great value. And when they hit the highs, they are as good as anything out there. My favourites? The Taylor’s Pass Chardonnay 2007 is an intense expression of the grape, with some distance to go. The Private Bin Pinot Noir 2011 is a joyful, fruit driven Pinot with lovely perfume. Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010 has a bit more complexity, continuing with the theme of pure direct fruit, and the Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 is supple and silky. These three wines are all worth looking out for.
The next visit, Nautilus, was fun. I was with Katy Prescott and Clive Jones, and we had a look round some vineyards before tasting through a pretty stylish range. I enjoyed the Cuvee Marlborough Brut NV, a Pinot-dominant fizz that spends 3 years on its lees, and balances elegance and richness very well. Chardonnay and Sauvignon are very good here, but my favourite was the 2010 Pinot Noir, reassuringly pale in colour and with lovely texture and elegance.
Finally, I rocked up at Fromm, where I was hosted by Will Hoare and winemaker Hatsch Kalberer. Fromm are quite simply remarkable, and you should buy anything of theirs you can get your hands on. The real highlights were the Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. The Brancott Valley Pinot Noir is layered, complex and thrilling. The two top Pinots, Clayvin Vineyard and Fromm Vineyard, are also stunning in the 2010 vintage, the former a bit richer, the latter more nervy and fresher. The Fromm Vineyard Syrah 2009 is one of the finest expressions of this variety I’ve had from anywhere.