While I’ve been in Marlborough, one of my goals has been to dig a bit deeper under the skin of this, New Zealand’s largest wine region, to find the interesting stories. One of my first stops was a visit with Takaki Okada, who’s making some lovely wines that are a bit different.
Takaki Okada purchased his 8.5 hectare Folium vineyard block in the Brancott subregion in 2011. It had originally been planted in 1996 and when he bought it, it was managed by Fromm. Like pretty much every vineyard in Marlborough, it had been irrigated throughout its life, but Takaki decided that he’d like to dry grow his vines. Previously, he’d worked at Clos Henri for eight years, and they’d done a trial block unirrigated; while the yields dropped, the vines survived. Takaki reckoned that with the soils in Brancott, which have a bit of clay, he’d stand a chance without irrigation, so he turned the water off. He wasn’t sure that it would increase the quality (although he hoped it might): the real motivation was that as a small producer in Marlborough, he needed to stand out, and this was one way of being different. The vineyards experienced a lot of stress for the first few years, and yields were heavily impacted. The vines cropped at 35-40 hl/ha (about 6 tons/hectare, in a region where 16 tons/hectare might be expected for Sauvignon). Only in 2016, with its very dry spring, has Takaki needed to turn his irrigation on, and that was just once.
Both the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are hand harvested, and everything is destemmed. Since 2014 he’s been experimenting with wild yeast fermentations for Sauvignon, but inoculating after the first 5-7 Brix have been fermented. The Pinot Noir is fermented in 3 ton open top fermenters with indigenous yeast, and it is pumped over for 2-3 minutes a day with no plunging, to get gentle extraction. There’s no cold soak but the grapes are picked in the early morning so fermentation takes a while to get going. The wine is pressed to French oak, 20-33% new. Until 2014 he used natural cork, but since then he’s used DIAM.
These are wines with character and personality.
Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2016 Marlborough, New Zealand
An extremely dry spring meant that Takaki had to irrigate once, for eight hours, in November. This is taut and focused with lovely pure citrus fruit. Quite delicate and fine with subtle herbal hints. Linear, delicate and fine. 92/100
Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Complex and almost exotic with lovely wax, herbs and crystalline citrus fruits. Lovely lemony detail here. Such finesse and interest. Has a bit of structure. 92/100
Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s some richness here. Lovely sweet mandarin and lemon with white peach richness. Opening out a bit, this is really pretty with ripeness and also good acidity. 93/100
Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fine with some wax and nuts as well as subtle hints of toffee covering the sweet pear and citrus fruit. Rounded with some richness, this is very stylish and distinctive. 92/100
Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
There is some richness here: nuts, a hint of green, some cabbage. Lovely density. Developing really nicely. The cool vintage has led to some greenness, but it integrates well. 90/100
Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
There’s some nut and toasty richness here with a hint of apple. It has some richness, with finesse and depth, and notes of citrus and spice. 92/100
Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand
Textural and fine with sweet, refined cherry and berry fruits and a seductive, smooth mouthfeel. There’s concentration and substance here, as well as brightness and finesse. 95/100
Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh and aromatic with sweet cherry fruit on the nose. Lovely silky cherry fruit on the palate with nice acidity. There’s a hint of meatiness and some savoury cedary notes. Substantial with a hint of undergrowth in the background. 93/100
Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2013 Marlborough, New Zealand
Real freshness and focus here with lovely sweet fruit. Supple, textured and fine with some floral characters. Nice finesse. Hints of spice and herbs under the cherry and plum fruit. 94/100
Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 Marlborough, New Zealand
Lovely cherry and plum fruit with a hint of sweet and sour. Linear and focused with nice brightness. Supple and drinkable. 91/100
Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 Marlborough, New Zealand
Warm, textural and fine with lovely rounded sweet cherry fruit. Smooth with a hint of pepper and ginger spiciness. Soft, smooth and harmonious with good structure. 94/100
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