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General Blog

Appellation Marlborough Wine Launched

One of this country’s most important wine initiatives was launched this week: Appellation Marlborough Wine (AMW). This brand has been introduced and trademark registered to protect the reputation of Marlborough wine, and an Incorporated Society has been established, inviting producers to become licensed members. The primary aim of the initiative is to protect the integrity, authenticity and brand value of wines produced in Marlborough.

This initiative is initially focussed on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, as it has long been recognised that there is more wine sold as ‘Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’ than is actually produced. This problem has been affecting the reputation not only of Sauvignon Blanc and Marlborough, but arguably all varieties of wines produced in New Zealand. As the most prolific and important wine variety produced from this country’s largest growing region, there have been no standards to be met in any way on a global context. So for example, bulk Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough can be shipped, blended and bottled with any other variety from any country out of the region of Marlborough. This particular practice is already well-known, and there is a growing resistance to accepting this situation which degrades the name ‘Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’.

Criteria Nominated and to be Established
The certification criteria for wines bearing the AMW brand under the licence agreement must be made from grapes 100% grown in Marlborough and bottled in New Zealand. The grapes must 100% be from vineyards that are part of a recognised sustainable viticultural programme. The grapes must be grown at an appropriate cropping level with the prime objective of enhancing quality and the Marlborough name. If the grapes used to produce the certified wine do not comply with the cropping level, then it can be tasted by a panel for acceptance.

Clearly, the Appellation Marlborough Wine initiative is in its foundation stages. There is a lot of work to be done in setting the actual standards, especially with regards cropping. There are some basic requirements already in place, such as the sustainable viticultural programmes, and the definition of the Marlborough region, as set by GI registration. I’ve been told that AMW is designed to be ‘inclusive’, and there are 36 members already committed to it. A future step is for the framework to encompass other varieties and styles.

There are already other groups who have taken steps to protect the integrity and promote the quality of their wines, such as Waiheke Island and the Gimblett Gravels. For the Appellation Marlborough Wine to achieve its goals, it will require a great deal of work, and the encouragement and support of the other producers, especially the larger ones, in the region. It is an important aspect that it will be the wines that earn the AMW brand, and not the companies per se, so a large producer making wines from around the country (and even overseas) will still possibly have many wines entitled to AMW.

There is already material produced with the brand specification (to date) and intellectual property that may be used on labels, cartons and with advertising and promotional material.

The committee working on Appellation Wine Marlborough is Ivan Sutherland (chairman), John Forrest (vice chairman), John Buchanan (secretary/treasurer), james Healy, Fiona Turner, Clive Jones and Yang Shen. The group has financial support from Wineworks Marlborough Ltd and the Cresswell-Jackson N.Z. Wine Trust.

I can only fully support this initiative, and trust it achieves its aims, as well as inspiring other wine producing regions in this country to consider how they can protect their image, branding and ultimately, quality.


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