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Grava Wines, Martinborough

By April 25, 2016No Comments

Karla Falloon & Alistair Gardner – Grava Wines

The Martinborough vignoble is going through a period of revitalisation with a third wave of winegrowers consolidating the work of the original pioneers and the following group of second winemakers. This is a very encouraging sign in an industry that faces the problems of succession, very much as our farming industry has experienced.

Alistair Gardner and Karla Falloon acquired the former Hudson Wine vineyard from Peter and Jude Hudson in November 2014 and produced their own wines under the ‘Grava’ label with the 2015 vintage. The white wines have been released and the Pinot Noir is yet to be put on the market. The labels are striking with a dark bunch of grapes on them, the berries made up of gravel stones.

Alistair is one of the young and enterprising winemakers who have recognised the unique terroir of the Martinborough region and committed with his business manager wife Karla Falloon to invest in land and make wine. Alistair is no stranger to wine, having worked vintage around New Zealand and regularly travelling to Spain for vintage since 2004. Working with Alex Craighead at Alana Estate in 2014, he came across the opportunity of his own venture with the Hudson site coming available.

Grava means Gravel
The name ‘Grava’ refers in Spanish to the gravel soils of the site, just over 8 km south of the Martinborough village on Lake Ferry Road. The soils, though stony, have a high water capacity, and the site is a little cooler than the vineyards of the Martinborough Terrace, with ripening about a week later. Alistair notes that he’d like to control the vigour a little more and his work in the vineyard for the 2016 vintage has been geared towards that. Leaf plucking has been a particular focus.

He and Karla are on the whole very satisfied with the vineyard and the vines. The Hudson Wines have had a good track record, and Alistair and Karla want to build on this strong foundation. There are 5.3 ha planted, with 2.0 ha to Pinot Noir, in clones 777, 115 and Abel. Approx. 1.7 ha of Sauvignon Blanc and 1.5 ha of Riesling make up the rest of the mix. The Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc were planted over 2003 and 2004, and the Riesling a year later. The annual yield is around 35 tonnes.

At present, Alistair and Karla are pleased to “see what the vineyard gives us” and then take it from there. The winemaking is totally conventional, and Alistair uses the Alana Estate facilities where he works. A small portion of the ‘Grava’ fruit goes to Alana Estate, and Shane and Poppy Hammond of ‘Poppies’ also access a small amount of Riesling For the 2015 vintage, the Grava Sauvignon Blanc was tank-fermented and aged 4 months on lees. The Riesling is medium-dry at 12 g/L RS, as is the Rosé, which sees barrel-fermentation. The Pinot Noir employs 25% whole cluster, which Alistair enjoys, but he eschews strong oaking, aging the wine 10 months in 10% new barrels. Ideally, he’d have more Abel clone. The wines retail at $24.00, $26.00, $26.00 and approx. $40.00 (to be confirmed) respectively. I’ll have the opportunity of looking at these wines more closely in the future.

It’s early days for Alistair and Karla at Grava, and they’re taking it sensibly and seriously. Although Alistair works closely with Alex Craighead at Alana Estate, he has no plans to delve into the natural-orange-skin contact wine category, which Alex has had real success with, though the wines interest him. If anything, his work in Spain has fired an idea to introduce Godello, Albarino and possibly Mencia into their Grava vineyard sometime in the future. Now that’s pretty exciting to me. www.grava.nz

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