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The Marlborough Wine Weekend 2013

By November 1, 2013No Comments
This year’s Marlborough Wine Weekend was a much smaller affair than the previous held two years ago. The decision for Marlborough Winegrowers to downsize it had an excellent outcome, as it afforded the attendees a much more personal and interactive experience. Targeting the hospitality and wine industry professionals and serious wine enthusiast, the weekend is designed to give them an in-depth look at the Marlborough wine scene and to highlight the latest developments. The cost was a not-insubstantial $900.00 excluding GST, so only those who deemed it important would be there, and the onus was on the Marlborough industry to deliver.

I’m not sure what the actual numbers of attendees were, but this year, they could fit in one bus, rather than the half dozen or so in 2011. The programme was simplified considerably to enable people a more leisurely pace and some time for them to attend to work or personal matters – but not quite enough to get totally distracted from the theme of the weekend. One noticeable and significant difference was the reduced number of wines to taste. Instead of hundreds to wade through, there was a much tighter selection. Wine geeks may have been a bit disappointed, but then, can someone really make a full and proper assessment of a wine on the trot and in the field (quite literally)?

The benefit of the smaller representation of Marlborough’s wineries is that attendees would not be over-loaded with too many wines, fatiguing the mind as well as the palate. I found the mass tastings of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in the 2011 event just far too much to get around and do justice to the wines. One needed to be selective, and in such situations, some of the wineries will miss out. The negative aspect with the smaller number of wineries involved and showing their wines is that some of the best or most interesting will not be available, and that what you saw and tasted may not be fully representative of the region.

The total event was indeed a relaxed affair. My impression is that most off the attendees enjoyed it that way, though some of the representatives of the wineries involved wondered if there should have been a little more formality or glitter built into the programme. The main question asked was: Should there have been a gala-style dinner as the finale to the weekend? I certainly didn’t feel the need for it, but if it was a feature of the programme, I would have enjoyed it! Whatever the format, I can say that much thought and organisation goes into the event, and I strongly recommend you to attend the Marlborough Wine Weekend if you have the opportunity. The next one is in 2015. www.wine-marlborough.co.nz

Change of drivers – Astrid (Shed 5) taking over from Kevin (Greywacke)

The 2013 Programme
The first day, the Friday featured two ‘technical’ seminars, the first on Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle wines, the second on Chardonnay as a varietal in the regional. These were in reality structured tastings with a panel-led discussion. 8 or 9 wines were tasted at the seminars. (A little more detail on these follow.) The culinary events which highlighted local produce and specialities – shared platters for lunch – and a dinner at one of three winery restaurants – were received very favourably. Here, a limited selection of wines were put on the table for self-service, or made available during the course of the meal.

The second day, Saturday, saw the attendees split into two streams, each to set off and explore the Wairau and Southern Valleys, followed by the Awatere Valley or vice versa. Attendees were transported in 4WD vehicles driven by a local winemaker or industry person of note. The locations visited were the Giesen ‘Wallace Vineyard’, Auntsfield, the ‘Yarrum Vineyard’, Spy Valley, Ara, Villa Maria’s ‘Seddon Vineyard’ and Yealands Estate Lookout Point. At each venue, a group of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines representing the sub-region was available for tasting. For most, this was the highlight of the weekend, spending time one-on-one with a very knowledgeable guide, and seeing first-hand the factors responsible for the quality and style of Marlborough’s (and indeed New Zealand’s) most important varieties. As with the first day, the lunch and evening meal were executed superbly.

Villa Maria’s ‘SeddonvineyardPinot Noir on the lower terrace

Technical Seminar – The Marlborough Methode Discovery
At this seminar, the formation of the new ‘Methode Marlborough’ society was introduced. The group was set up at the start of September to communicate the quality and story of methode traditionnelle wines from the Marlborough region. To be a member, the winery must have wines which are 100% grown and made in Marlborough, employ the traditional method of production, use only the three traditional varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, and age the wines for a minimum of 18 months on lees. The 11 founding members are Allan Scott, Brancott Estate, Cloudy Bay Vineyards, Hunter’s Wines, Johanneshof Cellars. Lion (Daniel Le Brun), Nautilus Estate, No. 1 Family Estate, Spy Valley, Summerhouse and Tohu Wines. www.methodemarlborough.com

Nine wines were tasted in a formal setting, with discussion on various aspects from Daniel Le Brun, Cameron Douglas MS, Liz Wheadon and Tom Stevenson. Here are my summarised impressions of the wines. I should point out there was considerable variation on the preferences of styles and wines among the panel and tasters. I find this category of wine one of the most difficult to understand:

Nautilus Estate ‘Cuvee Marlborough’ Brut NV: A very tightly concentrated and refined wine with Pinot Noir expression with superb autolytic complexities. Not the biggest, but with great style. 19.0/20

Daniel Le Brun NV: Tight, fresh and beautifully elegant with crisp acidity, and nutty autolysis, showing the 70% Chardonnay. 18.0/20

Cloudy Bay ‘Pelorus’ Vintage 2008: A very soft and finely textured wine, with creaminess and layers of toastiness and growing autolytic nuance. This has great linearity. 18.5+/20

No. 1 Family Estate ‘Cuvee Remy’ 2007: A powerful and multi-dimensional wine with huge expression of Pinot Noir and yeast-extract autolysis. Layers of reduction and flinty complexities and a full array of flavours. 19.0+/20

No. 1 Family Estate ‘No. 1 Cuvee’ NV: Wonderfully soft and voluminous with harmoniously interwoven fruit, florals and bready yeast, and complexing aldehyde elements. The best ‘No. 1 Cuvee’ I have seen to date. 100% Chardonnay. 18.0+/20

Daniel Le Brun ‘Blanc de Blancs’ 2009: Extremely elegant and quite slender, but with great delicacy, finesse and detail. Steely florals and citrus fruit lift, balancing phenolics and sweetness. 18.5/20

Brancott Estate ‘Terroir Series’ ‘Blanc de Blanc 2008: Very subtle and restrained with purity and the most delicate autolysis, along with funky slightly herbaceous elements. I found this hard to understand. Others loved it! 17.5+/20

Cloudy Bay Vineyards ‘Pelorus’ Rosé NV: Bright and pretty pink, with lovely perfumes and aromatics, background autolysis, smooth and seamless flow that grows in depth. 18.5-/20

Deutz ‘Marlborough Cuvee’ Rosé 2008: Eye of the partridge colour, beautifully subtle and a wine of immense delicacy with soft strawberry nuances and gorgeous textures. 18.5+/20

Marlborough Methode Discovery Tasting
Technical Seminar – The Marlborough Chardonnay Renaissance
I was involved in the selection process for the wines used in this seminar in September. It was a pleasure to participate as a discussion panel member, ostensibly to explain how the choices were made. The other panel members were Marcel Giesen, Belinda Jackson and Jeremy McKenzie. In selecting the wines, the aims were to have wines of high quality showing Marlborough character, with a divergent range of styles, and some with bottle age to prove their longevity. This discussion and question period was very spirited and focussed on the stylistic expression, especially that of complex sulphides and reduction . Following are the wines served and my comments on their style. (My original tasting notes from the selection process in September can be seen by clicking here.)

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2006: Solid and powerful with savoury secondary characters, lovely barrel-ferment creaminess and toastiness, now fully mature with a touch of drying. 18.5-/20

Villa Maria ‘Single Vineyard – Taylors Pass’ Chardonnay 2007: Very elegant in proportion with citrus and stonefruits intermixed with complex flinty notes, the acidity a feature, quite European in character. 18.5+/20

Spy Vally ‘Envoy’ Chardonnay 2009: Rich, full, broad and soft, but with a great core of dense fruit. Layers of complexity, nutty, toast and savoury fruit with distinctive oak spicing. A big softie. 19.0-/20

Auntsfield ‘Cob Cottage’ Chardonnay 2010: Still very fresh with finesse and succulently sweet fruit at the core, matched by individual sweet oaking. Subtle nutty, flinty detail emerges. 18.5+/20

Dog Point Chardonnay 2011: A caricature of the complex sulphide and reduction expression. Amazingly concentrated with the gunflint, but equally matched (matchsticked, if you excuse the pun) by sweet and rich stonefruit flavours. Complexity and power plus. 19.5/20

Marisco ‘The King’s Bastard’ Chardonnay 2011: A pure and fruit-focussed style, showing ripe and sweet citrus and pineapple flavours. Lighter and more straightforward, but extremely attractive. Appears unoaked in the company around it. 18.0+/20

Giesen ‘The Fuder’ Chardonnay 2011: Marked by distinctive sulphide reduction and flintiness, but very stylish, subtle and elegant, and allowing the stonefruit and citrus fruit to prevail. Beautifully refined acidity and mouthfeel. 19.5+/20

Nautilus Chardonnay 2012: Elegance, freshness and finesse, with fine fruit focus and perfect complexity levels. The harmony and delicacy are the highlights here. Again, easy to overlook in this company, but very positive in interest and nuances. 18.5+/20 

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