In this edition:
- Festive Glamour: When the festive season throws you an occasion, you need to glam it up.
- Andrew McUtchen looks for fun in cricket with former Australian cricketer Damien Fleming.
- Take a look at our Christmas Gift Guide.
Not that long ago, if youd asked for Marlborough in a bar youd have been handed a pack of smokes. These days its a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc.
While sauvignon blanc leads the way for the region its distinctive, heady mix of herbaceous and tropical fruit characters delivering a consistent and familiar experience theres much more to Marlborough wine than meets the eye. Its not all sauvignon blanc, with some really interesting riesling, pinot noir and gris, as well as syrah.
Marlborough is home to about 60 per cent of New Zealands vineyards, carpeting the landscape of the Wairau, Awatere and southern valleys. Landing at Blenheim airport feels like touching down in the middle of one large vineyard.
This mass of vines is spread across three distinct subregions of Marlborough that produce very different styles of sauvignon blanc and, more importantly, are well suited to producing a range of reds and whites. With data from major retailers showing some drinkers are moving away from sav blanc towards pinot gris, the regions other varieties are likely to grow in importance.
Stoneleigh winemaker Jamie Marfell says the defining differences between the regions are temperature and soil types, two key elements to terroir.
If you look at a soil map of the Wairau River, close to the river its all free-draining alluvial soils, while closer to the sea its more silts over gravels due to flooding over many lifetimes, says Marfell.
Home to Marlboroughs earliest vineyards, the Wairau Valley is by the side of the Wairau River, which winds its way from inland mountains out to Cloudy Bay.
That side of the valley is quite different because the free-draining nature of the soils, which means, structurally, the wines are different. Growing on gravels means the wines tend to be lighter in body and a backbone of acidity, he says.
You also get beautiful aromatics in these wines compared to the other, cooler subregions. Wairau pinots seem to be quite lifted, with raspberry, strawberry, red fruits.
Its warmer country, too, with warmer nights by two or three degrees and, from a ripening point of view, it is the first part of the region to be harvested. Its also the first to budburst and flower.
Interestingly, sauvignon blanc from this area doesnt contain much methoxypyrazine the chemical that gives Marlborough savvy its trademark vegetal notes of capsicum and pea pod.
If you want them in the wines, you need to go to the other side of the valley, up on the clays. From a harvest point of view, on the southern valleys, its about 10 days later (than the Wairau Valley).
Cold air from surrounding mountains drops into the southern valleys, keeping night temperatures lower and extending the ripening period of the grapes. Because of the extended ripening of the grapes, reds from the surrounding vineyards tend to be richer and darker than those of the Wairau.
Even cooler again is the Awatere Valley, 20 kilometres south of Blenheim on the road to Christchurch. With a dry, maritime climate, sauvignon blanc from this area has distinctive capsicum and tomato bush characters.
(Marlborough) $30; 14%
From the Wairau Valley, heres a pinot from the richer end of the spectrum its packed with bold plum, dark cherry, earth, spice and vanilla aromas that is rich and satisfying. Flavours, which include black and morello cherries and raspberry, have a good sweet-and-savoury balance. Toasty oak adds a layer of complexity. Bright, mineral-laced acidity and powdery tannins carry the intense flavours to a
long finish.Food match Grilled quail
(Marlborough) $48; 14%
TWRs vineyards were planted in 1979 and are now farmed using organic and biodynamic principles. Bright red berries, cherry, cut flowers and cured-meat aromas are a delight. Smooth and sensual in the mouth, dense flavours of cherry, plum, pepper and dried herb are kept light on their feet, thanks to bright acidity, while powder-fine tannins drive a lengthy dark-fruited finish. Only a little syrah is made in Marlborough, but this is one worth seeking out.Food match Steak tartare
(Marlborough) $34.95; 14%
Consistently my favourite Marlborough sav blanc, this undergoes wild-yeast fermentation before spending about 18 months in old French oak barrels. It has complexity-plus, with aromas of tropical fruit, red capsicum, pea shoots, Granny Smith apple and passionfruit. A creamy texture leads to intense lemon and goosberry flavours that are driven by vibrant, refreshing acidity. Its structure is completed with a faint grip of tannins and a long, intense finish.Food match Roast chicken
(Marlborough) $20; 14%
River farm has gone into administration and the website listed on the label no longer seems active. The wines can still be found, though, and the price is good. Twenty per cent of this is aged in oak and at two years old its still fresh and tasty. Its complex, with tomato leaf, lemongrass, tropical fruit, pea pod and melon aromas, which carry through nicely onto the lively palate. A textural sauvignon blanc, theres bright acid and a gentle intensity to the finish.Food match / Vietnamese chicken coleslaw
(Marlborough) $24; 12%
Framingham was the first cellar door I visited in Marlborough and I was just as taken with the rieslings then as I was with this. Perfumed aromas include lime, citrus blossom, red apple and marmalade, and these are mirrored on the palate. Its in the mouth where this wine gets really exciting. Its off-dry, so the residual sugar adds texture, while bright acid provides tension and balances the sweet flavours out. Theres cut and thrust to the intense lime cordial and apple flavours on the finish.Food match: Roast pork belly