To kick things off I thought we would look at one of the most picturesque wine regions I’ve been to, Marlborough - New Zealand.
Now I know what you are thinking, BORING! Marlborough does of course have a reputation for pumping out huge volumes of simple fruity Sauvignon Blanc after all. And hey there is nothing wrong with that! There is a huge desire for these cheaper wines and they do it very well! But there are also plenty of smaller family-owned producers in this region making very high-quality handmade Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noirs. Wines made from organically grown fruit planted on old, gravely riverbed soils.
So why is it that Marlborough is able to produce such pungent, zesty wines? I think a large part of it can be put down to the weather. They get loads of sunlight with steady warm days and cool nights. The diurnal shift is insane. I was there in March last year. During the day we were swimming in the Marlborough Sounds, it was warm in the high 20s. The temperature drop from 5pm – 6pm however was insane! It went from 23 degrees to 8 degrees in an hour! This is a key point for their grape growing. The grapes get ample daytime sunshine to ripen yet they retain their acidity as the vines shutdown at night. Even in the middle of Summer nights are cool in Marlborough.
In NZ I was lucky to spend time with a couple of absolute legends Matt Sutherland and Murray Cook from Dog Point Vineyard. Matt is the General Manager and son of Ivan and Margaret Sutherland. Matt’s parents planted the vineyards. I asked Matt to share a little about Dog Point Vineyard.
Matt – “Dog Point is one of the earliest privately established vineyards in Marlborough. My parents, Ivan and Margaret Sutherland began planting in the late 1970s. Ivan met James Healy, where the pair played an integral part of the evolution of the Cloudy Bay brand. Discovering they shared the same aspirations, Ivan & Margaret and James & Wendy returned to a more 'hands-on' approach launching the Dog Point label in 2004 using fruit from the 2002 vintage. Succession plans are in place with the next generation of the Sutherland family involved in running the day to day operations. I am now widely known as the Sheep King aka General Manager of Dog Point.”
Murray is the winemaker and is actually an Aussie! He does have a slight kiwi accent though these days after arriving in NZ back in 2003. Back in his early days Muzz used to work with Tom Carson at Yering Station in the Yarra Valley. Tom once told me that he taught Muzz everything he knows (insert winking emoji)
I asked Murray if he could describe the four Dog Point wines for us in simple terms.
SB “Our version of the classic style of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, handpicked from mature, low cropping vines.”
Section 94: “A richly textured, funky style of Sauvignon Blanc, barrel aged with distinct natural ferment aromas and proven age-ability.”
Chardonnay: “A tight, focused, citrus driven Chardonnay with subtle flint characters derived from extended barrel aging on full solids.”
Pinot Noir “Red fruits, gentle spice and violet characters with a real depth of flavour and rich tannin structure.”
You will not get a nicer bunch of people than the families responsible for making Dog Point Vineyard wines. The wines are stand out and regularly get big wraps from wine judges around the world. The one and only Jancis Robson recently said this “Dog Point, a producer established by a couple of key members of the early Cloudy Bay team, makes such good and distinctive Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that even I – not always a fan of these wines – love it!”
All four of the Dog Point Vineyard wines are available through BottlO’Briens in-store and online store.