Marlborough vineyards are largely credited with putting New Zealand on the international map of premium wine producers after introducing the country’s signature Sauvignon Blanc to the world in the 1980s.
Sauvignon Blanc still reigns supreme in New Zealand’s largest wine growing region, which spans over 20,000 hectares of the South Island and contributes no less than 80% towards the country’s entire production. There are now over 140 wineries in Marlborough, ranging from recognisable exports such as Cloudy Bay Vineyards, Brancott Estate and Oyster Bay to small boutique estates renowned for their artisan wines from varieties that also include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and a range of ‘methode traditionelle’ sparkling wines.
Despite many critics claiming Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blanc is the finest in the world, no vintage from anywhere in the world has ever been rated ‘exceptional’ by the influential UK wine magazine Decanter Magazine… until now that is. In the last month, the prestigious magazine’s panel of wine tasters scored a pair of Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough vineyards with unprecedented marks of 98 out of 100. The two wines that have raised the bar are – the Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and Auntsfield's Single Vineyard Southern Valleys Sauvignon Blanc 2016.
Despite many critics claiming Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blanc is the finest in the world, no vintage from anywhere in the world has ever been rated ‘exceptional’ by the influential UK wine magazine Decanter Magazine… until now that is. In the last month, the prestigious magazine’s panel of wine tasters scored a pair of Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough vineyards with unprecedented marks of 98 out of 100.
Even getting close to a mark of 100 is notoriously difficult, the highest scores in the magazine’s ‘Top 20 Wines of 2016’ was only 97 – and the last time the New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignons were put before the panel in 2013 the highest score was 95.Consequently, the two New Zealand wine makers can feel deservedly proud of themselves. Austfield Estate winemaker Luc Cowley told Stuff NZ: ‘It shows that quality Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc delivers exceptional wines with a strong sense of place and those rare characteristics of minerality, complexity and structure. They deserve to be placed alongside some of the best wines in the world.’
Tinpot Hut winemaker Fiona Turner, meanwhile, agreed – although admitted some surprise that so many Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough vineyards were so well received after what many had considered to be a challenging year. ‘2016 was a difficult vintage in Marlborough for many reasons and the fact that we have so many wines gaining such good scores from that year is really heartening,’ she said.
In total 63 of the 95 Sauvignon Blancs rated by Decanter were from Marlborough, with Judge Mel Brown confirming that wines from New Zealand’s starring region had easily outshone all others, not just in terms of numbers.‘It was exciting to see the quality is still there, which is ultimately what a lot of people question: whether Marlborough can retain that strength and reputation,’ she said.
The opportunity to sample world class Sauvignon Blanc is one of the main attractions drawing hordes of wine tourists to the best vineyard tours Marlborough has to offer every year.Despite the closure of the State 1 Highway following November’s earthquake limiting the number of visitors to Marlborough vineyards over the last year, the region still earned NZ$370 million from tourism in the year-ending June.Wine tourism spending is typically boosted by the annual Marlborough Food and Wine Festival, which next takes place in February 2018. New Zealand’s original and longest running wine festival gives visitors the opportunity to sample world class wines paired with delicious local cuisine at arguably the region’s most picturesque vineyard, the Brancott Estate.
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