Marlborough

New Zealand’s flagship wine region which, in combination with Sauvignon Blanc, put the country on the international wine stage. Much more than just Sauvignon though, Marlborough offers increasing depth in both varieties and terroir.

One of the many vineyards in the Awatere valley, Marlborough.

  • Early pioneers first planted in 1873 in the ben Morven Valley, with further vineyards established through to the 1960s. There was then a lull until grapes were again planted in 1973, despite stiff opposition from local farming and forestry interests. Nowadays, viticulture is emphatically dominant, with over 20,000ha of vines (approximately 2/3 of the national total) under the care of wine producers of all sizes.
  • Consistently ranking as one of NZ’s sunniest and driest regions, Maori referred to the Wairau Valley as ‘Kei puta te Wairau’ – ‘The place with the hole in the cloud’ – reflecting the outstanding protection offered by the topography. The Wairau river bisects the valley west-to-east, with the Richmond Ranges to the north and medium sized foothills to the south.
  • The auspicious combination of a cool yet high sunshine climate, low rainfall and free-draining, moderately fertile soil produces uniquely vivid wines across a wide range of varieties and styles.
  • Alongside the increasing range of varieties, the diverse soils and meso-climates are revealing sub-regions and it is within these that Marlborough’s exciting future lies.
22907 330 77%

SOURCE: New Zealand Winegrower's Vineyard Register Report & Annual Report

Planting data

Plantings and Styles (2014)

(Producing hectares)

Sauvignon Blanc 17,725ha

Pungently aromatic, vividly pure fruit, herbaceous and exotically tropical, plus mineral depths, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is an international brand in its own right.

Pinot Noir 2,492ha

Going from strength to strength as committed growers refine both clones and sites. Displays dark cherry and plums with a red fruited spicy background, mid-weight, fine tannins. 

Chardonnay 1,038ha

From all the bells and whistles to unoaked styles, Marlborough produces well structured Chardonnay with excellent intensity and complexity. Stonefruit and citrus abound. 

Aromatics 1,386ha

Pinot Gris - 968ha, Reisling - 309ha, Gewürztraminer - 92ha, Viognier - 17ha

Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer reflect the region’s purity and vivacity. Styles range from dry to sweet, taut to lush, including late harvest and botrytised wines.

Others…

Grüner Veltliner shows promise, Viognier and Syrah have their champions
too; everything from Arneis to Tempranillo is being explored as Marlborough
continues to push its boundaries.

Production of high-quality méthode traditionelle wines is small but critically
renowned. Bright citrus fruit with fine body and acidity; excellent value for the
first-rate quality.

3 2 1

1 Southern Valleys

Wrapping around the surrounding hills the Omaka, Fairhall, Brancott, Ben Morvan and Waihopai Valleys make up this important sub-region. Soils and meso-climates vary but tend to be heavier with more clay than Wairau and it gets cooler and drier further south into the valleys. A broad range grown according to vineyards’ individual strengths with some particularly good Pinot Noir and aromatics.

2 Wairau Valley

Old riverbed and riverbank soils, diverse aspect and rainfall give many meso- climates within this sub-region. Broadly, it covers cooler, drier inland sites, barren stony, early-ripening sites to sea-breeze moderated coastal sites. Soils are more gravelly to the north nearer the riverbed. Within this, wines reflect the individual vineyard and producer strengths but all have the hallmark pure fruit intensity and body.

3 Awatere Valley

The most geographically distinct sub-region, lying south of the Wairau Valley and stretching inland from the sea, the valley climbs towards the inland Kaikoura ranges. Cooler, drier, windier and often with a degree of elevation, sites with typically lower yields produce bright, aromatic Pinot Noir and dramatic, distinctive Sauvignons which are attracting increasing international acclaim.

Map key Subregion Vineyard

Find Marlborough wine near you

If I had to choose one New Zealand region whose Pinot Noir I would drink for the rest of my life, I think it would actually be Marlborough. This is, of course, a place that made its name from Sauvignon Blanc, but there is something about the thought of a good Marlborough Pinot Noir that makes my stomach do a little twist. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has a luminous quality, and the Pinot Noir is the same.

Victoria Moore, The Telegraph, November 2011

Climate

Plenty of sunshine, moderate temperatures and strong diurnal variation are the keys to Marlborough’s piercing fruit intensity and strong varietal expression, keeping acid levels high over long ripening times. The eastern coastal aspect bestows cooling sea breezes and protective mountains give relief from extreme rain and wind. Long Indian summers occasionally dice with drought but more often allow a wide range of styles to flourish.

2,409hrs

655mm

SOURCE: MetService Climate Summary 1971-2000

Soil

Key to Marlborough’s success is its ancient glacial deep free-draining stony soils. The extensive braided river system left a threaded legacy of stony sandy loam over very deep gravels. Rapaura is stoniest; Lower Wairau has more loam and thus water retention. Clay is prevalent in the southern valleys, assisting Pinot Noir. Awatere is more fragmented, with gravelly silt-loams and wind-blown loess.