The Maori have an expression for Marlborough: “Kei puta te Wairau,” or “The place with the hole in the cloud.” Indeed, it is one of the most sunny and warm-climates regions in New Zealand and, by no consequence, the country’s largest wine producing region with just about 5,000 acres planted to vines.
The larger Marlborough region is divided into three major sub-regions, and it is the Awatere Valley region, south of the Wairau Valley where te Pa has extended their vineyard property. This sub-region spans inland from the ocean and includes elevated areas as it reaches toward the Kaikoura mountain-scape. Here, with its cooler, drier climate and somewhat rocky terrain, the vines incur a lot of vigor, producing Pinot Noir with a noted strength of character. te Pa 2015 Pinot Noir is a beautiful expression of this New Zealand terroir.
Although New Zealand’s winemaking history dates back to the colonial days, during Brittain’s settlement and development of the area, it wasn’t until the 1960s and into the 1970s that New Zealand was put on the winemaking map. At this time there was an influx of New Zealanders traveling abroad to Europe, experiencing the wines and vines of that continent, and bringing home with them the knowledge and the passion to put their own “kiwi” twist on the Old World’s drink.
But it seems that it’s only within this new millennium, that the rest of the world has taken an interest in what this little pocket of terroir has to offer the wine industry.
This past weekend I attended the Rhone Ranger’s San Francisco event. Rhone Rangers is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote winemakers and wineries who focus on Rhône varietals and Rhône-style blends. Each year, the Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting event gathers together a huge number of those wineries to help educate the public on these important grapes, winemaking methods, and of course the wines themselves. While not every year has a theme, it seemed that this year’s theme is the up-and-coming trend of “weird wine,” or “obscure” varietals.
As I’m sure many of you have noticed, I’ve been exploring a few of the lesser-known wine varietals lately (Tannat, Counoise, Cinsault…to name a few). And it’s not just because I have an insatiable, geeky interest in wine, it’s because more and more producers are bringing to light some of those varietals that have been hidden in the dark — as part of the lower percentages of classic and common blends.