There’s no question there is no place in the world like Marlborough, and no wine in the world has the “special palate”, especially Sauvignon Blanc. Appellation Marlborough Wine was introduced, and a trademark was registered in 2018 to safeguard Marlborough Wine, initially focused on Sauvignon Blanc which has earned it a phenomenal global reputation.
With this global demand comes the proliferation of players and a range of quality expectations, which can put any hard-earned reputation at risk. AMW was established to safeguard Marlborough wine for future generations to enjoy and provide assurance to consumers who seek wines of provenance, authenticity, and integrity. What is Appellation Marlborough Wine, you may ask? It is the only guarantee a wine is 100% pure Marlborough. Nothing else. No exceptions.
The region begins with, of course, the varied alluvial soils of the Wairau Valley, fed by the mountain waters of the Wairau River. It stretches out to the corrugated Southern Valleys, with their clay loam hillsides, and to the arid Awatere Valley, where golden hills and verdant vines are swept by Pacific winds.
Warm by day and cool by night, Marlborough’s climate is influenced by the ocean to the east and the mountains to the west, and by the valleys and ridgelines rippling its topography. Grapes ripen and develop during big, blue-skied days, then rest at night, protecting acid levels in a lingering approach to harvest.
This synergy between climate, landscapes, and soil means Marlborough wines, when grown with care, are both sophisticated and exciting. They have distinctive aromas, unique fruit characteristics, and elegantly balanced acidity, with a purity and intensity that has earned us a global reputation as a phenomenal wine region.
The rules are specific. To achieve the Appellation Marlborough Wine icon, wines must be made from grapes that are 100% sourced from Marlborough vineyards, providing a promise that these wines are an authentic expression of Marlborough.
One of the standouts is Astrolabe, recognized previously by Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list and recently secured its third placement. “We were really chuffed to get this amazing recognition for our Awatere Sauvignon Blanc,” said Jane Forrest-Waghorn, owner and founder of Astrolabe Wines. “Our family live and work in Marlborough because we believe in the potential to make amazing wines here, and it is thrilling to be placed on this list alongside some of the best wines in the world. It is great to see the high standard of New Zealand wine being celebrated internationally.” Forrest-Waghorn continued.
Named after New Zealand’s most prolific bedrock, Greywacke Winery is owned and operated by Kevin and Kimberley Judd. Kevin is a pioneering and highly regarded winemaker who helped raise Marlborough’s wine profile through his 25 years as Chief Winemaker at Cloudy Bay Vineyards. The decision to establish Greywacke in 2009 was driven largely by Kevin and Kimberley’s desire to craft small and distinct parcels of wine that shone a spotlight on Marlborough subregions. Their love of Marlborough is evident in all that they do, from their preference of fermenting with wild yeast to living alongside their Greywacke Vineyard and Farm where they personally care for its entirety.
“We are humbled by Wine Spectator magazine’s recognition,” Kevin stated with excitement. “It is an absolute honor to be sitting alongside so many iconic international wineries. And we love sharing this achievement for a third time with our good friends at Astrolabe Wines.”
It has been fifty years since the first commercial vineyards were planted in Marlborough, with significant growth occurring and vines now occupying around 30,000 hectares. “Naturally, subregions with distinct microclimates and stylistic features have been identified over this time,” says John Buchanan, AMW chair. “And Our New Wine Map of Marlborough represents the first genuine attempt to map these in a detailed way.”
The map project was driven by the Marlborough Wine Map Collective (MWMC), a team of five AMW members including Simon Waghorn of Astrolabe, Matt Thomson and Sophie Parker-Thomson MW of Blank Canvas, Ivan Sutherland of Dog Point, Brian Bicknell of Mahi and Brendan Neylon of Rapaura Springs. “We robustly debated and defined the current subregional hierarchy of Marlborough,” stated Thomson.
Over a two-year period, the ensemble worked in consultation with Wellington-based cartographer Roger Smith of Geographx and local designer Megan Boreham of Eye Catcher Designs “The resulting ‘Wine Map of Marlborough’ is a vital resource in understanding the subregional detail and diversity of Marlborough,” says John. “We look forward to making it available to a wider audience, including industry colleagues, wine educators, and engaged consumers.
Co-owners of Blank Canvas, who championed the development of the wine map, say that Marlborough winemakers have been talking about subregional identity for a long time. “We have, however, lacked the key tool to be able to communicate it effectively to our audience.” Added Matt. “Without a universal and accurate map, the default is a dangerous assumption that Marlborough is all the same. We know that is not the case and we know this map will now enable everyone to start a more nuanced journey to understand sub-regionality and quality within our diverse region.”
The first edition of the Wine Map of Marlborough is a start to sharing a greater understanding in the detail of Appellation Marlborough. “Marlborough’s hugely diverse soils, micro-climates, and ultimately terroirs, mean producers can craft wildly different expressions of sauvignon blanc here,” he said “The vision is that wine enthusiasts will be able to use the map to pinpoint the subregional style they desire, whether that be the lemongrass-accented Blind River, passionfruit and blackcurrant-driven Dillons Point, or elderflower and white currant expression of Condors Bend. And there are many more.” He added.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Marlborough Wine Map Collective for bringing this stunning and comprehensive map to fruition,” says Simon Barker, AMW committee member. “It had become abundantly clear that Marlborough needed to document its wine-growing subregions and regional subsets. They are key aspects of our winemaking pedigree and provide context and definition to our diverse wine region.”
“Marlborough’s rapid success and market growth has occurred this past half century without any real controls in place, and certainly not the regulations the appellations and wines of Europe must comply with to protect the provenance, quality, and value of their products,” stated Matt. “This situation has conjured up a dangerous tipping point where the dilution of the brand value of Marlborough is occurring because of the dilution of the product itself.”
“The Marlborough Wine Map is an important step in creating some guidelines and understanding around our variegated region,” says Simon. “The Marlborough appellation cannot and should not be simplified to the provincial boundary, we must take a lead from pioneering wine regions who’ve defined their land by geology and geography.”
Marlborough wine displaying the AMW icon on its label provides consumers with an assurance of origin and authenticity. “These wines have been certified as a true expression of our region and contain 100% pure Marlborough fruit. This is an integral mark. A mark of integrity.” says John. “The Marlborough Wine Map supports AMW’s efforts of promoting quality Marlborough wine and clearly illustrates the importance and interest of origin.”
New Zealand wines have always been special and now with AMW oenophiles can be assured they are drinking the finest in the region.