New Zealand’s Marlborough Region: A lot more than Sauvignon Blanc

Chances are, if you’ve only had a handful of wines from Marlborough, it’s been Sauvignon Blanc. It’s what hit American soil first and, well, they produce a lot of it. It’s certain you’ll continue to see more of it on our shelves too. I just spent two-plus weeks in New Zealand, and winemakers I spoke with are drilling down to produce wines from Sauvignon Blanc that are more specific to both sites and sub regions.

During the couple of days I spent in Marlborough, one thing was abundantly clear: there’s a lot more than great Sauvignon Blanc being produced there. If you’re looking for red wines, there are many fine examples of Pinot Noir that are distinctly different from those grown in Central Otago. If it’s other whites you’re after, there are a bevy of outstanding selections being produced in New Zealand; aromatic whites are a particular strength. The weather, soils and other conditions lends themselves to these grapes thriving. As you can likely imagine, over two-plus weeks, I tasted an awful lot of great wines. Here is a handful from Marlborough that I’m still thinking about. So keep drinking those Savvies, but try some of these too.

Spy Valley 2015 Gewürztraminer ($18)

The fruit for this wine came from a single vineyard. After pressing the grapes, they were slowly fermented and aged in stainless steel. Lychee and apricot notes are evident on the nose along with a hint of vanilla bean. The fruit-driven palate is led by oodles of roasted peaches, white pepper and a hint of nutmeg. Tension between bright fruit and acid marks the long, pleasing finish. This Gewürztraminer is irresistible on its own and it’ll pair beautifully with spicy cuisine such as Thai or Indian.

Mud House 2016 Gewürztraminer ($14)

This wine impresses from the first note with an explosive nose laced with robust aromatics. The weighty, round palate shows off baked stone fruit and gentle bits of spice. Fresh yellow and white peach are evident on the finish along with continued spices. This crisp, clean wine is a delicious bargain.

Wither Hills 2014 Taylor River Vineyard Pinot Noir ($21)

All of the fruit for this wine came from the namesake vineyard planted alongside the Taylor River to two clones of Pinot Noir. It’s a bit darker in the glass than the average Pinot but certainly not opaque. Black cherry and spice aromas light up the nose. The gently layered palate features cranberry, black tea and hints of cinnamon. Black pepper, earth and minerals are all present on the pleasing finish.

Astrolabe Vineyards 2016 Sleepers Vineyard Albariño ($17)

This is a single vineyard wine that’s within a range of offerings that winemaker Simon Waghorn is experimenting with. Albariño production is slowly rising in New Zealand, which is good to see since there are some excellent examples already out there and the promise of more. Peach and citrus aromas are evident here. Papaya and lemon zest flavors are at play through the palate. Bits of apricot, vanilla and salinity emerge on the crisp finish. This is a brilliant food wine. Drink it in its youth.

St. Clair Winery 2015 Pioneer Block 5 Bull Block Gruner Veltliner ($18)

I wasn’t expecting to run across Austria’s signature grape in New Zealand, but in fact, I enjoyed several worthwhile offerings. This single block version from St. Clair was a standout. Hints of jalapeno and yellow melon appear on the nose. The palate shows off lemon and lime zest, white pepper and a dollop of minerals. All of those characteristics continue on the solid, pleasing finish. Racy acid keeps things in check and makes this a wonderful food wine.

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