Beyond savvy

Michael Ellis
By Michael Ellis
about 2 years ago
3 min read

Marlborough is synonymous with sauvignon blanc. As a brand, it has been one of the great success stories of the modern wine world and there’s no sign of it slowing down. It accounts for 86% of New Zealand’s wine exports and really, they just can’t get enough of it. 

With the region drenched in savvy b, It’s easy to overlook other white grape varieties that are grown here, but on a recent trip to Marlborough we tasted plenty of whites worthy of their time in the sun. 

Chardonnay

If you’re into rich, bold and intense chardy, you’re going to love Marlborough. The region is sunny (it has the most days of sunshine anywhere in the country) and the temperature drops significantly at night – ideal growing conditions for chardonnay. 

As with chardonnay from any region, style is going to vary from one producer to the next, but you can expect intense and complex wines with dominant stonefruit characters. Despite chardy making up just 7% of wines produced in NZ, they’re bloody good.  

Try this: Nautilus Chardonnay and grilled salmon with plenty of lemon and butter

Pinot Gris

This is another variety that has a solid following and is growing in popularity. Planted widely in the 90s, it’s NZ’s third most planted variety after savvy and chardy, with almost half of the country’s production coming out of Marlborough. Most of what we tasted was rich, textural and laden with pear, with more subtle honeysuckle and spice in the background. It’s a step up from savvy in terms of texture and complexity, so it’s worth spending some time exploring if you’re ready to move on. 

Try this: Ribbonwood Pinot Gris and a big pot of green-lipped mussels

Riesling

Riesling exports hardly register compared to New Zealand’s other whites and we reckon the Marlborough locals would be fine with that. The region produces more rizza than any other in NZ, and when you combine its beautifully aromatic style with the local seafood fished out of Marlborough Sound, life is good. Lemon and lime citrus characters feature, as does subtle spice. 

Try this: Staete Lande ‘Rudi’ Riesling 2011 with dumplings from the Grovetown Hotel.

Gewurztraminer

There’s a very small amount of this being produced, but what it lacks in volume it makes up for in intensity. Those distinctive turkish delight, rose petal, lychee and ginger characteristics are unmistakeable and again, the sunny days provide plenty of opportunity for this variety to ripen and bring these characters to life. It’s often blended with other white varieties to add that aromatic lift, and as a single variety it’s an ideal match to seafood and spicy, aromatic meals.

Try this: Spy Valley Gewurztraminer and spicy fish cakes