Right now New Zealand is hot. Well, not really hot per se since this country on the far side of the world is known for its distinctly cool climate. And it is the dead of winter in the southern hemisphere. But other than that the country is hot! Peter Jackson's epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings created quite the buzz for all things Kiwi. Dorks and hobbits aside it is no wonder that tourism is way up, since the movies held countless breathtaking panoramas of this ridiculously beautiful country. But since this is a wine website…
New Zealand wine is on fire! Exports of New Zealand wine into the United States have tripled since 2003, and are almost double on a worldwide scale over that same time period. The more telling stat is this: According to Statistics New Zealand 500,000 liters of NZ wine were exported into the U.S. in 1997. Last year that figure was 14.5 million. Hot I tell you. But since this is our Winery of the Month feature…
Allan Scott Family Winemakers is burning up! Though started in 1990, this winery located in the Rapaura district of Marlborough on New Zealand's South Island now produces 90,000 cases of delicious Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay along with a few other varieties and, of course, Sauvignon Blanc.
A true family affair, Allan Scott founded the venture and is now joined by his wife Catherine and their children Josh, Victoria and Sara. Catherine oversees sales and administration, while Josh is the head winemaker. Victoria lends a hand in public relations and in promotion of the Marlborough district, and Sara is the chief viticulturalist. During all of this Allan coordinates and directs the company as a whole.
I asked Josh what the greatest advantage to being a family-run company was, and his response would make any corporate lackey want to cry: "That we can make decisions on the spot is a real bonus. (There is) no board or managers to go through. One thing I really appreciate is that it is a passion for all of us."
Allan Scott seemed destined to be a part of agriculture from the very get go. "He always had a love for plants," says Josh. "Dad's family has been in farming for over two generations. They planted crops and ran a sheep farm- all organically. His move to grapes was because of my Grandfather. He was in real estate and auctioneering and had heard the whispers of these crazymen thinking about planting grapes and urged Dad to go along and apply for a job. He did and quickly rose up the ranks because of his extensive knowledge of plants and Marlborough and he became a very key part in the development of Marlborough as it is known today."
After stints with vineyard management companies and a period of time at Cloudy Bay, Allan Scott winery was born with one thing in mind: "The philosophy is very simple- quality is of the utmost importance."
And quality wines start in the vineyards where Sara Scott is moving more and more towards organics. As Josh put it "the move in the last three years has been to be more in tune with our vine's needs. Sara's job is to asses each vineyard's strengths and weaknesses and we work closely together to get the best out of each vineyard."
The cool climate of Marlborough obviously works well with Sauvignon Blanc, or "Savvy" as Josh is inclined to call it. Even the summer months offer only a brisk 64 degrees Fahrenheit as an average temperature. But there are other factors at play here as well. Marlborough, and in particular Rapaura, is lined with thin and porous soils that combine gravel, pebbles and sand of the alluvial wash as well as Greywacke which is a type of sandstone-based soil with a high mineral content. Marlborough also has a very long growing season with lots of sunshine and very little rain.
This combination results in wines that are crisp, bright, minerally and great on the dinner table, a treat not lost on Josh: "Marlborough is blessed to have the Marlborough Sounds right on our doorstep. As you know Sauvignon Blanc and Kai Moana (seafood) go hand in hand. We have a plentiful supply of crayfish, mussels and Paua (a mussel native to NZ) on our doorstep."
Allan Scott produces a wide range of wines, and although only about half make it into the United States perhaps as the popularity of NZ wine grows, so will the brand. In the meantime we are lucky enough to have the Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir, all from the Marlborough appellation.
The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc is awash with smoky and citrusy notes of minerals and Meyer lemon. Bracingly crisp and refreshing, it has a touch more body and weight than your average NZ Sauvignon Blanc, and certainly more character.
The refreshingly balanced 2006 Riesling offers a nice mix of old world fruit and Australian steeliness. "The NZ Riesling is rich in fruit, like sucking on a lemon or drinking lime juice with an off-dry finish," Josh explains. "We love the fruit in our style but also the structure of the wine is very important so we are very careful about getting the full mouthfeel of fruit and the balance of the acidity and astringency."
Also a winner is the 2005 Pinot Noir. When asked about what he would say to a person from the U.S. that thinks that NZ only makes great Sauvignon Blanc, Josh had this to say: "Have you tried our Pinot Noir? Savvy makes up about 70% of our exports, but as people have become more familiar with NZ Savvy, they are starting to look for other varietals, so we may see a slight shift in the next few years, especially to Pinot Noir."
Warm, friendly and delicious, the Pinot offers a harmonious blend of perfume and old stone earthiness on the nose matched with waves of classic Pinot black cherries on the palate. Hints of forest floor and smoke round out the finish, which has just a kiss of vanilla-scented oak at this point.
Though Central Otago may be the hotbed now for Pinot in NZ, according to Josh that may not always be so: "I love Central Pinot, love the style. They are very different from the wines from Marlborough, which certainly does have a wide range of soils. A lot of our Pinot vineyards are being planted in more clay-based soils. Central is great, but my feeling is that Marlborough will be the kingpin of Pinot in NZ in the long term."
Allan Scott also produces a line of single vineyard wines which unfortunately do not make into the U.S. though one can hope. "Being one of the older wineries in Marlborough we now have vineyards that are 20-30 years of age. It's great to be able to show what these little sites can produce year to year, and it is also a chance for us to play with different styles in the winery."
And what does Josh see in the future for NZ wines in the United States? "Big. It's such a huge country and we still have a very minute market share. It amazes me how big the States are and the number of places you can go and not see NZ wine. It is very difficult to do business, almost like fifty different countries, but once you work that out, the potential to sell top quality wines at a great price point seems endless."
Endless amounts of top quality wines at a great price point? I think I can live with that.