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Aug 9, 2019

No, it's not a typo: Martinborough is a quality enclave in the larger Wellington Wine Country of New Zealand, which we discuss in depth in this episode. Simone Madden-Grey returns to tell us about the stunning Pinot Noir, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling, up and coming Syrah, and other excellent Wellington wines that must be on your radar!


Here are the show notes:

Wellington Wine Country Overview

  • In 2016 three wine regions of the Wairarapa Valley in the lower north island formally launched Wellington Wine Country: Masterton, Gladstone, and Martinborough
  • The area is small -- just 3% of national plantings and 1% of national production, but represents 10% of producers



  • The southern part of New Zealand's North Island
  • 35 miles (55km) north-east of Wellington (1 hr drive), New Zealand's capital city, in a wide river valley between Rimutaka mountain range and eastern Wairarapa hills


  • Semi-maritime, dry climate – rain shadow of the Tararua Ranges with blustery winds
  • Cool spring and autumn seasons, hot summer days with cool nights - long growing season
  • Martinborough Terrace: a crescent shaped area on the edge of a river terrace formed by the Ruamahunga and Huangarua rivers with gravel soils that drain well and stress the vines (in a good way)
  • Mountain ranges and hills
    • Remutaka and Tararua Ranges to the west protect from winds off Tasman Sea
    • Aorangi Ranges, western mountain ranges protect area from cold southerly winds coming in off the Cook Strait and together with the western moutnain ranges, also funnel cool breezes up from the Cook Strait


  • River terraces in Martinborough with pockets of clay and quartz-threaded greywacke (type of coloured sedimentary sandstone formed by river deposits) and volcanic basalt.
    • Alluvial soils can be up to 15m deep in Martinborough


  • Semi-maritime climate with high sunshine hours, cool Springs and Autumns, warm Summers
  • Warm, low rainfall, relatively long, dry growing season, low humidity and low disease pressure
  • Diurnal variation: Summer temps during the day 30˚C (86˚F) to 10˚C (50˚F) at night
  • Frost is an issue, very windy at times throughout the year, particularly in spring


Sub Regions: North to south

  • Masterton: Largest town in Wairarapa,first area grapes were planted in the region. Known for Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir


  • Gladstone: Just south of Masterton, free-draining river terraces - Shallower terraces than of Martinborough and nearby. Clay pockets – planted Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc with high aromatics.


  • Martinborough – about 30 wineries: Colonial village is surrounded by small vineyards, family-owned producers – highly respected boutique wineries. Lowest rainfall of any area in the North Island and reliably cool climate for Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling and other aromatic whites.


  • Te Muna: Southeast of the township with stonier alluvial gravel soils, windier growing conditions and a slightly cooler climate than Martinborough. Escarpment and Craggy Range are here.

Wine Style: Red, white, sparkling (usually Methode Traditionnelle), rosé and sweet wines are all produced in the region

  • Pinot Noir: Thicker skins and smaller yields contribute an aromatic, savory, dark fruited profile with good acidity and potential for age.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: leading white grape variety, very important for export. More herbaceous and citrus driven, with mineral notes -- less of the big fruit style of Marlborough
  • Pinot Gris: Trying to coax a spicier, more complex style with pear and white stone fruit characters 
  • Chardonnay: For the last decade growers pick earlier to attain lower alcohol, more natural acidity -- lighter less tropical style.  Varying degrees of new oak and use of MLF, lees contact and stirring, but the goal is elegance
  • Riesling: Good acidity, very lemon-lime in flavor
  • Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Syrah and some Bordeaux varieties

The producer list!

  • High-profile small producers: Ata Rangi, Margrain, Dry River, Escarpment, Te Kairanga, Martinborough Vineyard
  • Paddy Borthwick in Gladstone
  • Larger but still good producers: Palliser, Craggy Range
  • Second labels:
    • Martinborough Vineyard’s "Te Tera"  (UK, NZ, Oz only)
    • Palliser "Pencarrow" (UK, NZ, Oz only)
    • Escarpment "The Edge" (UK, NZ, Oz only)



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