Brancott Estate was the first winery to plant Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough and now it’s leading the way with an exciting alternative: Sauvignon Gris. Find out more about Brancott Estate wines here, as well as how you could win one of four cases in our competition.
Sometimes you have to ignore what everyone around you is saying and just follow your heart. That’s exactly what Frank Yukich did in 1975, when he planted the very first Sauvignon Blanc vines in Marlborough at Brancott Vineyard. “In the early 1970s, the conventional wisdom in the New Zealand wine industry was that wine grapes would not ripen in the South Island,” explains Philip Gregan, CEO of New Zealand Winegrowers.
Thankfully the pioneering team at Brancott Estate (then Montana) didn’t hold with conventional wisdom and the Sauvignon Blanc vines thrived, producing the first-ever bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in 1979. This decision proved to be one of the most “momentous ever taken”, according to Gregan, as other growers quickly followed suit and the phenomenon that is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was born.
This remarkable history is central to the winemaking philosophy at Brancott Estate, where the quest for innovation and love of ingenuity remains as strong as ever. Today, chief winemaker Patrick Materman continues the work that the original team started. Since joining the winery in 1990 as a cellar hand, Materman has worked his way up to chief winemaker, along the way being named Winestate Magazine’s New Zealand Winemaker of the Year in 2001.
For Materman, what happens in the vineyards is as important as his work in the winery – and he’s passionate about the Marlborough region. This passion, combined with experience of more than 25 vintages, has given him a deep technical knowledge – but his natural curiosity means that he still wants to learn more and reveal the true potential of Marlborough – and his enthusiasm for Sauvignon Gris is testament to this.
Never heard of Sauvignon Gris? That’s no surprise. This pink-skinned grape is not a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris as some people might think. In fact, it originated in Bordeaux alongside Sauvignon Blanc, but fell out of favour following the phylloxera epidemic that devastated vines across France in the mid-19th century. Trying to rebuild their vineyards as quickly as possible, vignerons chose to plant higher-cropping varietals, meaning Sauvignon Gris almost became extinct.
A few French producers do still grow Sauvignon Gris, and when the team from Brancott Estate discovered the variety on a trip to Bordeaux, they suspected this French grape would flourish in New Zealand. “Sauvignon Gris was traditionally grown alongside Sauvignon Blanc and we were curious to see what this variety would do in Marlborough,” Materman explains.
With so little known about Sauvignon Gris, the viticulturists and winemakers at Brancott Estate had to use their in-depth knowledge of similar varieties, as well as their understanding of Marlborough terroir, to decide how and where to grow the variety. The first vines were planted in 2006 and, like its cousin Sauvignon Blanc, the vines flourished in their new home.
A versatile match
From the first vintage, the winemaking team was impressed with the quality, flavour and versatility of Sauvignon Gris, and the first wine was released in 2009. “Our Sauvignon Gris is a rich, generous wine that retains the fresh vibrancy of Marlborough,” says Materman. “It’s a very food-friendly wine that pairs with a wide range of dishes, and its complex, balanced flavours make it very approachable.” Like Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris has bright, vibrant aromas on the nose. But it has a more textured, rounded palate – making it a versatile match for a range of dishes. Try pairing it with salads, fish and seafood or chicken and pork dishes. Ripe stone fruit and pear flavours give a hint of sweetness that will also stand up to spice, and a clean citrus finish refreshes your palate after each mouthful.
The early vintages were so well received that the Brancott Estate range was extended to include a Letter Series wine (see box, right). These wines have been recognised with a series of awards, including Gold at the International Wine Challenge 2016 for Letter Series R Sauvignon Gris and Silver Outstanding for Classic Sauvignon Gris at the International Wine & Spirits Competition 2015.
With such success, it looks as if Brancott Estate is reaping the rewards of a truly pioneering spirit. Try Brancott Estate Sauvignon Gris and discover this very a-gris-able wine for yourself.
For your chance to win one of four cases of Brancott Estate wine, simply answer this question: when did Brancott Estate first plant Sauvignon Gris vines in Marlborough? Simply email email@example.com with your answer before midnight on 30 June 2016 to enter.
Competition terms and conditions
1. This Promotion is only open to residents of the United Kingdom aged 18 or over, excluding employees of Squaremeal and members of these employee’s families (defined as parents, children, siblings, spouse and life partners), plus any other associated agents or anyone else professionally connected with this promotion. By entering this promotion, participants confirm to be aged 18 or over.
2. Promotion period: enter between 12.00 GMT on 17 May and midnight on the 30 June 2016.
3. No purchase necessary.
4. To enter: read the Brancott Estate feature online and send your answer to the question to firstname.lastname@example.org
5. All entries must be received by the end of the promotion period to be valid and no liability is accepted for incomplete or late entries.
6. The prize carries no cash value, is non-transferable, non-refundable, there is no cash alternative and the prize may not be substituted by the winner. The prize must be taken as stated and no compensation will be payable if the winner is unable to use the prize as stated.
7. Winner notification: winners will be contacted by Squaremeal within five working days of the end of the competition and will be required to respond by supplying all details requested in the message, to confirm eligibility plus acceptance of the prize and conditions within three days of initial contact. In the event a winner does not respond to communications within the three days of initial contact, the promoter reserves the right to disqualify that winner and allocate that prize to an alternate winner selected in the same manner.
8. By entering this promotion, all participants will be deemed to have accepted and be bound by these terms and conditions.
Where to buy Sauvignon Gris
Brancott Estate Sauvignon Gris 2015 £10.99, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco
This fresh wine has bright fruity aromatics with subtle herbal notes. In the mouth you’ll find a generous, textured, off-dry palate with notes of stone fruit (peaches, apricots, red plums), plus ripe pear and fresh, citrus acidity.
Brancott Estate Letter Series ‘R’ Sauvignon Gris 2015 £14.45, Ocado
Swirl this wine in your glass to release aromas of nectarine, guava and pineapple, with delicate, toasty oak undertones. On the palate you can taste stone fruit and crisp citrus flavours, with a finely balanced acidity and light herbal nuances.
This article was modified 10 June 2016