• Anniversary Day in the city of sails and sauvignon

    As our gaze turns to the harbour during a sunny summer in Auckland, one standout fixture is the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta and Lawson’s Dry Hills is proud to be a sponsor of this historic event. The regatta dates back to 1840 and sees some of the country’s finest classic yachts, launches, skiffs, sailing dinghies, canoes, dragon boats and tugboats take to the water as the city of sails opens its heart and provides the perfect backdrop to these magnificent craft.

    At a time when America’s Cup racing propels Auckland’s iconic harbour onto the world stage, yachting will be top of mind for not only New Zealanders but billions of fans around the world. In a country which boasts more boats per capita than anywhere else, boating is part of our DNA, and the Anniversary Day Regatta is a celebration our passion for the water.

    The event sees over a century of classic vessels competing, from timber sailing yachts like the 1897 classic ‘Thelma’ and the 1895 cutter ‘Ida’, while multiple winner ‘Ariki’ will be pushing hard to defend her winning heritage dating back to 1905. There will be restored work boats brought back to life, classic motor launches owned by business magnates and even one owned by an actor who once played James Bond. Then dotted around the city’s bays and shorelines, tomorrow’s generation of sailors will be competing in skiffs and sailing dinghies. Over 600 participating boats on one, memorable day.

    Lawson’s Dry Hills will be right alongside the spectacle aboard the HMNZS Manawanui, one of the newest additions to the Royal New Zealand Navy’s fleet. Every year a navy ship is selected as the guard ship for the regatta providing provide a lofty vantage point for VIPs, naval hierarchy and other dignitaries to view the action on the water. To complement the experience, Lawson’s Dry Hills will be served on board. Guests will be able to enjoy four gold medal-winning wines – 2020 PINK Pinot, 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Reserve Chardonnay and the 2017 Reserve Pinot Noir as summer breezes whisk centuries of sailing history across Auckland Harbour and beyond to the Hauraki Gulf.

    Of course, this isn’t the only way Lawson’s Dry Hills supports yachting. For some time now, Lawson’s Dry Hills has been a proud sponsor of Yachting New Zealand – the organisation established to ‘help New Zealanders access, enjoy and succeed on the water, for life.’ As well as supporting the national body, Lawson’s Dry Hills offers YNZ members 20% off and free delivery across the range of award-winning wines.

    The passion and dedication of the yachting community aligns perfectly with the values of Lawson’s Dry Hills and the close-knit team who work together to crafting their range of wines. And there’s no better way to celebrate a great day on the water than with a glass of great wine! Be sure to experience the Ports of Auckland Anniversary Day Regatta on February 1st, from whatever vantage point you can, and choose your favourite Lawson’s Dry Hills wine to add to the occasion.

  • Visiting us here in Marlborough?

    Visiting us here in Marlborough? Here’s a few other things we recommend!


    For luxury and peace, The Marlborough Lodge is a beautifully converted convent on Rapaura Road, abut ten minutes from the town of Blenheim. Marlborough Vintners Hotel is set in the vines between Renwick and Blenheim and is also lovely. A great location for visiting wineries, biking and exploring, and about 15 minutes from town. There is a Café and little gift shops opposite. Chateau Marlborough, is right in town, has lovely rooms, a pool and has a very good Chef. This one right in town too, more boutique style https://www.hoteldurville.co.nz/ And this one is brand new https://www.facebook.com/staymarlborough/. No bar or food but plenty of options just metres away. Totally stunning rooms.


    Come and see us of course – but all the wineries for visiting are on here. Wairau River is brilliant for lunch, No.1 Family Estate make lovely Methode Traditionnelle and all the Nautilus wines are terrific. These three are all close to each other at the western end of Rapaura Road.

    Just past Renwick on State HW63 towards the west, there is Clos Henri – a tiny wee church that was relocated there many years ago. French owned, lovely wines and lovely people. Also Te Whare Ra in Renwick, very small producer, delicious wines. Hans Herzog (tiny, boutique) and Saint Clair Cafe are both off Rapaura Rd and great for food (and wine – Hans Herzog is especially interesting).

    Other things

    Go to Picton and jump on the mailboat or one of the other cruises. Brilliant on a lovely day and good chance of seeing dolphins (have had orcas too!) https://www.beachcombercruises.co.nz/ Paddle boarding is fun here and definitely do a day or a half day out at Lochmara Lodge which also has accommodation. And there are other Sounds resorts such as Bay of Many Coves, Furneaux Lodge, Awaroa Lodge… lots of them.

    Yum strawberries and fresh ice cream from https://www.hedgerows.co.nz/ on Old Renwick Road just outside town and if you’re here on a Sunday, make sure you visit the Marlborough Farmer’s Market at the A&P Showgrounds.

    Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre is amazing – a ‘must see’ with Sir Peter Jackson’s ‘Knights of the Sky’ WW1 personal collection and dioramas, and next door is Omaka Classic Cars with Australian and English built vehicles from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

    Lots of tramping in the Richmond Ranges and mountain biking or walking in the Wither Hills – both stunning. The Richmond Ranges are bush-clad with streams and waterfalls, while the Withers are in complete contrast.

    Havelock is nice for a walk around the marina and lunch at the Captain’s Daughter. Great walks in the bush at Pelorus – some of Lord of the Tings was filmed here.


    The best one locally is Arbour, which offers fine dining but in a relaxed atmosphere. Brilliant food and very attentive service. It is just before you get to Renwick from town, turn left into Godfrey’s Road. Bookings recommended.

    In town, Scotch is great for wine, craft beer and delicious, contemporary food. It can get a bit noisy as the acoustics aren’t great – but it has a good atmosphere when busy. There’s a good Indian – the Village India, and Thai – Eat Thai, and Mollies at Hotel d’Urville which is quite new.

    Good for breakfast are Herb & Olive, or for a vintage vibe, Ritual and we love Karaka for any time of day!

    This website has everything on it and might help with everything we’ve forgotten to mention! https://marlboroughnz.com/visit

  • Wine Show Successess

    NZ’s latest wine shows were pure gold

    Spring is not only the time of year when we see the beginnings of the new vintage, it’s also a time when winemakers see the fruits of their labours from previous vintages as the nation’s leading wine shows reveal their top wines. With the results of the New Zealand International Wine Show, Marlborough Wine Show and New World Wine Awards announced recently, wine lovers will be better informed than ever when making their selections from the shelves of New Zealand wines.

    In late September, New World published its medal winners gleaned from more than 1,000 offerings from the country’s wineries. The New World Wine Awards prides itself on being New Zealand’s most ‘consumer friendly’ competition handing out accolades to wines under $25. Lawson’s Dry Hills received two gold medals – the perennial favourite, Gewurztraminer (2017 vintage) and the stunning Reserve Chardonnay 2019.
    Meanwhile, the results of the NZ International Wine Show – NZ ‘s largest wine competition – have just been announced. The judging panels were headed by Chief Judge Bob Campbell MW and included many of the country’s most experienced wine judges and several Masters of Wine (MWs) all of whom sniffed swirled, sipped (and spat!) their way through over two thousand wines. With the majority of entries from the excellent 2019 and 2020 vintages, judges reported the wines to be the best varietal line-up they had ever encountered in the history of the event, resulting in a record number of 1423 medals – 304 gold, 387 silver and 732 bronze.

    Amid such esteemed company, the quality of Lawson’s Dry Hills’ wines shone, winning 17 medals making them the second most awarded of the 150 wineries based in Marlborough. Even more appealing is the fact that eleven of these medal winners are priced at $20 or less, allowing many wine shoppers to enjoy medal-winning quality every day. Lawson’s Dry Hills collected four gold medals: three for Sauvignon Blanc and one for the delicious PINK pinot.

    Gold Medals:
    – Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    – Inviniti Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Pink 2020

    Silver Medals
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2019
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2018
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Riesling 2018
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Pink 2019
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
    -The Sisters Pinot Rose 2020
    -The Sisters Sauvignon Blanc 2020

    Hot off the press, the country’s largest regional competition, the Marlborough Wine Show has just announced its winners. From a total of 549 entries, which chief judge Ben Glover stated were, “Of outstanding quality”, the panel of 17 judges awarded 49 gold and 130 silver medals. Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020 receiving one of the nine gold medal awarded to the 2020 vintage of this varietal, while wines from all three Lawson’s Dry Hills brands featured amongst the silver medals:

    Gold: – Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    Silver – Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2020
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2018
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2019
    – Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2017
    -The Sisters Pinot Rose 2020

    Yet for chief winemaker, Marcus Wright and the team, what truly matters is enjoyment of the wines. “There are no medals that quite compare with the enthusiasm when friends meet up around a bottle of our wine and the conversation flows. Moments like these are pure gold.”

  • Online shopping increases here to stay

    An unexpected side effect Covid-19 has been the way the virus has changed our shopping habits. As most traditional retailers were forced to close for a period, it opened the way for us to seek out efficient, contact-less ways to spend our money. Even the supermarkets that remained open had long queues outside, so many shoppers chose to go online rather than stand in line.  And even when the liquor retailers were able to open – many still chose to shop from the comfort and safety of home.

    This hasn’t just happened here in New Zealand but is a global phenomenon. We may not have been hit as hard by the pandemic as many other countries, but since Kiwis are typically early adopters of new technologies, we have been quite comfortable clicking our way from store to store.

    A recent report by Chris Wilkinson, Managing Director of First Retail Group and released by Westpac, highlighted how Covid-19 has introduced a whole new wave of digital consumers to online shopping. Wine sales reflect a similar story with Winesearcher observing how online alcohol sales in the U.S. rose an estimated 40 – 60% for the week ending March 21 – right at the beginning of the lockdown.

    Yet not all products responded the same way. A study by eommerce solutions provider ‘Big Commerce’ reported that while food and beverage sales were up 7.2% during the pandemic, categories like cameras and equipment, for instance, fell by 64%. The question is, with traditional stores now reopen, will we simply revert to our traditional shopping habits? Beverage Analyst Bourcard Nesin at Rabobank believes the shift to online sales is a lasting one. UK Business magazine The Economist predicts that the pandemic will energise our adoption of new technologies and businesses will escalate their transformation into the digital economy.

    Ecommerce experts worldwide are predicting that grocery shopping will continue to grow online. We have been steadily going that way for years and Covid-19 has simply accelerating the change. Of course, many businesses will always need physical contact, from hairdressers to physiotherapists, but even doctor’s appointments are now being conducted online, so who knows how many more ‘traditional’ retailers could soon change.

    While traditional shopping is a case of what you see is what you get, the dynamics are different for online sales. Brands are more important than ever so that people can trust products they cannot see or try. Fortunately, customers have easy access to product information and customer reviews to help guide their decisions. In the case of wine purchases, you can quickly access reviews with a few clicks.

    Does that mean tasting events are in jeopardy in this digital world?  If the enterprising efforts by certain wineries is any indication, maybe not. Lawson’s Dry Hills conducted a wine tasting online in early May over the radio as Mike Graham of the UK’s Talk Radio spoke to Master of Wine, Nick Adams. An online tasting by another winery recently gave customers the chance to purchase the wines online for delivery before the event, then join the winemaker’s webinar on Zoom. Such events allow us to still enjoy tastings without having to resort to a taxi ride home.

    Along with webinars and virtual business meetings – virtual tastings and online brand experiences are continuing to grow and attract large numbers. Look out for the next tasting coming to a screen near you!

  • Better by the dozen

    Gaining a greater voice on the world stage for premium New Zealand wine is an ever-increasing challenge. Smaller wineries are often drowned out by powerful multinationals with their vast budgets and sophisticated marketing tools. Yet there are those who believe quality speaks volumes; that several voices singing the praises of New Zealand’s wine in harmony will be more effective than one voice singing alone.

    So back in 2004, twelve of the country’s most prestigious and enduring artisanal wineries decided to join forces from a marketing and education perspective and ‘The Family of Twelve’ was created. Judy Finn of Neudorf remembers what first brought them together.”We were all friends and we decided we were doing too much travelling, had a huge carbon footprint and were all export-focused companies. So we decided to see if we could share the international travel workload and promote New Zealand and other premium products from New Zealand at the same time.”

    The Family of Twelve is an alliance of family-owned wineries across the length and breadth of New Zealand located in eight of the county’s top growing regions. Family members represent a who’s who of what makes New Zealand wine so special today and include Villa Maria, Kumeu River, Millton Vineyard, Craggy Range, Palliser Estate, Ata Rangi, Neudorf, Fromm Winery, Lawson’s Dry Hills, Nautilus Estate, Pegasus Bay and Felton Road.

    Reducing air miles may have been the initial catalyst but increasing interaction between winemakers and viticulturists has been one of the positive results. Wineries which, day-to-day are competitive, get to be collaborative through a once a year get-together they call ‘Vini Viti’. During these two-day events, the winemakers and viticulturists meet up for highly focussed workshops and tastings. It’s an opportunity to discuss what works and what doesn’t, and perhaps share information about trials they may have been running. Every year Vini Viti is held at a different winery which chooses a major topic for the workshops and is given a budget to purchase wines for a tasting where family members’ wines are tasted alongside their peers. As Marcus Wright, chief winemaker at Lawson’s Dry Hills explained, “It’s awesome to discuss the technical side of viticulture and winemaking. From a geek’s point of view, it’s great to have the opportunity to examine and drink some of the country’s best wines.”

    This collaborative philosophy is echoed in the Family of Twelve’s ‘Critical Comment’ – a document that serves as a roadmap for where the family is going and what drives it. The document describes how the family is “bound by a common love of their craft and a desire to share their knowledge to a wider audience”. For in this family, brothers and sisters help each other to achieve greatness, while each pursuing their own lofty ambitions.

    They meet several times a year for board meetings when members plan various educational and marketing initiatives. The Family Chair rotates every two years and right now Paul Donaldson of Pegasus Bay is at the helm. Right from the outset, there were a few simple house rules: to be a part of the Family, each winery had to be family-owned, you had to make great wine, and importantly, you had to be able to make decisions within 24 hours.

    When it comes to being heard in the world market, the alliance allows wineries to speak with a louder voice. Or as the website expresses it, “We are a family of twelve siblings with one voice and one purpose.”

    The export market is The Family of Twelve’s main focus and joining forces for international trade initiatives provides economies of scale by combining resources for events like workshops or the wine trade. A pre-requisite for participation is that the winery’s owner or perhaps the senior winemaker must be present to promote their products – and to assist in promoting their siblings’ wines.

    Together they’ve staged tastings and masterclasses in cities like New York, San Francisco, London and Amsterdam, while also hosting inbound visitors to New Zealand including the wine media, key sommeliers, retailers and wine buyers. Endeavours like these are what helps The Family of Twelve not only pioneer new opportunities, but fulfill its vision of “nurturing long term relationships with an emphasis on education at home and in key export markets” .There have been events where family members’ wines were tasted blind alongside some of the world’s best. Also important is education about the differences – and distinctions – between the various regions in New Zealand, with a leaning very much to the premium end of the member wineries’ portfolios.

    Education doesn’t stop there. In 2017 they established ‘The Family of Twelve Wine Tutorial’, a two-day residential tutorial for twelve wine professionals comprising a series of workshops, dinners and guest speakers. Its purpose was to impart first-hand knowledge to the wine industry’s next generation of leaders, representatives and communicators. The program has been so successful they’re now planning the 3rd event.

    Looking to the future, this family is very much focussed on building an enduring legacy for New Zealand wines. Certainly, the 16 years that the group has been in operation confirms The Family of Twelve is here for the long haul and the wider New Zealand wine industry will be the long-term beneficiary.

    For more information, please visit http://familyoftwelve.co.nz/

  • Blind River provides clarity for wine lovers

    AMW logo makes Sauvignon Blanc drinkers savvy to wine’s true origins.

    Can a wine label help you understand exactly where the grapes came from, how sustainably they were grown and where the wine was made and bottled? If you’re looking at a bottle of Blind River Sauvignon Blanc, it can – all from just three initials  ‘AMW’ on the back label. Allow us to explain.

    Nobody likes to buy a product that isn’t genuine and wine lovers are no different. Which is why French wine regions including Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Champagne and many others are protected by a strict ‘AOC’ or ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée‘ guaranteeing that the grapes were grown in the region shown on the label and the wines were produced in accordance with strict quality criteria.

    It’s not just wines that are protected, with Roquefort cheese, Armagnac and Cognac, Parma ham and many other agricultural products also protected by strict regional laws and standards, ensuring generic produce from other regions around the world can’t carry these coveted titles.

    Now, Marlborough has established a standard to protect the integrity, authenticity and brand value of its Sauvignon Blanc known as ‘Appellation Marlborough Wine’. Common sense would suggest that any wine with ‘Marlborough’ on the front label 100% from the region, whereas in fact they are permitted to say ‘Marlborough’ with just 85% Marlborough grapes – the remaining 15% could be grapes from elsewhere.

    AMW not only assures that the wine has been made from grapes grown entirely in Marlborough, they must have been grown by vineyards independently certified by Sustainable Winegrowing NZ. They must also be from managed yields established according to soil type and vine density, and the wine bottled in New Zealand.  Quite a mouthful, but a good one.

    Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2018 was amongst the first wines to carry the AMW ‘Appellation Marlborough Wine’ logo. Made from grapes from a single vineyard, Blind River Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect example of a wine that reflects the distinctive characters of not only the Awatere Valley, but the specific vineyard site.

    Yet Blind River is also very much the result of not just terroir but also teamwork, specifically the collaborative efforts of winemakers Marcus Wright and Rebecca Wiffen and the entire Lawson’s Dry Hills team. It has also proven to be one of the company’s most awarded wines, with the 2015 picking up five trophies at the 2016 International Wine Challenge along with numerous other accolades. Subsequent vintages have won a number of awards locally and abroad, including the trophy for Champion Sauvignon Blanc at the 2019 New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards

    AMW has far reaching benefits. With 86% of wine produced in New Zealand being Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and an export value approaching $2 billion, there’s the ripple effect as it indirectly helps to protect the New Zealand wine industry as a whole. The AMW logo has been legally trademarked worldwide including critical export markets like USA and the U.K. While AMW currently applies only to Sauvignon Blanc, it is likely to be extended to other wines in future.

    It’s also refreshing to see that this is one initiative that is bringing different Marlborough wine producers together to benefit the region as a whole. AMW is chaired by Ivan Sutherland from Dog Point Vineyard supported by a committee made up of a number of producers including Belinda Jackson of Lawson’s Dry Hills.

    So when choosing a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, it’s well worth checking the back label to ensure that it is exactly what you want to spend your money on – 100% Marlborough, made from sustainably certified grapes and bottled in New Zealand.

    More about our Blind River vineyard 

    More about our Blind River range

  • The morning break that bonds the team

    What makes a great wine? Free draining soils, perfect weather, an intuitive winemaker? Yes, all of the above. Yet there’s one ingredient that’s not often spoken about when judges swirl a wine around in their glasses and assess what makes it exceptional.

    At Lawson’s Dry Hills, the essential ingredient in all their wines is teamwork. That seamless interaction between diverse talents has a direct influence on growing the best grapes possible from the vintage and in turn, making the best wine. So, while Lawson’s Dry Hills is deeply rooted in the country’s top wine growing region, it’s teamwork as well as terroir that makes the difference.

    One of the catalysts for such teamwork didn’t originate at a corporate seminar or from a management philosophy, it’s a little more spontaneous than that. It happens every morning at 10am as everyone from the winery, main office and the vineyard down tools and meet up for a 15-minute smoko. This team get-together ignites conversation and fires up a break from the pressures of crafting, marketing and selling award-winning wines.

    The camaraderie is infectious as the team meets around a long table at the Alabama Road winery and share a coffee or tea, perhaps some home-baking or a morning tea shout for a birthday. Regardless of the pressures even at busy times of year, everyone makes an effort to pause from whatever issues are impacting that day.

    As we all sat together during one rather chilly Tuesday in early December, it was a jovial affair. The co-founder of Lawson’s Dry Hills, Barbara Lawson, was in attendance, along with the viticulturist, both winemakers, the general manager, marketing team and support staff.

    Barbara’s home made trifle

    The Stuff quiz is a tradition during these morning breaks with questions reeled off from either the newspaper or phone. It was all over in a mere 15 minutes, but the benefits have an impact on the whole day and contribute to the enduring team culture.

    Morning smoko is symptomatic of what’s occurring across the broader landscape in the more progressive modern businesses. As workplace pressures increase, many workers feel compelled to spend meal breaks hunched over their keyboards- or many have no breaks at all in the quest to get ahead. Yet studies have identified that mental health and productivity ramp up as individuals collaborate and mandatory time-outs are incorporated into workdays. At Lawson’s Dry Hills, this morning break is founded more on what feels good rather than science, yet the effect is much the same.

    In the same way that award-winning wines are a complex balance of fruit flavours, tannins, texture and acidity, creating these wines is the result of a cohesive interaction between diverse talents. The continued success of Lawson’s Dry Hills in wine shows and with growing global sales, indicates that this group of individuals come together as a great team.

  • Natural Wine Blog

    If you think you’re hearing more and more about natural wine, you’re not alone. While currently a mere drop in the wine ocean, interest in natural wine is gaining momentum at a rate that defies its modest volumes. As today’s consumers are increasingly wanting to know what ingredients are in the wine and food they’re buying and are willing to pay a premium for products they perceive as being ‘natural’, our curiosity about natural wines can only keep growing. With some wine drinkers reporting fewer or no side effects like hangovers from drinking natural wine, you begin to understand what the fuss is all about.

    So what exactly is ‘natural’ wine. While there is no legal definition, it means that the grapes have been grown and the wine made with minimal chemical or mechanical intervention along the way. Some would say it takes winemaking back to the way it was centuries ago – long before modern science got involved.

    In conventional wine production, there is plenty of scope for viticulturists to use herbicides, pesticide or fungicides to protect the grapes and ensure the fruit reaches its potential (although New Zealand vineyards must be certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand which employs strict criteria). Why should we worry? Decanter magazine reported that a recent study of French wine showed 90% contained traces of at least one pesticide, albeit at very low levels. Then during the winemaking process, winemakers have the latitude to use around 72 permissible additives including yeasts, enzymes, proteins, tannins and bacteria to enhance their wines, depending on the winemaking rules and controls of their region. After that, a raft of techniques including temperature-controlled fermentation, lees stirring, fining and filtering may be used to further manipulate the end result.

    In natural wine production however, the options are considerably limited. Grapes must be grown organically or bio-dynamically which, among other disciplines, means there’s no reliance on synthetic herbicides or pesticides. As Lawson’s Dry Hills winemaker Marcus Wright, pointed out, “There are still sprays that you can use, but your options are limited. You have to keep a very good eye on things, because the sprays are much softer.” With science doing little to help, viticulturists have to work with the forces of nature. Ploughing is minimised, soil is often enriched with compost rather than fertilizers and the vines require careful management.

    Once in the winery, the winemaker’s wings are clipped considerably. Only the grapes’ natural yeasts are used in fermentation and minimal or no sulphur is added. There’s no fining to remove sediment, nothing is added to rectify sugar or acid levels, even the use of oak barrels is minimised by many, preferring the natural taste of the grapes to be the driving force. As a result, natural wine is typically very much ‘alive’ when it’s bottled. White wines will often look cloudy as the wine may rest on skins for long periods; such skin contact potentially helping to naturally preserve the wine. However, that cloudy appearance is nothing to be alarmed about. The requirements of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand ensure the purity of the wine isn’t compromised by chemical residues.

    There’s also an increased chance of popping the cork on a bad bottle. That said, many natural wines look bright and vibrant and present an abundance of flavour in the glass. Marcus tried his hand at a natural wine using conventional grapes recently. “We actually made a Gewürztraminer using natural techniques, with no added yeasts, left it on skins for 100 days and it was absolutely delicious.”

    Of course, there are risks. With the whole process from grape to bottle presenting a range of challenges and the risks increasing considerably, you can understand the reluctance of many larger wine producers to dabble with natural wines. So why should we get excited about them? Perhaps we may be jumping the gun, but if the craft beer revolution gives us anything to learn from, natural wine could have a significant impact. Indeed, Marcus sees natural wines as, “The craft beer of the wine world. They have the potential to capture the attention of the younger generation who don’t have preconceptions about what they buy and drink.” Today, craft beers are no longer the fringe but are arguably the drivers of change in what once was a dying market.

    So, could the natural wine movement mimic the craft beer phenomenon? Natural wines are making an impact right around the world as vignerons of all cultures and countries are getting involved, while many bars and restaurants are only too eager to offer natural wines to their customers. Closer to home, a visit to ‘Cave à Vin’ – a bar which serves only natural wines on Auckland’s North Shore – provides a glimpse into what’s happening and the diversity of wines on offer. As you look around the rustic surroundings, you notice the funky label designs reminiscent of the hippie era. Behind the rough sawn timber bar, our host, Romain, originally from Beaujolais, paints a vivid picture of what is happening with natural wine from a French perspective.

    Romain described how, despite their strict adherence to the disciplines of appellation and tradition, a growing number of French winemakers are joining the movement and producing some exciting wines. Similarly, natural wines are popping up in California and Australia as well as New Zealand with many available for tasting at this quirky establishment. Sure, they’re not all great, natural wines tend to age quicker in the bottle and there’s a risk of striking the odd one that’s dull and flat, though it wasn’t difficult to find some shining lights as well.

    Right now, there are very few natural wines in the major wine stores and supermarkets, so how are consumer likely to respond as more of them appear on the shelves? According to global market research company Kline Research, consumers are willing to pay a premium for products they perceive as being ‘natural’, particularly millennials who are, of course, the new generation of wine drinkers. Closer to home, the 2018 OANZ Organic Market Report showed that retail sales of organic products are growing twice as fast as conventional products. The New Zealand organic sector has grown ten per cent a year since 2015 and by mid-2018 was said to be worth around $600 million.  So whether this increased interest in ‘natural’ will result in growing demand for natural wines, only time will tell. And there are those who insist that natural wines are nothing more than faulty – a strong opinion that is not without merit. Keep watching this space!

  • Christmas salad

    Food and wine pairing is about what tastes good – so don’t worry too much about the rules, just mix some flavours and pour a glass of your favourite wine and see what you think! You can use recipes for inspiration, but adapt them to suit your own tastes, or perhaps to suit seasonal produce from your garden.

    This salad mixes many different flavours from sweet to peppery, tangy to toasty – perfect with our exciting new Rosé, PINK Pinot by Lawson’s Dry Hills. Serve chilled.

    Christmas salad

    2 cups rocket

    50g goat’s cheese, crumbled

    Fennel bulb, finely sliced

    50g toasted pine nuts

    Tablespoon of pomegranate seeds

    Fresh mint, Italian parsley, oregano


    Dressing – combine the following in a jar and shake until well-mixed.

    ¼ cup Raspberry vinegar

    ¾ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

    ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard

    Half a clove of fresh garlic, minced

    Pinch of Marlborough sea salt

    Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper


    Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl and add as much of the dressing as you wish. Quantities are approximate!

    Enjoy with grilled fish or meats, especially glazed ham, or just some artisan bread and don’t forget the PINK!

  • The rise and rise of Rosé

    Across the ever-changing wine landscape, there’s one trend that’s growing at a startling rate. Rosé. It continues to climb the sales charts with both seasoned aficionados and newcomers to the world of wine thoroughly enjoying drinking pink. The release of PINK Pinot by Lawson’s Dry Hills is indicative of how far Rosé has come – and how seriously the country’s quality wine producers are taking it. Winemaker Marcus even chose to use an imported a yeast from the south of France especially suited to this style of Rosé.

    The latest wine competitions add a sense of perspective to how much Rosés have come of age. At the 2018 New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards, there were 70 medal-winning wines. The winner of the Best Open Red category was in fact a Rosé, not a traditional red Pinot Noir or Syrah as you may have expected. A record number of 100 Rosés lined up for the 2018 New World Wine Awards – up 33% on the previous year. Then at the latest Organic Wine Awards, there were eight Rosé medal winners – more than for varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Gewürztraminer.

    In 2015, Decanter magazine reported record sales of Rosé in the US and today the trend continues to gather momentum. From 2001-2016, 11.5 million litres were exported from France to the US, as reported by Wine Spectator magazine. Even celebrities like Brad and Angelina joined the movement having invested $60 million in Chateau Miraval in the Côtes de Provence back in 2011. Closer to home, new Rosés are constantly being added to the line-ups of major wine producers on both sides of the Tasman.

    With over 150 New Zealand examples on the shelves in right now (and counting), Rosés are creating strong demand from women and younger wine drinkers, but men are also joining in, disproving the stereotypical assumption of ‘pink must be for girls’ (about time!).

    So where did it all begin? Provence in southern France is the heartland of Rosé while other French regions including the Loire, Languedoc-Roussillon and Corsica also produce many high-quality examples. Virtually every wine region in the world produces Rosés, the most well-known globally being Mateus from Portugal in the distinctive flask-shaped bottles (often coveted as candle holders back in the ‘70’s).

    From a style perspective, there tends to be two distinctive camps – darker, slightly sweeter wines or the more favoured pale and dry ones, such as those predominantly from Provence. Rosé is made by crushing the grapes and leaving the skins in contact with the juice for just enough time to extract the desired amount of colour. The skins are then removed and the juice usually fermented cool, in stainless steel. A number of red varietals are suitable for Rosé with many of New Zealand’s north island producers opting for Merlot or Sarah, while south island wineries tend to choose Pinot Noir.

    To create PINK, Marcus chose Pinot Noir grapes from the company’s Chaytors Road vineyard in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley. Grapes were picked in early March with sugar levels of 21.5° Brix, a crisp acidity and lovely, intense flavours. Once in the winery, the grapes were gently pressed and allowed to settle overnight. Then during fermentation, the specially-imported yeast proved its worth, highlighting the natural berry fruit characters to help create a ripe, fruity yet refreshingly dry wine. Marcus is delighted with the results, saying, “We have worked hard in the vineyard and winery to craft a wine that is a much fun as the packaging – beautiful on the eye and delicious on the palate”.

    As one trade professional said when tasting PINK, “It’s a rare thing to find a pale Rosé that is dry, yet so packed with flavour!”

    So as spring gently creeps up on us and we think ahead to warm, summer evenings, there will be many delicious pink wines to sip and enjoy chilled, including the brand new PINK Pinot by Lawson’s Dry Hills. This immensely drinkable wine with lifted aromas of ripe strawberry and elegant floral notes is ideal for serving with those mixed platters of cured meats, olives and young cheeses.

    PINK Pinot sits alongside the popular Lawson’s Dry Hills estate range that includes Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir, but looks very different! The label is modelled on the popular mandala pattern, the literal meaning of which is ‘circle’ which represents wholeness. A circle also denotes balance and perfection, important characters in great wine. Dressed in silver, which is said to restore balance and pink for compassion and glamour, this exciting new wine should be enjoyed with great friends, delicious eats and inspiring conversation.

    More about Lawson’s Dry Hills PINK Pinot

  • Writing for the world wine web

    Keeping informed about the world of wine used to be simple. Glossy magazines and daily newspapers provided fertile soil for New Zealand writers like Bob Campbell MW, Vic Williams and Geoff Kelly to flourish and share their views. They were our palate’s alter ego; our ears to the ground in a pioneering industry eager to grow and develop its identity. It was a time when receiving the latest news, a matter of weeks or even months later, was deemed timely enough. After all, in this industry speed was never the driving force and time, it seemed, could only make a good thing better.

    Oh how things have changed.

    Wine scribes have had to embrace the new digital media, keeping wine lovers informed at the click of a mouse barely seconds after the finishing touches have been applied to articles, posts, blogs and tweets. And it’s just as well as wine columns in the daily papers, globally, have been disappearing as the big media companies look to cut corners to try to cope with their shrinking patronage.

    While search engines have made seeking out the latest news easier, the plethora of information on offer has made it harder to be selective. Where do you start? Well, many of the writers and critics who made their names in print have been just as successful online, so they make a good starting point. Internationally, Jancis Robinson’s columns still grace the pages of the UK’s Decanter magazine but she also has her own website and e-newsletter. Decanter’s online newsletter offers snippetsof their tastingsfor free, or you can pull the cork on a Premium Subscription to read the full reviews for £75 a year (around $NZ145).

    From the US, subscribe to the Wine Spectator newsletter at www.winespectator.com and while Robert Parker’s ‘Wine Advocate’ is still available in print, it is more accessible at www.robertparker.com.

    Closer to home, Australia’s Winestate Magazine can still be found on newsstands and also read as a digital edition at winestate.com.au. Gourmet Traveller Wine, which harnesses around 30 leading wine writers including an impressive seven Masters of Wine, is available as a bi-monthly digital edition. Or for those who tire of reading on their tablet or PC, it too can still be found at newsstands. Also making the transition from print to digital, Bob Campbell MW, together with writer Huon Hooke, have a successful online newsletter ‘The Real Review’ at www.therealreview.com. And then there’s Yvonne, Joelle, Michael and co locally. Need more inspiration? Simply google ‘wine news’ and watch the flood gates open!

    Onlinepublishingarguably gives wine writers more opportunity to engage with their readers leading to a more ‘personal’ relationship. It’s therefore important that messages and comments are replied to in good time – there is now an expectancy to receive a response within 24 hours at the most – something that the ‘old school’ writers have had to get used to. And their opinions travel fast via the viral nature of social media, where hashtags and online communities reach readers unrestricted by industry, time zone or geography.

    In today’s world, wine news like many other things, also comes via a cellar full of apps allowing you to download buying guides like Vivino, Wine Searcher and more.

    Yet with the rise of digital media one wonders if some of the mystique has been filtered away. This revolution is rather like that which occurred when screw caps began replacing corks. The once familiar ‘pop’ now mostly echoes in the corridors of time, replaced with the ‘click of quality’ (according to the pioneers of the Screwcap Initiative back in 2001). So too, digital writing has re-written the rules of traditional print media.

    Whilst we are obviously a wine producer rather than a wine writer, we do make an appearance on social media with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under our Lawson’s Dry Hills brand. Like bringing the media closer to readers, these social platforms bring brands like ours closer to our customers and that’s a really good thing. When someone writes about us and tags us, we get to see that review and can reply or thank people straight away. We can re-post it, ‘share’ it, ‘like’ it – it’s all great brand exposure and word-of-mouth is the strongest form of advertising!

    The internet is not going anywhere, so the instantaneous nature of news, thoughts, reviews, comments and opinions can reach thousands, if not millions with just a few clicks. This is now the way of the world and the demand for expediency will only grow as people continue to want to satiate their appetites for instant information.

  • Vintage 2019 in Marlborough hits the sweet spot

    While most New Zealanders were basking in the warmth of an unseasonably hot, dry summer, Marlborough wineries were basking in the glory of a different kind. High sunshine and low rainfall provided the perfect conditions for their grapes, offering the essential ingredients for a standout vintage. So this year, unlike the more-challenging harvests of the past few years, winemakers had the freedom to call the shots. For Lawson’s Dry Hills’ senior winemaker Marcus Wright, that meant picking when the grapes and the conditions were right, unhurried by the threat of inclement weather and ensuing challenges such as botrytis.

    However, it takes more than good weather to make great wine. Years of nurturing the soil and managing the vines plays a huge part in the resulting wines and none more so than managing the yields. Pruning to two or three canes is just the start (many vineyards grow four canes) and already reduces the amount of fruit a vine can produce. Careful canopy management and taking decisions to sacrifice fruit post-veraison are all hugely important decisions that affect the quality and style of the wines. The strategies employed by the Lawson’s Dry Hills team are part of why their wines are so consistently good, year on year. They’re here for the long-term and therefore avoid the short-term gains to be had from large crops but poor quality, resulting in wines that lack the varietal character and sense of place that are so important.

    The freedom to harvest when the time is right is also the result of careful planning, a luxury made possible by Lawson’s Dry Hills having invested years ago in their own harvester. This is not the case for many other vineyards with contractors having to work around the clock to meet demand. For some, that meant waiting in a queue and producers having to delay bringing in fruit that was deemed to be ready.

    Back to 2019 and the LDH harvester rumbled into the vineyard around two weeks earlier than normal, beginning with the Pinot Noir for the Rose at the end of February, followed by Chardonnay then some of the Sauvignon Blanc in early March and the rest at later intervals. Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir were sprinkled throughout. The excitement of the winery and vineyard team would suggest this harvest will draw comparison with the highly rated 2015 (the vintage our Blind River Sauvignon Blanc received multiple trophies at the International Wine Challenge in London).

    Marcus believes the company’s grapes are pretty much perfect this year, having achieved the ideal balance of sugar (ripeness), flavour development and acid levels. All the winery team need to do is gently guide these characters into the finished wine with minimal intervention. The only negative is that volume is down on an average year by about 30% for Pinot Noir and 10% for Sauvignon Blanc.

    Fast forward to May and some of the ferments have finished whereas others are still quietly ticking away. It’s important to keep tasting the ferments with a view to the final blends although the flavours will continue to develop over the next few weeks.

    Such a season of favourable growing conditions is backed up by Met. office data which indicated that ‘Growing Degree Days’ in January 2019 for Blenheim were around 33% above the long-term average. There were over 20% more sunshine hours than the norm and only 8% of the long-term average rainfall.

    For other Marlborough producers, initial reports are also positive. Harvest began in many cases ten days earlier than normal with good quality, yet in some cases, lighter yields. Many reported that it was the earliest they had ever experienced. Of course, hot weather also brings unique challenges as low rainfall earlier in the summer forced a shutdown of the Southern Valleys Irrigation Scheme which harnesses much of the water the vineyards depend on. Some growers were even trucking water in to sustain their vines.

    Right now at Lawson’s Dry Hills, the focus is on treating the new season’s juice with care and ensuring that the high quality finds its way into the company’s brands Blind River, The Sisters, Mount Vernon and of course, Lawson’s Dry Hills. These wines will then follow the 2018’s into the New Zealand market and further afield to export markets around the world.