• The earth moves for Lawson’s Dry Hills

    When the earthquake struck Kaikoura in November 2017, its effects were more far reaching than many first realised. A number of Marlborough wineries felt the impact as some lost power, others suffered damage to their tanks and as a result ended up losing a quantity of wine. So on the surface, the damage seemed relatively minimal. Yet Rebecca ‘Bec’ Wiffen, assistant winemaker at Lawson’s Dry Hills, has noticed a more lasting effect to the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake.

    As Bec commented recently, “We’ve noticed that the water table has actually risen and as a result many of the vineyards around the Marlborough region seem to be wetter than normal.” So maybe it hasn’t simply been the winter rains which have caused some of the low-lying vineyards to remain quite damp.

    Bec is very hands-on when it comes to all aspects of the winemaking process, so naturally she is very sensitive to any changes that are happening in the vineyard.  Bec has had to deal with a range of conditions having worked for several wineries around New Zealand. She’s also worked in the Napa Valley in California, and in the Alsace and Languedoc regions of France, so dealing with acts of nature is all part of a day’s work. However, earthquakes are something beyond what any of us in the wine industry can plan for.

    To learn more about Bec’s observation, it was time to dig a little deeper to truly understand what has actually happened underground.

    Peter Davidson, water scientist with the Marlborough District Council, has been monitoring changes to the ‘aquifers’ – which are the underground layers of water-bearing rock – from which wells source groundwater supply. “The 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake caused ground water levels to rise up to six metres at some Marlborough District Council monitoring wells across the region. On the day of the earthquake, the ground water level rose from 68 to 73 metres above sea level. ”

    When Peter spoke to the Marlborough Express earlier in the year, he highlighted the immediate effects of the earthquake. “The largest changes were associated with deep wells penetrating aquifers formed of compressible clays rather than from gravels alone,” he observed. After the earthquake, water came rushing up in the wells causing them to overflow, with the water in some rising by four to five metres causing it to seep into the ground. “An aquifer in Ben Morven rose by four metres, while water in another aquifer rose by five and a half metres. It destroyed our water monitor.” he said. At that stage it was unknown what the longer term impact would be to the underground water supply.  “We are still learning from the Christchurch earthquakes and what effects they have had, so it’s still early days.”

    So what has actually happened since the earthquake? Looking for instance at the 400 metre deep Marlborough District Council well in Hawkesbury Road in the Omaka Valley, “The groundwater level has largely returned to its pre-earthquake level,” Peter commented “But other aquifers like the one at Ben Morven, for example, have remained high and show no sign of falling.”

    In Marlborough, water supply is important for not only drinking water, it is also critical to the local vineyards and the agricultural industry in general. Marlborough enjoys some of the most idyllic grape growing conditions in New Zealand, with high sunshine hours, free draining soils and low rainfall. In fact, parts of eastern and southern Marlborough are amongst the driest regions in the country, according to the Marlborough District Council. Most vineyards in the area are irrigated, which means underground water is a lifeline and any changes to this water supply need to be carefully monitored.

    While water from below is one concern, water from the heavens is something else. The 2017 harvest presented many vintners with additional challenges with the after-effects of Cyclone Debbie battering much of the country back in April. As Bec Wiffen pointed out, since Lawson’s Dry Hills has its own mechanical harvester, the vineyard is better able to harvest at precisely the right time as they don’t have to depend on the availability of mechanical harvesters operated by outside contractors. So for 2017, they were able to work with the weather and bring the grapes in before the storms.

    As wine lovers eventually come to enjoy the excellent wines produced by Lawson’s Dry Hills from the 2017 vintage, maybe they’ll raise a glass to the winemakers who had to withstand more challenges than normal. This year, even more so than with previous releases, enjoying your favourite wine from Lawson’s Dry Hills will be moving experience.

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  • Wedding Testimonial

    “We recently celebrated our wedding day in Blenheim, Marlborough in January 2017.  Our ceremony and reception were held at our family home.  As many of our guests were travelling from out of town and overseas, it was important for us to share with them a selection of our favourite local Marlborough wines.  These were also chosen to complement our gourmet locally produced menu. Lawson’s Dry Hills were extremely helpful from planning our selections to delivery.  The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc was a particular favourite with our guests.  We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend
    Lawson’s Dry Hills for your special day.” 

    Thérèse and Chris Phillips

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  • Wines for Weddings

    “Yikes! The wedding is coming up and we haven’t sorted the wine! How do we know how much and what type to get? How much will it cost? Where do we buy it?”

    For many, buying wine can be pretty daunting at the best of times, let alone when it’s for a special event like a wedding. How do you know what everyone likes? Other than Great Aunt Mary’s penchant for sweet sherry, it’s impossible to know.

    For many couples, the wine for their wedding is determined by the venue. Many venues have their own supply and so the most you have to do is select the type of wine you’d like when selecting the menu. Some will allow you to supply your own choice of wine but there will be a ‘corkage’ fee (this covers the cost of providing glasses, serving the wine, disposing of the bottles etc).

    But, if you are holding the wedding at someone’s home or other location, then you have the freedom to choose whatever you want. While to some this may be daunting, to others it means choosing wines you know everyone will enjoy on your special day.

    Buying wines from a retailer is a good idea as they can advise you across a wide range. You might choose a number of different brands rather than everything from one producer. For example, you might love a Sauvignon Blanc from one winemaker but prefer the Pinot Noir from another. A retailer may be able to hire you the glasses too, if you need them.

    The other alternative is to purchase direct from a winery. You can still choose which wines from which wineries of course, or you can go to one and buy all the styles you need. A clear benefit of buying from a local winery is that there’s every chance you can pop in and try the range so you can make your final selections with complete confidence (can you see where I’m headed here…?)

    Yep, we at Lawson’s Dry Hills would be delighted to supply wines for your wedding. We can offer a wide range including our Estate and Reserve wines, our limited quantity Pioneer wines and our very special single vineyard offering, Blind River. In fact, you can choose across the ranges – for example you might fall in love with the Pioneer Pinot Noir and like just a few bottles, while preferring to select the Lawson’s Dry Hills Pinot Noir for the more volume requirements. And what’s more our smart presentation truly looks the part.

    Call or visit and we can arrange a tasting for you. We can advise which wines styles will pair well with your chosen menu and we can help calculate quantities. We’ll also arrange delivery (free of charge) if you’d like us to.

    So, take the stress out of wedding wine and call us on 03 578 7674 or pop in and see us at our newly refurbished cellar door, 238 Alabama Road, Blenheim 7242.

    P.S. Sorry, we don’t do sherry….

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  • Five Things You should Know About Sauvignon Blanc

    • The world loves Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand – its big, powerful expression with passionfruit, citrus and fresh herb aromas and flavours make it unmissable!
    • France has two areas famous for Sauvignon Blanc – the Loire Valley with flinty, dry Sancerre and Pouilly Fume as well as some lesser known wines from Touraine, and Bordeaux in the south-west. Here it makes crisp, dry wines and yet it is also a component of Sauternes and Barsac – the great sweet wines (also made with Semillon and Muscadelle).
    • Sauvignon Blanc is great with seafood, but be careful not to overwhelm the gentle flavours of a fish dish with a big, fruity wine. Instead look for a more subtle style. The bigger, more fruit-driven styles are great with more flavoursome cuisine such as Thai green curry. Sauvignon Blanc is also great with sushi and goat’s cheese (among other things!)
    • Sauvignon Blanc has a number of styles – from fresh, dry and steely to highly aromatic and juicy. It is sometimes made using oak barrels too which give a richness and complexity to the wines.
    • Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon.

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