• 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!

  • 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.

  • Frosts put the bite on Marlborough vineyards

    In most forms of agriculture, spring is a welcome time of regeneration and rebirth. Lambs are born, fruit trees blossom, days start earlier and the sun shines longer. But for a viticulturist it brings a fresh set of headaches, especially in cooler climates like the South Island of New Zealand.

    For Mark Ludemann, viticulturist at Lawson’s Dry Hills in Marlborough, it can be a time of 4am starts and often sleepless nights. Mark is responsible for overseeing the company’s vineyards in the Awatere and Waihopai Valleys, Rarangi, Ben Morven and also those closer to Blenheim. So as spring approaches and the vineyards come to life, Mark certainly has his hands full.  There’s the ever-present threat of frosts, all at a time when extreme weather conditions can do the greatest damage. “The vineyards in the valleys are most prone to spring frosts,” Mark explained. In 2018, bud burst began with the Chardonnay vines in the 2nd week of September, but as a cold blast blew in from the south during mid October, Mark was feeling nervous.

    Frosts threaten to kill off the delicate spring buds reducing grape yields and can also affect the vine’s foliage which is vital for photosynthesis. So anything a Marlborough wine producer can do to minimise the impact of frost will pay off at harvest time. For centuries, European grape growers have used various forms of heating like oil-burning ‘smudge pots’ to increase temperatures at ground level. In modern times, however, large frost fans and even helicopters have proven to be more effective.

    Lawson’s Dry Hills’ vineyards are equipped with frost fans which move warmer air down to ground level, which helps prevent moisture on the vines from freezing. Towering around 10 metres in the air and equipped with large aeroplane-sized propellers, frost fans are much like rescue helicopters when it come to protecting grape vines.

    But frost isn’t the only concern. “Right now, we’re spraying for diseases like powdery mildew,” Mark said.  They also have to mow between the vines to keep the grass and weeds down, which can also help reduce the impact of frosts. Like many Marlborough vineyards, sheep graze between the vines for part of the year. But at the end of winter the sheep are sent off to conventional pastures, so vineyard managers revert back to traditional forms of mowing to keep the grass down.

    Viticulturists like Mark can gain some comfort from knowing that the region is becoming warmer, with spring frost becoming less of a threat over time. Whether these warmer temperatures are the result of climate change or are caused by other changes in weather patterns may be a matter for debate but the region is certainly becoming warmer if meteorological records are any indication.

    Data recorded at the Blenheim Meteorological station at Grovetown Park indicates that Marlborough is experiencing half the frosts it did 90 years ago. Back in the 30’s and 40’s, Blenheim shivered with up to 70 frosts a year. Compare this with 2017 when there were just 30 ground frosts during the winter, four frosts in September and none in October – the first year in which no ground frosts had been recorded. While the Awatere and Waihopai valleys are generally colder than Blenheim, the vineyards even in these valleys are experiencing fewer frosts than in years gone by.

    Of course all will be forgotten come summertime when Marlborough sparkles as one of the sunniest regions in the country, and the new vintage wines once again prove ­­­­our distinctive sauvignon blancs, chardonnays and pinot noirs to be the toast of the wine world.

  • Pairing our wines with food

    Whilst there are said to be rules for pairing food and wine, all that really matters is if you like it. However, if you’re not sure where to start – here are a few suggestions that work well.

    Estate Sauvignon Blanc

    Goats’ Cheese, herb, feta and light, fresh cheeses. Vietnamese, Thai green curries, tomato-based dishes, seafood with fresh herbs and citrus, oysters, smoked salmon, fresh fennel, capsicums, asparagus, chilli, peas, dill, parsley, coriander, basil.

    Estate Chardonnay

    White rind cheeses such as Brie, Camembert. Young Gouda, Haloumi, Havarti. Creamy curries, smoked salmon, oysters, scallops, richer fish dishes, crayfish, light chicken dishes, turkey, pork. Creamy pasta, nutmeg, saffron, paprika.

    Estate Riesling

    Brilliant aperitif, but also good with soft, white cheeses, feta, fresh seafood with lemon or lime flavours, poached or fish smoked fish, salads, green vegetable dishes, fresh summer herbs.

    Estate Pinot Gris

    Washed rind, soft, white and mild blue cheeses, pates, terrines, creamy pasta, Chinese dishes, coconut-based curries, chicken and pork, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, cumin, clove, Moroccan flavours.

    Estate Gewurztraminer

    Soft, ripe cheeses, pates, Thai foods, red curries, Chinese food, ginger, cardamom, coriander, sweet brown spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.

    Estate Pinot Rose

    Firm, nutty cheese such as Gruyere, young Gouda. Seared or poached salmon, cured meats, platters, stews and casseroles, chick peas, lentils, ham, turkey, pork, chicken, juniper, fragrant Asian spices.

    Estate Pinot Noir

    Nutty cheeses such as Gruyere, aged Dutch cheeses, cured meats, pates, light beef or lamb curries, seared or poached salmon, seared tuna, hot ham, pork, turkey, beef casseroles, sausages, pizza, lentils, pasta, thyme, rosemary.

    Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

    Fresh cheeses, herbed or lemon flavours, seafood such as oysters, clams, white fish, seafood pasta in tomato sauce, poached fish with herbs, herbed chicken,  green vegetables, dill, parsley, chervil, basil, thyme, fennel, tarragon, lemongrass, chilli,

    Reserve Chardonnay

    Ripe, white rind cheeses, especially stronger French types. Scallops, salmon, butter/creamy sauces, poached white fish, crayfish, mussels in garlic, white wine and cream, coconut-based curries such as Masamon and Madras. Roast chicken or pork, roasted root vegetables, saffron, nutmeg.

    Reserve Pinot Noir

    Hard, full-flavoured cheeses, seared salmon or tuna prepared with stronger flavours, Mexican dishes, hearty pizzas, lamb, beef, venison, duck, wild pork, dishes with spices such as cumin, garam masala, rosemary, thyme, oregano, paprika.

    Back to Lawson’s Dry Hills website

     

  • Why We Love Wine

    We do. Love wine, I mean. And this is why.

    • We can use a really nice glass to drink it from. Doesn’t have to be expensive – just nice. Preferably quite thin, with or without a stem, tapered toward the top and no chunky rim. And large (only fill to 1/3).
    • We can enjoy it with some yummy food. Might be just a platter of antipasti, a chunk of good cheese or a full-blown degustation dinner – regardless, wine and food were made for each other.
    • We can talk about it if we want to. If you really like it – you might want to say so – if you really don’t you might want to say so too, but perhaps not if you weren’t the one who brought/chose it.
    • We can buy into the whole experience of enjoying wine. If we want to. Pour a glass a third full, swirl it round, stick our noses in and take a good sniff or two, then a sip/mouthful and savour it for a moment, letting it reach all parts of your mouth. Even suck in a bit of air like the professionals, if you feel like it and if you’re not wearing white.
    • We can experience the wine changing in the glass, or from one glass to the next (steady). As white wine warms up, having come from the depths of the chiller or ice-bucket, it reveals more aromas and more flavours. Red wine tends to soften as it gently absorbs more air once released from the bottle.

    Back to Lawson’s Dry Hills website

  • Sustainability and sensibility – going the extra nine yards

    ISO14001 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT

    No agriculturally-sourced product whispers its reliance on the soil and environment quite like wine. When the land talks, wine changes it voice. Wine owes its soul to the ‘terroir’ and Marlborough-based winery Lawson’s Dry Hills believes you have to repay the favour and respect the environment in return.
    When a decision was taken to achieve the lofty ISO 14001 standards, it wasn’t so much a case of needing to, but wanting to, in order to gain a further competitive advantage. Much is spoken about Sustainable Winegrowing NZ (SWNZ) accreditation which casts a halo over wineries New Zealand-wide. ISO 14001, however, gets less of a mention largely because relatively few wine businesses have actually achieved it.
    Sion Barnsley, General Manager and a Director of Lawson’s Dry Hills, reflected on the decision to undertake the audit and meet the standard. “Environmental management touches every aspect of the business.” From the back blocks to the front office, it requires a shared attitude on the part of every individual to manage resources wisely, reduce waste and give back to the environment. “Initiatives like carbon neutral, for example, may affect only an organisation’s main office for instance, ISO 14001 goes much further.”
    The eight individual recycling bins sitting outside the cellar door stand as a daily reminder of this commitment, requiring staff to sort their waste into distinct recycling categories. Yet this is just the tip of the environmental iceberg. “We looked at minimising our peak electricity usage. It meant not only reducing our total consumption but, where possible, shifting certain operations to off-peak times of the day. That saves money as well.” Water usage is also carefully managed. Day to day it means things like not completely filling a vat in order to clean it, for instance, and looking at smarter ways to use water in all daily chores.
    He also believes Lawson’s Dry Hills has a distinct advantage – they’ve even been told they’re one of New Zealand’s best performing wineries environmentally. “The size of our operation makes it easier, as everyone in our relatively small team shares a mindset of sustainability. Yet we’re large enough to have a lot of our own equipment including a grape harvester, a complete bottling operation and warehousing. That means you can better control these assets and use them in the smartest ways possible.” As you walk through the operation, it feels more like an extended family rather than a corporation. The ‘family members’ not only share a common vision for sustainability, the expressions on their faces suggest they actually have a good time doing it.
    The team carefully monitors machinery usage in the vineyard, helping reduce diesel consumption, carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. “We’re reducing our use of herbicides, that also helps,” Sion added. It’s not simply a one-off attitude change. “Right now we’re looking at leasing a solar power system and at ways to store that harvested electricity, because the sun isn’t always shining at the times you need it most.” While they’re already recycling water, moves are in place to capture and filter rainwater for use in the winery. Regular review meetings unearth further initiatives as new ideas present themselves, ensuring continual improvement.
    As Sion also reflects, it also had to make sound business sense. “Environmental Management gives back in so many ways – not just to the environment – it also benefits your productivity and bottom line.”
    So if the land and environment is feeling the impact, who else is listening? People like buyers in European supermarket chains and other customers are placing increased importance on sustainability, and the internationally-recognised ISO 14001 standard offers tangible evidence of their commitment. So when that next glass of gold and trophy-winning Mount Vernon Sauvignon Blanc or Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer trickles across your palate, perhaps it will leave a better taste in your mouth knowing the environmental initiatives that helped get the wine into your glass.

    Back to Lawson’s Dry Hills website

  • The fine art of vegan-friendly wines

    It’s May – typically one of the busiest months for a winemaker in Marlborough, yet Marcus Wright, Chief Winemaker at Lawson’s Dry Hills, still finds time to reply to his U.K. distributor’s email about the new fining technique he’s been exploring with his wines. Such attention to detail is symptomatic of the measures taken by this relatively small yet hugely successful Marlborough winery to keep lifting its game.

    Over the past year, Lawson’s Dry Hills has been trialling different fining agents in a bid to broaden the appeal of its wines to new sectors of the market, namely vegans and vegetarians. As a result, they are now fining or ‘clarifying’ most of their sauvignon blancs and certain other varietals with totally plant-based fining agents. According to Marcus, “A number of new products have come available recently, allowing us to make our wines completely vegan and vegetarian friendly. Plus, we’re producing a better end product which everyone can appreciate.” The new fining techniques are being used in many of the wines under the Lawson’s Dry Hills, Mount Vernon and Blind River ranges.

    Even the more seasoned wine drinkers amongst us may be unclear about what effect fining has on a wine. As Marcus puts it, “Fining takes away those more astringent elements known as ‘phenolics’, giving the wine a softer mouth feel, improved aroma and a cleaner, brighter appearance in the glass.”

    Fining is quite a simple process. The winemaker pours a small quantity of the fining agent into the barrel or tank which bonds to suspended particles including dead yeast cells, tannins and grape fragments, causing them to slowly sink to the bottom. When the wine is ‘racked’ from one barrel or tank to another, the sediment is left behind and discarded. Traditionally, fining agents such as egg white, gelatine, isinglass (a fish-based product) and milk are used. While they ensure the final wine is clear and less astringent, there is a chance that minute traces may still remain in the wine; as stated on the back labels of many wines. This can be of concern not only to vegans and vegetarians, but also to those who may be allergic to milk, egg or fish.

    With the new plant-based fining technique being used by Lawson’s Dry Hills, there’s absolutely no contact with any animal-based products at any point during the winemaking process. It’s also yet another example of how Lawson’s Dry Hills always looking to make many small improvements along the way, which add up to a better end product. So how good are the new wines? To find out, open any of the recent 2017 wines from Lawson’s Dry Hills, Mount Vernon or Blind River Sauvignon Blancs and taste for yourself. You don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to appreciate the difference, just someone who enjoys good wine!

    Back to Lawson’s Dry Hills website

  • Wine, weather and awards

    If ever you meet a winemaker and you’re stuck for conversation, just talk about the weather. This year there was plenty for winemakers right across the country to talk about. April 13th was unlucky for some as Cyclone Cook – the worst storm since the Wahine disaster – poured cold water on some vintners harvest plans.

    Fortunately, having its own harvester means Marlborough’s Lawson’s Dry Hills is autonomous and not dependent on the availability of contractors. This gives the team greater freedom to harvest when the fruit reaches optimum ripeness and before the weather deteriorates. Sadly the harvests of many other Marlborough vineyards were less successful while some even left their fruit to rot on the vine.

    As General Manager Sion Barnsley recounted, “While the grapes were picked with lower brix (sugar levels) this year, concentration and flavour were good.” Achieving a good harvest even in challenging years is very much the result of good vineyard management, as Lawson’s Dry Hills vines are low yielding, producing fruit off two canes rather than four canes as is the practice in many local vineyards. This concentrates more flavour into fewer bunches and also helps the vine to ripen the fruit sooner. Quality-focussed practices like this have ensured that, despite the challenges of inclement weather, 2017 has been a successful vintage.

    Proof of the quality is already coming in for all the Lawson’s Dry Hills brands, with successes in a range of wine shows both here and internationally.

    Our ‘Mount Vernon’ Sauvignon Blanc 2017 has already won a gold medal at each of the following:

    • NZ International Wine Show 2017
    • Marlborough Wine Show, 2017
    • New World Wine Awards 2017
    • Air NZ Wine Awards 2017
    • Sydney International Wine Competition 2018

    And runner up in Winestate’s ‘Wine of the Year’ Competition coming second out of all Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand and Australia in 2017.

    And it hasn’t been only Mount Vernon that has been stealing the limelight, other Lawsons’ Dry Hills brands and varietals from the past two vintages have done well this year.

     

    Wine Award Show
    Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2017           Silver Medal Air NZ Wine Awards
      Gold Medal New World Wine Awards
      Blue Gold Medal Sydney International Wine Competition
    Lawsons’ Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2016 Trophy – Champion Gewurztraminer Marlborough Wine Show
      Trophy – Champion Gewurztraminer Air NZ Wine Awards
      Gold Medal Air NZ Wine Awards
      Gold Medal NZ International Wine Show
    Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Five Stars and No.1 Cuisine Magazine #186 (out December 2017)
    Lawson’s Dry Hills Chardonnay 2016 Silver Medal NZ International Wine Show
    Lawson’s Dry Hills Riesling 2015 Trophy – Best Aromatic Wine Sydney International Wine Competition
      Trophy – Best Dry White Table Wine Sydney International Wine Competition
      Gold Medal International Wine Challenge
    Lawson’s Dry Hills Pinot Gris 2016 Gold Medal New World Wine Awards
    Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 Gold Medal New World Wine Awards
    Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Double Gold Medal Six Nations Wine Challenge
    Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2017 Blue Gold Medal Sydney International Wine Competition

    Looking to the 2018 vintage, Marlborough was less affected by the wintery blast which hit the southern areas of New Zealand’s South Island in early November 2017. Central Otago shivered under a blanket of frost and ski fields enjoyed fresh cover while gale force winds hit Wellington and threatened sailings of the Cook Strait ferries. Luckily, Marlborough temperatures stayed just above zero keeping the frost fans silent. Now as summer begins, that late wintery blast has been replaced by a warmer than usual December setting up the expectation for an exciting 2018 harvest. Stay tuned.

    Back to Lawson’s Dry Hills website

  • 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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  • 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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