• 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

     

  • 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!

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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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