A solar day at Yealands

The biggest solar powered business in New Zealand is Yealands’ Estate in Marlborough. 

It’s a stunner of a day when this fact is announced. You could even say it’s a solar day, as the cloudless blue sky and intense Southern Hemisphere sunshine bathe the vines in their bright light in the Awatere Valley, a sub-region of Marlborough with more grapes than Hawke’s Bay.

Winery founder, Peter Yealands is quietly spoken as he announces the company that he founded now has New Zealand’s largest solar panels.

The new panels generate 30% of the winery’s needs. This equates to 412 kilowatts of energy and is comparable to power supply for 85 houses a year. This equates to approximately a quarter more than the next largest solar power panels in the country at Sylvia Park, Auckland.

The Yealands property is made up of eight farms, which were purchased over seven years, then planted progressively in vines. All vines are north-south facing to maximise the sun exposure – the morning sun shines brightly on one side of the vines whilst the afternoon sun scorches the other side.

There is one exception. It is a small block which Yealands describes as ‘aspect planting’ where the rows are planted on such steep land that they follow the sharp slope of the land rather than being trained in another direction.

This is not an easy site. The land here on the coast has relatively high magnesium and sodium, both of which can burn roots of vines, which is exacerbated by the shallow top soils which are wind blown so that it takes a significant amount of added fertiliser to take care of the vine roots. Large compost heaps flank these windswept vineyards on this coastal property; on a good day, a vast number of tonnes of this is dispersed on the vines, saving up to about 20% of much needed water in this dry area. This (2016) is the third year running that the Awatere Valley has had a drought, making irrigation is an absolute necessity that is, fortunately, slightly reduced by the use of the compost.

PS: Marlborough now has about 24,000 hectare son vines planted, of which Yealands has 850 hectares of vineyard, with at least another 100 hectares of available land that could be planted in other areas.

PPS: On animal products used… Since 2014, no animal products have been used in Yealands’ wines and no fining has taken place. Instead, on Pinot Noir and some Sauvignon Blanc, a little potato protein is used for fining, which enables the proteins (aka floaty bits in the wine) to bind with it and then be filtered out – this creates clean and clear looking wines.

Musical vineyards

Find out more about the music played to the vines at Yealands Seaview Vineyard at www.pitara.com

The new Yealands wines

2016 Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc RRP $22, 13% ABV

Restrained Sauvignon Blanc characters and minerally acidity are the flavours that winemaker Jeff Fyfe harnesses in this single vineyard (1000 hectares) wine, which is all about Sauvignon Blanc at its flintiest, freshest flavours – blackcurrant leaf, pineapple and passionfruit flavours rule this high acid, white with its pronounced white fruit flavours.

2016 Yealands Estate Pinot Gris Marlborough $ 13% ABV

Dry (4.5-5 grams residual sugar) with medium body and 20% barrel fermentation (treated the same as the Riesling – lees stirred) and  peachy fruit forward flavours.

2016 Yealands Estate Riesling Marlborough $22, 12% ABV

This is the first single vineyard Riesling made at Yealands Estate in four years and it was 100% barrel fermented in old French oak from two blocks on one vineyard site; one close to the sea (linear, lean, high acidity) and one from near to the winery (hand picked, destemmed, settled for 24 hours then moved into barrel). Lees stirring took place twice a week for 4.5 months until blending and bottling, with no fining. The vines were planted between 8-11 years ago. Some of the barrels were inoculated with yeast. The finished wine has 6 grams of residual sugar and 9 grams of acid.