Safeguarding the reputation of New Zealand’s biggest wine region is the aim of a new group that launched last week, calling itself  Appellation Marlborough Wine (AMW). 

The Dogmobile carrying Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc around the country

The group’s aim is to protect the authenticity of wine made in the country’s biggest wine region and one of the world’s biggest Sauvignon Blanc regions – Marlborough has 25,135 hectares of grapes which is 67.7% of this country’s total. The vast majority of grapes in Marlborough are Sauvignon Blanc, which contrasts closely with France; the world’s biggest producer of Sauvignon Blanc with approximately 26,800 hectares planted nationwide, mostly in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux.

The new Appellation Marlborough Wine group has clearly taken many of its cues from France’s appellation system, which legally defines geographic borders and other criteria of specific wine regions.

The new AMW group is an incorporated society and has already attracted 36 of the region’s 139 wine producers to adhere to its stipulations. These include using 100% locally grown grapes, which must be grown as part of a recognised sustainable viticultural (grape growing) programme.

The aim is to attract as many wine producers as possible and to safeguard Marlborough’s wine reputation, says AMW chair Ivan Sutherland, who was one of the first to plant grapes in the region’s modern wine history and is also a founder and co-owner of Dog Point Vineyards (and a co-owner of the Dogmobile, pictured above). He is one of the seven committee members of AMW and says the group wants to protect the integrity, authenticity and brand value of wines produced in Marlborough by establishing standards.

These also include growing grapes at an agreed cropping level to comply with AMW’s aims of quality. If certain wines don’t comply with desired cropping levels, they can be submitted to a tasting panel, which may permit the wines to be certified.

All Appellation Marlborough Wine must also be bottled in New Zealand.

Watch this space next week for more details and what led to the formation of AMW with the group vice chair, Dr John Forrest.