Race to the top, Appellation Marlborough Wine update

Here’s a question: What New Zealand wine is most at risk of having its reputation diminished and potentially putting the country’s wine export viability at risk?

The answer, says Dr John Forrest, is: Sauvignon Blanc, which is the first New Zealand wine to benefit from the new Appellation Wine Marlborough (AMW), launched officially last week by a group of wine industry leaders, including Ivan Sutherland as chairman, John Forrest as vice chairman, John Buchanan as secretary/treasurer, along with James Healy, Fiona Turner, Clive Jones and Yang Shen.

“We were motivated to put something in place to try to put a stop to bulk exported Marlborough wine and the fact that there are no regulations around the authenticity of bulk wine when it leaves the cellar door in Marlborough,” says Forrest.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to draw the line the way we have, but in order to draw the line with confidence, we’ve said it that any AMW certified wine has to be bottled in New Zealand. I’m not saying that reputable companies can’t send bulk wine to other places (Australia or the UK, for instance) for bottling successfully, but I am saying that if we have no rules or checking around how that’s happening 100% of the time with 100% integrity, we have to draw the line about being bottled at source.”

In this and other respects, AMW follows in the footsteps of European appellation systems, which legally define the geographic boundaries of regions in which grapes are grown, many of the methods by which they are trellised and grown, and aspects of wine production, including (often, though not always) where wines are bottled.

AMW is initially restricted to Sauvignon Blanc but other varietals and blends will follow. Since the launch of AMW last week when 36 of the region’s 139 producers had joined, an additional 10 wineries have expressed strong interest.

“I would say this number will grow,” says Forrest, who likens the launch of AMW to the launch of the screwcaps in New Zealand, which began as an idea with four wineries back in 2000 before it launched in 2001 with 27 wineries in full support.

“Let’s say a scandal hits us tomorrow tarring the reputation of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc this way or that, at least a significant number of producers can say ‘that’s why Appellation Marlborough wine exists’.”

The key is to protect the safety and authenticity of wine bearing the word Marlborough on its label.


Key events since the launch of AMW last week:

  • Ten additional wine producers have expressed strong interest
  • These producers include small and large companies
  • Key media around the world have written articles of support
  • Distributors of AMW member producers have shown support, saying the new logo of authenticity provides a powerful marketing tool to enable people to buy Marlborough wine with confidence.

Author: Joelle Thomson

I am a wine writer, author and educator... first bitten by a big buttery Chardonnay on a dark and stormy night in the 1980s and there was no turning back... Follow my tastings and join some too on this new site.

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