Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Marlborough's new wine map launched by AMW

AMW has just produced its first official wine map of Marlborough but what is AMW and what does it bring to Marlborough wine? The question arose at a tasting last week where it was asked if AMW wines have to contain 100% Marlborough grown grapes.

They do and the short answer to "why?" is this: integrity.

The letters AMW stand for Appellation Marlborough Wine and the organisation was established in 2018 by an independent group of Marlborough winemakers. Many of them annoyed by the high volumes of Marlborough wines that are sent in bulk and bottled overseas, not always made entirely from Marlborough grown grapes.

The over riding key to AMW is the 100% origin rule. Membership of AMW is voluntary but wineries and winemakers who choose to belong have to adhere to using 100% Marlborough grown grapes in their wines, ensure that their wines are bottled in New Zealand and their vineyards have to be certified by a recognised sustainable viticulture scheme. All wines produced which use the AMW certification also have to be tasted by an independent panel of wine experts, whose aim is to verify that the wines reflect the grape or grape varieties that the label on the bottle states. 

If any other these guidelines sound a little obvious, consider this: in most parts of the wine world, most wines only have to be 85% of what is stated on the label and in some cases, even less. In other words, most wines produced today only have to contain 85% of, say, Chardonnay (if that's the grape variety on the front label); they only have to be 85% from the vintage year stated and only 85% from the region stated on the label. 

It is only in strictly controlled regions that wines actually do contain 100% of what is stated on the label and even this is relatively new in the big scheme of things. An example of wines that stick to being 100% of what is on the label are Barolo and Barbaresco from Piemonte in north west Italy. These wines have to be made 100% from Nebbiolo grapes.

It is a rarity to have a 100% rule and it is not always a guarantee of wine quality but it is a guarantee of authenticity. 

AMW was established in 2018 to protect integrity, authenticity and brand value of wines made in Marlborough by being what the label states they are. 

It's interesting to think about the wider implications of why AMW members felt it was necessary to start an organisation that protects their region's integrity, but that's another story...

Click to see the new Marlborough Wine map from AMW.