Asian Correspondent » Marisco Vineyards Ltd Asian Correspondent Wed, 27 May 2015 10:03:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 5 things I love about vintage in Marlborough Thu, 21 Apr 2011 00:21:15 +0000

Our vineyard, in perfect condition for harvest, April 2011

I love vintage. For me, as a winemaker, it’s like getting a new train set. Full of potential, the opportunities are endless, and all I need to do is take the pieces and create.

But particularly I love vintage in New Zealand. And moreover, I love vintage in Marlborough. I’ve worked vintage in France, Canada and California and I can say that the adage is true—there’s no place like home.

New Zealanders can tend to have a bit of an inferiority complex as a result of our short history and geographic isolation, so as a young winemaker, working vintage somewhere romantically foreign seemed to be the pinnacle. With more than a few years behind me now though, I reflect on that attitude with some amusement. There is no place I would rather be a winemaker than Marlborough.

That’s not to say that I don’t think there’s something to be learnt from other wine regions. Quite the contrary–I think a characteristic that’s unique to New Zealanders is our ability and enthusiasm for looking abroad for fresh ideas. But I don’t think we need to apologise for being a new world producer. New world wines compete with the best of the old world in quality, they’re just different in style.

And this is what is so thrilling about winemaking. That the same variety of grape, grown in two different countries, and treated differently by two winemakers with different experiences, can create two totally unique wines. I love French Pouilly-Fumé as much as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (well maybe not quite as much…) but I never try to compare them. The old and the new world should be equally respected for their unique styles.

But, like I said at the start, home is where the heart is. I love new world wine and I love vintage in Marlborough, and here’s why:

  1. Marlborough is where I was born and bred, but I actually never thought I would end up back here. It’s cliché but parenthood changed my life, and as a Dad, having a sense of connectedness between family, place and work has become more and more important. Living and working in Marlborough does this for me, and the joy this brings is evident in my wine making. Winemaking is about love and love is about human connections. My wine has heart and soul and that’s because I am at home here.
  2. Marlborough is the heart of the New Zealand wine industry and being surrounded by like-minded people is inspirational. Every day I build connections, have conversations, and enjoy shared experiences with other viticulturists and winemakers that influence my winemaking. One of our industry’s great strengths is the camaraderie and this is evident in the united face the Marlborough wine industry presents to the world. Whether it’s lending each other equipment, making a spare tank available, or the respect we have for one-another’s wine, we all know we’re too small to be divided.
  3. Two of the inspirational people I get to work with of course are Brent and Anton. These guys are from Marlborough too and we have a shared passion for showcasing what Marlborough is capable of across all varietals. We all believe in debunking the myth that Marlborough is only good for Sauvignon Blanc, and one style of Sauvignon Blanc at that, and every vintage is an opportunity to bring something new to the table for our consumers. When we’re working through the night for the month of vintage, this mission and the guys I’m on this mission with, is what keeps me going.
  4. I love Marlborough vintage, but I particularly love vintage in the Waihopai Valley at Marisco Vineyards. A large part of my passion is driven from the privilege I feel to be a winemaker here, at a single-site vineyard, in a relatively new sub-region, with it’s own state-of-the-art winery. There’s not much more a winemaker could ask for really! Up until now the Waihopai Valley has been questioned for grape-growing, but with a small handful of other producers, we have proven that there is so much diversity in the soil type here that our fruit develops a broad range of characteristics and from that we can make extraordinary wines from a single-vineyard. Marry this with the technology Brent has invested in and we can find the unique expression in each parcel and produce beautifully nuanced wines, like a boutique vineyard, but on a scale that would shock most people.
  5. And last, but not least, I love vintage at home because I’ve learned so much from harvests abroad. In California and Canada I deepened my understanding of the science of winemaking, and in France of course I developed a real appreciation for putting your soul into your wine. But most importantly, I learned how to take the best from other regions and put a Marlborough spin on it. I also learnt that there are many things that are unique about the New Zealand wine industry, and being relatively young by international standards, that we should celebrate. Heritage has its place, but so does fresh thinking.

I love being home, and making my wine here. I have an intimate understanding of the Valleys of Marlborough because grew up here—the weather, the soil, and what to expect from vintage to vintage. Winemaking in Marlborough is intuitive for me. But it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I have only really earned to appreciate this by experiencing the old world.

I’m proud to be a new world winemaker and I truly believe our wines are as good as anything produced in the old world. They’re just different.

The dictionary defines different as not the same as another; novel and unusual; distinct. That’s exactly what I want our wines to be and Marisco Vineyards’ 2011 vintage is full of promise. The grapes we’re picking at the moment are unique, delicious and delightful and they represent us. And that’s success for me, bvecause above anything else, great wine should be true to vineyard, and true to self.

Liam McElhinney, Winemaker, Marisco Vineyards

In the lab, getting ready for twice-daily checks on the ferments Hand-picking our Viognier Anton keeps a careful watch over the vines Our vineyard, in perfect condition for harvest, April 2011 ]]> 20
Vintage 2011: A new family of wines is born Mon, 28 Mar 2011 12:35:46 +0000 For a winemaker, vintage is like welcoming a new child to your family.

For the previous year our vineyard team, lead by Anton, has nurtured the vines to grow the healthiest fruit possible. They’ve provided the vines with the right nutrients, plenty of sun and a perfect amount of water; they’ve protected the vines from the hail and frosts, birds and bugs; and in the tense final few weeks before the due date, they’ve monitored the vines every day for the subtlest changes in the size and colour of the berries and gathered the harvesting team in preparation for the imminent pick.

And then, when the fruit is full of flavour, both Anton and Liam support me in deciding when to start harvesting, and the massive event that is vintage begins.  This is when the carefully tended fruit is harvested and begins its life as wine.

This week vintage 2011 began. Like children, no two vintages are the same, and like a family there are many challenges getting every variety in a vintage to be harvested harmoniously.

This is why vintage is so intense. It’s not a simple matter of deciding to pick your fruit and get the winemaking process underway, it’s a delicate dance every few hours to get different blocks and sometimes even individual rows, picked and pressed at the optimum time so every variety is as good as it can be when it arrives at the winery.

As I wrote last week, the outstanding technology in our winery makes this job easier, but there are many things a machine will never be able to do, namely stand in the vineyard, taste fruit and decide whether a few more hours of sun will make a crop spectacular or spoil it.

This year the first fruit through the door was a small parcel of some outstanding Chardonnay on Friday morning. A small hand pick of Mendoza Chardonnay was isolated for its exceptional potential and is already fermenting in barrel!

This followed on Monday with Pinot Gris from Block #13. Anton’s intellect and intuition deciding when it was time to shoot-thin the Pinot Gris has paid dividends as the vines are exceptionally balanced and as a result the flavours of this harvest appear to be beautifully concentrated—spicy, rich, bright and extremely varietal.

For me, vintage is as much a time of excitement and anticipation, as it is a time of reflection. We all know that every wine—by variety, vintage and terroir—is different, but we rarely reflect on the experience in the vineyard that gives each unique combination its own character and personality. Each crop, the juice, and eventually the finished wine tells a story about the year that was. It is a snapshot in time of the life of our vineyard, and no vintage can ever be replicated.

Over the next few weeks we will come to understand the personality of the 2011 vintage better and we will settle into our role as parents of the precious juice that is the heart of our next family of wines. Like any new parent I’m excited by 2011’s potential and showing her off to the world.

Watch this space!

Brent Marris, Proprietor and Winemaker, Marisco Vineyards

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Winemaking: A beautiful collision between intuition and science Thu, 17 Mar 2011 18:02:50 +0000 The thing I love most about being a winemaker is the beautiful collision between nature and science that ends up in a bottle, and gives people so much joy.

Last week I wrote that many people lose sight of the agricultural science that viticulture is, in favour of a romantic view of winemaking, and I explained some of the innovation that’s happening in our vineyard and how this delivers the best possible fruit for Liam and I to start the winemaking process with.

On the eve of the 2011 vintage I thought it was time to step out of the vineyard and into the winery, and explain how alongside intuition, technology has an important role to play here too.

One of our beliefs at Marsico Vineyards is in constantly breaking new ground. In 2009 we literally broke the ground in preparation for the building of our new, state-of-the-art “Winemakers Winery”. From the very first day of planning for the new facility we were focused on it being completely bespoke—everything Liam and I had ever dreamt of having in a winery, we were going to have.  We gathered a team of like-minded contractors around us to help deliver on this vision.

As a result, the completed first stage of the build (which gives us 6,000 tonnes capacity), and planning for future stages, embraces many technologies never seen before in New Zealand and even more that are unique to the Southern Hemisphere.

First, we created an underground utilities tunnel system that we haven’t seen anywhere in the world before.  All of our cooling, electricity, heating and water pipework are encased in a huge underground tunnel, feeding up to each tank; and therefore above ground we have no pipes or cables making the winery floor a seamless, clean workspace.

Marisco winery

Liam shows off the winery to a group of Australian customers.

This design also meant we could complete the winery build in 12 months because we had 30 contractors working underground and 20 working above ground simultaneously. A winery of this size would ordinarily take years to build.

The winery floor also boasts a small farm of square tanks that sit on the top of each other, all of which have independent heating and cooling. The tanks marry form and function—they are tucked under a walkway, hidden behind a beautiful “designer” stainless steel wall that adds high impact style to the winery, and they are also space saving and allow easy access.

Tank farm

The stacked tank farm--easy access and saving space.

Another key innovation is the energy saving devices installed throughout the winery.  Using a heat recovery system in the plant room, the engine of the winery, we can eliminate energy wastage.  The system monitors energy use in real time, and using mobile technology we can access this data whenever, wherever. This means that Liam or I can be in any of our markets globally, log into the winery system, and check and adjust the winery’s energy output, making the whole operation more efficient and cost effective.

And finally, one of the things I am most proud of, is the flow of processing. The design and technology in our new winery means we are so efficient we can run with four less people during our busy period—a great saving in terms of man power and dollars!

Despite only breaking ground in March 2009, our incredible team pushed themselves beyond what we thought was possible and in March 2010 we made our first crush in the new winery! And I must say, it absolutely out-performed our expectations. Uncompromising quality, versatility and ease of operation make working in this winery such a pleasure—all important for making superior wines.

So where do technology and intuition meet? What the new facility has given us, is far greater ability to act quickly on our intuition—so when Liam and I are standing in the vineyard tasting the fruit and we decide the moment is right to harvest our Sauvignon Blanc for example, the capacity and quality of the winery machinery means we can have all of the fruit juiced within hours.  This means the juice we start making our wine with is the most true to the fruit we tasted in the vineyards as possible.

This dexterity was reflected in our single-vineyard 2010 The Ned Sauvignon Blanc which, tasting just like the fruit in the vineyard did on the day we harvest, won best Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand for 2010, awarded by leading food and wine authority Cuisine magazine.

In 2010 we produced a Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Noble Sauvignon Blanc for The Ned and The Kings Series ranges, plus a Chardonnay for The Kings Series, in our new winery.

These wines, which you are drinking now, are, I believe, our best yet. The 2010 Marlborough harvest was unforgettable. A few nervous weeks were endured around spring flowering time, as temperatures were slightly cooler than normal. This cooler period resulted in extremely balanced vines with the potential to produce some wonderfully ripe, expressive fruit.

Throughout the summer months, Marlborough experienced one of the longest, driest growing seasons on record. The Waihopai Valley in particular was at full advantage, with long warm days being followed by crisp cool nights, giving our vines the perfect conditions to produce the vibrant flavours that Marlborough wines are world famous for.

Our 2010 Sauvignon Blanc is exuberant, showing vibrant flavours of citrus and nettle with our trademark minerality. Our Pinot Gris has plenty of rich, fleshy flavour and exotic spice, and the Pinot Noirs are dense and generously fruited with wonderful structure.

But of course, we are always striving for better and what I’ve seen and tasted in the vineyard this week is making me very excited about the 2011 harvest. We expect to start picking in the next few days, so next week I’m going to update you on the state of the first fruit and my expectations for the wine you’ll be drinking in the coming year.

And, like in 2010 but with more experience in the new winery under our belt, these wines too will be a wonderful marriage between technology and intuition.

Brent Marris, Proprietor and Chief Winemaker

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Breaking new ground: Innovation in the vineyard Wed, 09 Mar 2011 17:24:16 +0000

From the day we bought the property for our Waihopai Valley vineyard and winery we’ve been innovating.  This isn’t something we try to do deliberately, in a strained or forced way; but rather, thinking differently to overcome challenges is just part of the Marisco Vineyards culture.

Our whole team shares a philosophy of “how can we do it better” —and as a result, we are constantly breaking new ground in every aspect of the way we grow grapes, make wine, and present our wine to customers all around the world.

It may sound cliché, but again, this approach isn’t deliberate. Innovation is not something we’ve read about in a book on successful businesses, nor is it something we’ve had drummed into us by a performance coach. It’s just the net result of a group of like-minded individuals, working together, in a business we are all passionate about.

So what’s my proof point? Over the past eight years, every instance of breaking new ground I can point to in our business is the result of the entire team’s passion and commitment to find a new way, a better way, to help us produce the best possible wines for our customers.

It started with the land. Where now lies a beautiful 268 hectare vineyard on the banks of the Waihopai River on the outskirts of Blenheim, there once sat thousands of tonnes of scrub and rock.

We went out on a limb to purchase our property.  After 12 months of careful searching we decided that a site, which 20,000 years ago was a glacier and having left beautifully formed terraces and river rocks, was perfect! Situated in a very ‘cool’ part of the valley, we also believed it would be ideal for growing some of the best grapes in Marlborough.

In 2003 our Vineyard Manager, Anton Rasmussen, started the monumental task of clearing the land and preparing it to plant. No one would have imagined that just eight years later this same site would be producing 4,000 tonnes of grapes annually, and from these grapes we would be producing multi award-winning wines.

Anton Rasmussen

Vineyard Manager and innovator Anton Rasmussen in our Waihopai Valley vineyard.

Despite all of the romanticism associated with winemaking, it is also a commercial enterprise. As viticulturists we work the land like any other farmer, and every day your land is not producing, is a day of cost. But for three years we worked, slowly, methodically, and respectfully, to create a vineyard site that would have a long-term future.

For an entire year we employed a rock-picker on the land, moving the massive glacial river stones that the river had left behind and the hills had thrown down onto the property over thousands of years.  But we also felt these rocks shouldn’t be moved off the land. Nature had put them there, and there they should stay.

And so began the painstaking task of sorting them for different purposes on the property—to form the banks of the 120million litre reservoir that would be filled from the Waihopai River which boundary’s our property; to form the exterior cladding for the winery; and to reinforce the banks of the river. We also used the rocks to line over 2km of underground springs and watercourses so to retain the natural lie of the land and return the underground water to the river.

This is my first belief about risk taking and innovation—it is not an absolute, in that it should be pursued at any cost. It should have a clear sense of purpose, and it should happen with respect for the past.

My second belief is that innovation is not just about high-tech responses to complex challenges, it is equally about thinking differently about a simple problem and coming up with a fresh approach that benefits the business and the customer.

For example Anton has been involved in the design and had build of a leaf-stripper to strip leaves from the vine so our fruit can be exposed to both sunlight and heat.  This allows nature to work its magic, enhancing the bright fresh fruit flavours we want to capture finally in our wine.  It sounds so simple, yet the leaf-plucker design is unique and so effective that it has been commercialised so the broader industry can share the benefits of our innovation.

Innovation continues in the vineyard with Anton in the vine-stripping process—a task that takes place after pruners have made their main cuts.  Anton was involved in the development and trialing of a new piece of machinery on our vineyard that pulls canes from the canopy automatically leaving behind just fruiting canes to be laid down ready for the next season’s growth. Innovative but simple, and by being open to new ideas and technologies we’ve transformed a very expensive labour-intensive vineyard task, to be more efficient and cost effective.

So, when I reflect on what makes Marisco Vineyards special, and what makes our business successful, I keep coming back to innovation. I like this idea of ‘breaking new ground’. It speaks to the pastoral nature of what winemaking is at its essence, but the expression also reflects the continual pursuit of excellence, with respect for all that has gone before.

Brent Marris, Proprietor and Chief Winemaker, Marisco Vineyards

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Introducing Marisco Vineyards from Marlborough, New Zealand Thu, 03 Mar 2011 17:23:26 +0000 Wine has always been about family for me. I grew up in Blenheim, at the base of the Wither Hills, in the heart of the Marlborough region. My parents ran one of the first contract vineyards in Marlborough and it was their encouragement that led me to winemaking and enabled me to start my first label, Wither Hills. Now, I run Marisco Vineyards from our family home. My wife Rosemary is a partner in our business, and our four daughters are my inspiration.

Our vineyard and winery are in the picturesque Waihopai Valley just outside of Blenheim, the heart of the Marlborough winemaking region. As long as I am making wine I will grow and produce in Marlborough because that’s where my roots are.

When Rosemary and I started Marisco Vineyards in 2003, after discovering a magnificent 260ha property in the Waihopai Valley of Marlborough, we knew our wines would pay homage to our family. Wine making is all about passion, and my passion and inspiration comes from my family. Both, current and past.

Our vineyard is located on the banks of the Waihopai River and on the Southern side of the Wairau Valley. The Waihopai River runs the length of our 268ha vineyard and not only provides a picturesque boundary but its ancient river shingles are an essential part of the vineyard’s terrior. This location consistently enjoys warmer daytime temperatures and lower rainfall than areas to the North. These daytime temperatures, followed by cool nights, encourage intense flavour development which is the hallmark of Marlborough wine.

In February 2009 we broke the ground on the site of our new 6,000 tonne state-of-the-art winery, and the 2010 vintage was the first crush in our new facility. The winery will give us the ability to grow our business and keep pace with developments in wine-making technology.

_MG_5156 One of our resident native falcons keeping a careful watch. The sun setting over our beautiful property.

We have two brands—The Ned and The Kings Series. The Ned was launched in 2006 and is named after one of the tallest, most rugged peaks to the southeast of our vineyard. I grew up in Marlborough, and spent countless hours hiking and biking in this area. The summit of The Ned, with its views out to the North Island and Pacific Ocean, is a place I remember very clearly. I wanted to celebrate my Marlborough heritage by using a local icon as the symbol for my new brand.

With The Ned I wanted to create a range of wines that celebrate the three varieties that Marlborough does best – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Recent accolades include a Blue Gold Medal at the 2010 Sydney Top 100 for our Sauvignon Blanc, Gold in the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition for our Pinot Gris matched with Peking Duck, and selection on KLM Royal Airlines and Air New Zealand’s in-flight wine lists.

In October 2009 we launched The Kings Series range, a celebration of my family heritage dating back to the 12th Century on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, United Kingdom.Each wine in the range tells a story about my ancestors, the de Mariscos, and their tempestuous relationship with the English monarchy. We are very excited to be planning the launch of The Kings Series on Lundy Island in May 2011.

The range includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Noble Sauvignon Blanc. The King’s Favour Sauvignon Blanc won a gold medal at the Royal Easter Show and has been selected for Air New Zealand’s Business Class in-flight wine list. The King’s Favour Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and The King’s Thorn Pinot Gris 2010 have also recently been awarded ‘Best Label in Show’ at the International Aromatic Wine Competition.

Our latest creation is a limited-edition aromatic blend called Entente, developed in collaboration with leading New Zealand fashion designer Trelise Cooper. We invited Trelise Cooper to name this one-off blend of Viognier, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer, and to design the label. Entente is a beautifully packaged, innovative, unique blend, capturing the seductive fragrances and extraordinary texture of the prestigious aromatic varieties of the world. Only 200 cases of individually numbered bottles are available through our cellar door or by calling our head office on +64 9 522 9684.

Heading into 2011 we have a top-performing vineyard under the guiding eye of our Vineyard Manager Anton Rasmussen; two award-winning brands thanks to the dedication of our dynamic young winemaker Liam McElhinney; and our Sales and Marketing Manager Siobhan Wilson expertly manages a complex network of distributors in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Northern Ireland and Central Europe. In the new year we will start exporting to the USA and Canada, and we are exploring opportunities in Russia, China and India. We are producing close to 200,000 cases, 82% of which is exported.

But at the end of the day our winemaking remains a family affair. Our wines reference family in many ways and always will. From our location to our brand names to the way we run our business. We are a small team, a family, of like minded individuals working toward a common goal – to produce some of the best New Zealand wine and take it to the world.

Over the next few months the team and I look forward to sharing more about our wines with you and our vision for the future. And we’d love to hear from you – feel free to comment on this blog or email us direct at

Brent Marris, Proprietor and Chief Winemaker

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