The foundations for New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc success were laid by a visionary winemaker in the 70s, says JOHN BELSHAM.
New Zealand sauvignon blanc and New Zealand rosé
IN THE EARLY 1970S Ross Spence, the winemaker and founding partner of Matua Valley Wines, rescued a single sauvignon blanc vine from the Department of Agriculture trial plot in Te Kauwhata. The vine was imported from the University of California, Davis in 1970 but was not considered to be of commercial interest at the time. Ross harvested some wood from this vine just before the entire trial plot was destroyed. Some of the resultant cuttings were planted in Marlborough and have subsequently provisioned almost all of New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc vineyards.
Forty-five years is not very long in viticulture terms and during this time it is remarkable how this variety has developed to become the powerhouse of New Zealand wine. New Zealand sauvignon blanc is now so internationally available that it risks sliding from a position of uniqueness to being merely a commodity. It is vitally important that we respect its brief and exciting history and to genuinely value this jewel in our national wine cellar. This tasting demonstrates how very special these wines can be when made with skill and devotion. Thank you Ross for your green fingers and for your vision!
Lawsons Dry Hills, Blind River vineyard