New Marisco dam provides for future growth

Marisco Vineyards owner Brent Marris in front of the new 320 million-litre dam, constructed at Leefield Station in the ...

Marisco Vineyards owner Brent Marris in front of the new 320 million-litre dam, constructed at Leefield Station in the Waihopai Valley.

Marisco Vineyards has built a new dam in the Waihopai Valley, allowing it to create one of the single biggest vineyards in Marlborough.

The 320 million-litre dam was built at Leefield Station, an early settler run the company acquired in 2012, to ensure there would be enough water for future plantings.

At present, 300 hectares of vines have been planted and there are plans to expand this by another 300 hectares over the next three years.

Marisco Vineyards owner Brent Marris said the dam was a form of future-proofing against water restrictions, which were becoming more common.

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The station had Class A and Class B water rights from the Waihopai River, however Class B was cut off most years and Class A was cut off every two or three years, Marris said.

This uncertainty had resulted in more wineries and grape-growers constructing dams.

Even growers with small vineyards, of 8 hectares or less, were building dams - a practice Marris said would have been unusual five to 10 years ago.

"Relying on the Southern Valleys is not enough anymore," he said.

"Growers are taking that uncertainty into their own hands and building dams, even on small vineyards."

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The Leefield Station dam, which was constructed by Blenheim firm Simcox Construction, was started in March last year and finished in December.

To avoid disturbing the landscape, the dam was built in a deep natural gully and surrounded with river rocks to make it appear like a natural lake.

There were also plans to include a pontoon on the dam, which was filled using Class B water rights, for visitors to enjoy a glass of wine sourced from the nearby vineyards.

The dam would guarantee water for the 600 hectares of vines the company would have on the station in the future, an expansion Marris said was fuelled by strong demand for Marisco brand wines.

Around 15,000 bottles were consumed each day around the world, he said.

"Our sales have grown extremely fast and we wanted to make certain we had enough quality fruit to meet that."

The reason the company expanded in the Waihopai Valley, where it had its winery and another vineyard, was because of the sub-regional climate, which produced cool nights and warm days.

This created fruit and wine with intense flavours, that popped on the tongue, Marris said.

Since the company had bought the 2000-hectare Leefield Station, a working farm with 7500 head of stock, the number of permanent staff had expanded from 30 to 100.

 - The Marlborough Express


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