Marlborough sauvignon blanc celebration 'long overdue'

International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration organising committee chairman Patrick Materman stands beside some of the ...

International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration organising committee chairman Patrick Materman stands beside some of the famous variety at a Brancott Estate vineyard, where he is chief winemaker.

Winemakers, researchers, journalists and sommeliers will descend on Marlborough in February to celebrate the wine variety that put the region on the map.

The inaugural International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration, which was first floated in 2014, was organised by New Zealand Winegrowers to demonstrate the complexity and importance of the variety.

The three-day event, which is being held at the Marlborough Convention Centre, features more than 200 wines from New Zealand and international producers, as well as 19 guest speakers from around the world.

Master of Wine Sam Harrop, who is hosting the second day of the event, said the celebration was long overdue.

"Sauvignon blanc is such a unique and wonderful wine style," he said.

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"It single-handedly created a phenomenal industry in Marlborough and changed the world of wine internationally."

Because it was so distinctive, Marlborough sauvignon blanc was often criticised for being a one-trick pony, Harrop said, but the sub-regional and experimental styles that would be on show at the celebration refuted this claim.

However, he warned that producers still needed to pay attention to the demands of the consumer and not become focused on experimenting.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said the celebration would help remind winemakers of this, as there would be feedback from some of the top wine writers in the world.

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New Zealand Winegrowers had funded more than 50 highly influential wine writers and sommeliers to attend the celebration, something Pickens said was beneficial for both producers and critics.

The wineries taking part, 63 of which were from New Zealand, would be exposed to an international audience and the writers would be able to meet the winemakers, allowing them to better understand the winemaking craft as well as providing expertise about the tastes of different export markets.

Wine Marlborough had provided $80,000 in funding for the celebration - the single largest investment the organisation had made, a decision that was reached because of the importance of sauvignon blanc to the region.

"Marlborough's success is the success of sauvignon blanc," Pickens said.

The Marlborough District Council had also contributed $25,000 from the Commercial Events Fund.

Councillor Trevor Hook, who sits on the committee that manages the fund, said the event fulfilled all the requirements to receive funding, as it would bring people to the region and expose them to the wine and gourmet food Marlborough was famous for.

"It's taking the opportunity to showcase our speciality, which in the case of wine is our sauvignon blanc," he said.

In 2015, sauvignon blanc made up 85 per cent of Marlborough's total wine production, which, overall, contributed $1.1 billion to New Zealand's total wine exports.

Organising committee chairman Patrick Materman said registrations for the inaugural event, which had been in the planning for the past 18 months, were sold out, with nearly 400 people to attend. 

The event included a vintage train ride to Kekerengu as well as tastings at several Marlborough wineries, so it provided visitors with a comprehensive experience of the region, Materman said.

Event manager Sarah Booker said the event would be a big drawcard for the regional economy, with accommodation providers, Marlborough caterers and restaurants set to be the big winners.

It was also set to become a fixture on the winemaking calendar, she said.

From 2019, the next time it would be held, the celebration would run every four years, dovetailing with the Pinot Noir New Zealand event, so that one event would be held every two years.

*The International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration begins on February 1 and runs to February 3.


 - The Marlborough Express


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