Plant syrah, says Oz Clarke

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Last updated 07:28 24/01/2013
Oz Clarke
Scott Hammond

Wine guru: Internationally-renowned wine writer Oz Clarke is in Marlborough for an update on the region’s wine industry ahead of the country’s biggest three-yearly wine event, Pinot Noir NZ 2013 in Wellington. And he has praise for the beer too. ‘‘Marlborough – a cracking drinking heaven.’’

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Wine producers in Marlborough need to zero in on syrah, a wine variety that is more suited for growing in the region than pinot noir, says pre-eminent visiting British wine writer Oz Clarke.

Mr Clarke, who heralded Marlborough sauvignon blanc as the next big thing in the early 1990s, is in Marlborough this week in the lead-up to Pinot Noir NZ 2013.

The event, which is being held on Wellington's waterfront from Monday till Thursday next week, attracts winemakers, wine experts and wine industry officials from around the world and will put the spotlight on wine labels from the country's pinot-noir-producing regions.

Mr Clarke, a former West End actor and BBC broadcaster, said "good things" were happening with pinot noir in New Zealand, especially in Marlborough, but in 10 years it would be pleasant to see syrah crops in the region outnumber pinot noir.

"The soils here are relatively similar to the Rhone Valley [France] - it is cooler here, but it's a very good cool-climate grape," Mr Clarke said.

He spoke highly of Marlborough's 2012 vintage, especially its fresh, sharp flavours of lime zest, green apple, capsicum, and tomato and blackcurrant leaf.

He urged Marlborough winemakers to keep producing this "greener style" of sauvignon blanc, which had put them on the world map and was perfect for the Northern Europe market.

"The 2012 vintage is tremendous," he said.

"The thing is, because Marlborough produces the most wine in the country, if Marlborough gets it right, the whole of New Zealand gets it right, and if Marlborough gets it wrong, the whole of New Zealand suffers."

Mr Clarke is being chauffeured around by his winery hosts and Wine Marlborough to wineries, vineyards and breweries among other attractions.

He joked that since arriving he had found he was physically unable to tweet about anything but beer:

"Marlborough - a cracking drinking heaven. That's right. 3 huhopulous breweries. Moa (pale ale) Renaissance (the lot) and 8 wired O God Bliss."

Mr Clarke was enjoying his time back in Blenheim, having visited "half a dozen times" before.

Marlborough was "magical", he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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