Strong demand spurs wineries to bottle early

KAT PICKFORD
Last updated 09:43 19/06/2013
george fistonich
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
George Fistonich

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Some 2013 sauvignon blanc could be hitting the shelves earlier this year thanks to the short 2012 harvest and strong demand for Marlborough's flagship wine.

Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich said yesterday the Villa Maria Early Release Sauvignon Blanc 2013 could go on sale in Blenheim as early as next week.

The winery started bottling the sauvignon blanc slightly earlier than usual after selling out of 2012 stock because of the low yields last year and growing demand for its product, he said.

"There has been a huge demand for Marlborough sauvignon blanc in the last 12 months.

"Usually, people are waiting for the new season's savvy to come out, and it's slightly earlier than usual, but on the back of an earlier vintage this year, too."

The veteran wine producer, who has spent 51 years in the business, said a combination of the hot, dry summer, improving viticultural and winemaking practices and the general sophistication of the wine industry had all contributed to an outstanding season.

"We'll get some amazing wines out of this year's vintage - it was one out of 100 years."

Wairau River Wines export director Dave Kenny said his company had experienced stronger demand for sauvignon blanc during the past year and would start bottling in August, four to six weeks earlier than usual.

"We're all cleared out of 2012 now, about six weeks ahead of schedule, thanks to stronger demand in our traditional markets."

Awatere Valley wine producer Peter Yealands said his winery had been bottling some sauvignon blanc for British and European markets for the past two weeks.

Bottling was three to four weeks earlier than usual, but the grape harvest had also been slightly earlier this year, he said.

Allan Scott Family Winemakers owner Allan Scott said he was not in a hurry to get their 2013 sauvignon blanc out.

He understood low stocks forced the hand of some wineries, but they would still have to make sure their wines passed the quality test.

"It's hard to say what situation people are in but, personally, I would have thought it's a bit early; I'd be a bit nervous about doing it myself," Mr Scott said.

"The market can be a bit unforgiving.

"If your stock runs out, they'll move on to the next thing, but, on the other hand, you can lose customers by putting out wines that taste too different from last year," he said.

Nautilus winemaker and winery manager Clive Jones said it was too early to say if Nautilus would be releasing its sauvignon blancs early.

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"If the market demands it, we would release early, but we prefer not to. I think the wine generally looks better three months down the track.

"In saying that, I think we can get away with it this year, because the 2013 is quite delicious and quite approachable young, where the 2012 was more restrained."

Wine writer and educator Bob Campbell agreed this season's sauvignon blancs appeared to be "riper" with more tropical fruit characteristics, and less acid and grassy, herbaceous notes compared with last year's wines.

He gave Villa Maria's early-release sauvignon blanc the thumbs up.

- The Marlborough Express

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