Pinot noir makes a mark
Greywacke founder Kevin Judd took wine reporter Chloe Winter on a tour of his pinot noir vineyards to share his story on the rise of pinot noir in Marlborough.
Greywacke founder Kevin Judd's love for pinot noir stretches back to 1984 when he started his winemaking career at Cloudy Bay.
Cloudy Bay was always very involved in Marlborough's pinot noir scene, helping it to grow from "nothing to what it is now".
So where and how did Marlborough pinot noir's story begin?
Like any other variety, it began in the vineyards. Viticulturists and winemakers put their heads together to find the right pinot noir clone.
Choosing that clone was the hard part, says Judd.
"Pinot noir is very diverse and when we planted it in the early days it was good for sparkling wine but not so good for red.
"We definitely got off on the wrong foot. In the 90s there was a realisation that we did not have the best clones," he says.
"In terms of the vineyards, where we were sourcing the pinot noir from, we had to start from scratch."
So vines were replanted, and they're now about 10 years old.
"The vines started producing better fruit once they were older and that is sort of happening now. They are reaching more maturity now that we've got the better clones.
"We are starting to see, in the last decade, even the last half a decade, pinot noir coming of age. It's starting to show that we, Marlborough, can produce bloody good pinot noir. If Martinborough can produce superb pinot noir, Marlborough can too."
The latest statistics released by New Zealand Winegrowers showed more pinot noir was harvested in Marlborough this year than ever before, with 18,940 tonnes brought in.
In 2004 that figure was just 11,852 tonnes.
"Marlborough pinot noir has completely transformed and we are now producing some of the best pinot noir in New Zealand - there's no doubt about that," Judd says.
"I'm not saying it will be as big as sauvignon blanc but there is no question that we have premium top quality red wine."
Last year, the Wine Spectator released their top 100 wines. Two of those were New Zealand wines - both Marlborough pinot noir, says Judd.
"More and more you are seeing Marlborough pinot noir in the shows. It's taken us a long time but we are getting there."
When Judd started Greywacke in 2009 he contracted vineyards in the southern valleys because he thought that was the best soil type for pinot noir, he said.
"In the southern valleys they are very old soils and they have a lot of clay.
"To make pinot noir, we've got to throw the book at it, in terms of viticulture ... vineyards need to be nurtured to make great pinot noir, it's not like growing sauvignon blanc.
"You have to be committed to producing top quality."
Pinot noir "thrives" in Marlborough's cooler climate, he says.
"Marlborough is capable of producing superb pinot noir."
The Marlborough Express