Brancott unveils upmarket push for Marlborough Sauvignon

13th February, 2013 by Gabriel Stone

Brancott Estate is seeking to take Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc “to another level” with the launch of a more complex style designed to age.

Brancott Estate Chosen Rows 2010

Brancott Estate Chosen Rows 2010

The Pernod Ricard-owned brand officially unveiled Brancott Estate Chosen Rows 2010 in the UK yesterday and is showing the wine at today’s New Zealand Wine tasting in London.

The project started in 2008 with the selection of 14 different vineyard plots across the Marlborough region. Just 12 cases were produced in 2009, before further tweaks were made to produce 3,500 cases of 2010, Chosen Rows’ first commercially available vintage, which has an RRP of £35

Outlining the ambitions behind this project, Brancott Estate’s chief winemaker Patrick Materman observed: “If there’s been a criticism of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, it’s been ageability. We’re trying to address that, but it’s also about making a wine that’s good with food.”

Having joined the brand, formerly known as Montana, in 1990, Materman suggested that the Marlborough region had shown a lack of ambition in capitalising on the international popularity of its flagship grape variety.

“Marlborough is a benchmark area for Sauvignon Blanc, but it hasn’t commanded high prices,” he remarked. “We questioned why we weren’t taking things to another level.” As a reaction to this perceived inertia, Materman claimed: “We’ve thrown out the rulebook of how we’ve made Sauvignon Blanc to-date.”

Outlining the changes involved in the Chosen Rows project, Materman spoke of adopting a “Pinot Noir philosophy” in the vineyard with a shift towards rigorous shoot thinning and manual harvesting.

In addition, he pointed to several areas of experimentation in the winery with the use of a Coquard Champagne basket press, indigenous yeast fermentation, large oak formats and extended lees contact.

“We’re not so much trying to preserve the fruit and aromatics, but more the mouthfeel and ageability,” he summarised as the end goal.

Expanding on this stylistic distinction from more typical, mainstream examples of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Materman observed: “If you machine harvest and press harder, you release a lot more of those precursors that convert to tropical fruit characters, but they don’t necessarily age very well. We’re trying to lock in a flavour that’s consistent over time.”

While describing the 2011 as “more of a fumé blanc style”, which will be sold predominantly at the cellar door, Materman described himself as “very happy” with the subsequent 2012 vintage, most of which is still on its lees and awaiting the final blending decision.

However, he anticipated that the final result would see about “70-80%” of the blend made using the 4,000 litre foudres which Brancott bought new three vintages ago.

As for 2013, Materman signalled further “fine-tuning” work in the vineyard, especially in terms of canopy management and fruit selection, with additional work on getting the best result possible from wild fermentation. “It’s about keeping them noisy but still clean – there’s a fine line,” he said of the latter approach.

Although Chosen Rows is currently focused entirely on Sauvignon Blanc, Materman confirmed that lessons learned from the project were being applied to other ranges and varieties.

“The Letter Series has moved on significantly out of what we’ve learned here,” he remarked, pointing to the gradual adoption here of “cuves, foudres and indigenous fermentation.”

As the 2010 Chosen Rows was tasted alongside a selection of high end Sauvignon Blanc examples from the same vintage, including Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko, Cape Point Vineyards Reserve, Domaine Didier Dagueneau Silex and Château Smith Haut Lafite, Materman admitted: “I can’t pretend we’re the first to try this sort of style.”

Brancott Estate's chief winemaker Patrick Materman introduces Chosen Rows alongside a selection of Sauvignon Blanc from around the world

Brancott Estate’s chief winemaker Patrick Materman introduces Chosen Rows alongside a selection of Sauvignon Blanc from around the world

However, he stressed Brancott’s aim to secure a place at the forefront of this evolution in Marlborough. “It’s about keeping momentum up and showing we are leading the way,” he remarked.

Expressing a hope that projects such as Chosen Rows can help those who have lost their enthusiasm for Sauvignon Blanc to discover a different side to the variety, Materman pointed to his own experience. “If you’d asked me 10 years ago how much Sauvignon Blanc I drank, I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it, but it’s not just Pinot Noir that engenders that sort of love, Sauvignon Blanc can do it too.”

With the first shipment of Chosen Rows currently on its way to the UK, Adrian Atkinson, wine development director at Pernod Ricard UK, told the drinks business that his allocation for this market was just 80 cases, with most of the rest being targeted across New Zealand, Australia and the US.

Although saying it was too early to discuss listings, Atkinson confirmed that the company has “been talking to some customers” about the release and that independent retailers could provide a particularly suitable outlet for the wine.

Above all he noted: “It’s more to take a leadership role in Sauvignon Blanc and if it broadens our distribution then that’ll be an added benefit.”

One Response to “Brancott unveils upmarket push for Marlborough Sauvignon”

  1. LJP says:

    It’s too bad for this grape…We don’t need more Chardonnay in the market. Let’s see how true they stay to Smith Haut Lafite style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Fine Wine Logistics Coordinator

IG Wines
London, GB

Brand Ambassador East Coast USA - Ableforth’s

Maverick Drinks
New York - field-based, USA

Brand Ambassador West Coast USA - Ableforth’s

Maverick Drinks
San Francisco / Los Angeles - field-based, USA

Global Travel Retail Manager

Maverick Drinks
London, UK

Portfolio Ambassador - Europe

Maverick Drinks
North West Europe - field-based, UK

Senior Partner Manager - Grocery

Maverick Drinks
London/Field Based, UK

Sales Executive

Woolf Sung Ltd

Trade Marketing Manager - Maverick Drinks

Maverick Drinks
London / Kent

Business Development Executive Central London

William Grant & Sons UK

PR & Communications Officer - Atom Group

ATOM Supplies Limited
London, UK

Crus Bourgeois du Médoc 2015 Official Selection Tasting

London,United Kingdom
21st Sep 2017

The City Wine Show

London,United Kingdom
22nd Sep 2017

Almaviva 2015 Vintage and Vertical Tasting

London,United Kingdom
28th Sep 2017
Click to view more

Global Chardonnay Masters 2017

Deadline : 29th September 2017

The Global Riesling Masters 2017

Deadline : 29th September 2017

Click to view more

Champagne Masters 2017

The only Champagne blind tasting in the UK, the competition will reward the best wines in the following categories:

The Global Rosé Masters 2017

With wines from the palest of pink to almost ruby red, bone dry to almost cloyingly sweet, reductively handled to barrel-aged, as well as gently spritzy to fully sparkling.

Click to view more