Yealands Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand is a recent producer of wine. Grapes they’ve been doing for years but would sell them to other people to make the wine. That was up until 2008 when they made their very first vintage in their brand new, and first of its kind, CarboNZeroCERT™ winery. For anyone who is interested, and most of us are on some level or other, Yealands remains one of the most sustainable wineries in the world.
The New Winery
The winery is somewhat reminiscent of that of Château Cheval Blanc and it is not for the first time that I made seemingly inexplicable associations with that great château, as it happens. So Cheval Blanc is an iconic wine from Bordeaux making red from a blend of two varieties and not a New World producer making mostly white from single varieties. But two weeks ago I was tasting Cabernet Franc and Merlot from different plots of Cheval Blanc’s vineyards with winemaker Pierre-Olivier Clouet and last week I was tasting Sauvignon Blanc from different blocks of Yealands Estate Sea View Vineyard. Pierre-Olivier deftly demonstrated how soil makes an enormous impact on the wine. Tamra Washington of Yealands, equally skilfully, showed how aspect, rather than soil, played a starring role in the wine’s aroma and flavour spectrum.
A tasting of 8 2012’s from the one vineyard, half of which were Sauvignon Blanc, half wines made from other grape varieties, confirmed some things I felt I was sure of (Marlborough makes top, tangy Sauvignons) and comfortable with but also opened my eyes to some prejudices I might have had.
The Pick of the Very Tasty Bunch.
The Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 More inland than truly coastal for the Sea View Vineyard, more sheltered and north-facing, the S1 block has produced a stylish wine, minerally, herby with a slender passion fruit streak and a weighty texture. I recommend this as it is available from M&S at £12.99 and the 2011 won the IWC International Sauvignon Blanc Trophy in 2012 but I can’t resist suggesting that you also look out for the Block M2 2012 and, my Sauvignon of the night, the Yealands Estate Reserve 2011, which has had just the merest hint of oak treatment, giving weight and structure and is available from Great Western Wine £12.95
Yealands Estate Single Block R6 Pinot Gris 2012 I had almost fully formed the notion in my mind that, whilst the Riesling, Grüner and Viognier we had just sampled were perfectly nice wines, I had tasted the evidence as to why Marlborough is especially known for its Sauvignons. Then I was thrown a curve ball in the form of this Pinot Gris – not a grape variety that usually grabs my attention but this expressively aromatic (rose petal and orange blossom), tasty (pear and almond with ginger) very appealing wine made me sit-up and re-consider. Its rich texture, balancing minerality and crisp acidity was my revelation of the night.
Yealands Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2012 Not from Marlborough but Central Otago, New Zealand’s Pinot Noir perfect spot, and in this case Gibbston Valley to be precise. This was my wine of the night. I hate to make comparisons with Old World equivalent wines (yet do it all the time and am doing it right here, right now) but this was very Burgundian. Raspberry and cherry aromas, minerally, forest floor, silky and feminine in the mouth with a delightful balance. Just delicious.
Expect to see Yealands Estate wines creep onto the wine merchants’ shelves and, I suspect, be swamped with wine awards. That girl, Tamra, knows what she’s doing.