Harvest at Matua
Matua, Új-Zéland Our colleague, Zsófi Szuhai, spent two months in New Zealand recently, where Sauvignon Blanc vineyards paint the landscape green as far as the eye can see, and shares her experience:
Marlborough is a blessed place. The sunshine, the temperature and the rain suit the variety’s needs perfectly. The stony soil reflects the heat, thus the vines develop in conditions of perfect temperature and good water supply. Regarding vintages, the sole possible worry is the rainy autumn prior to the harvest, which happens to be in March there.
A lot of people work with the same yeast. Thus, the differences in style between winemakers, and even within a single winery depends on the plots they harvest the grapes from. This is no myth, I experienced it myself. Matua uses five different strains of yeast. I took part in a tasting held by a colleague in which we tasted all of the barrel and tank samples. It was a great experience – at the end of which I was able to tell which wine came from where. Awetere and Wairau, for example, count as more southern areas – from the former I tasted Sauvignon Blancs with more green herbs and green tea notes, while from the latter, explosively tropical wines.
As I worked a lot in receiving the grapes that arrived at the winery, what I experienced was that even the smell of grapes that came from different terroirs was different. In the case of Lands and Legends, the winemakers can decide freely about the blends, thus the style of the wine changes every year. Usually they decide after a blind tasting about which tank will be put into it. This year, one can certainly smell the strong medicinal herbs, as it was made from the already mentioned, otherwise organically-cultivated Awetere Valley.
Matua differs from the other wineries in that there’s not one but four winemakers working together. One of the most inspiring people I met at Matua was Jacqueline Lizama Salazar, a young female winemaker from Chile. She’d worked in Chile and California, then she came to New Zealand to study because of Sauvignon Blanc and fell in love with the variety and Marlborough. For a long time, she worked as a cellar-hand, then in the laboratory, and now she’s one of the chief winemakers. The other person who was important for me was my supervisor, assistant winemaker Joaquin Bonet. He arrived from Argentina many years ago, and beside Matua, he still works as a brewer, both in Argentina and in New Zealand. As he is a world-travelled man, I asked what attracted him to the New Zealand winery. And his answer was just: simplicity. There are no wineries here that would be characterised by exaggeration, snobbery and unapproachableness. Everything is friendly and close to nature.