Monday, 18 December 2023 16:25

Balvonie Prosecco - giving it a nudge

Written by  Stephanie McIntyre
Ben McLauchlan Ben McLauchlan

“Why not?” responds Ben McLauchlan when asked about planting Glera for Prosecco on his Marlborough vineyard, Balvonie. “Helen and I like to try new things.”

The couple weren’t deterred by being some of the first to grow Glera in New Zealand, or the evolving regulations concerning use of the name Prosecco. “We had 0.3 hectares of prime vineyard land sitting bare and I wanted to do something fun with it. So we gave it a nudge,” Ben says, with the first Balvonie Prosecco due for release in 2024.

According to Wine Intelligence, Prosecco is the fastest-growing sparkling wine category in the world. The McLauchlans noticed this trend when living in the United Kingdom from 2002 to 2007. “I worked in on-premise, and Prosecco and rosé were the two sectors really gaining momentum,” Ben says. Upon moving back to New Zealand, he worked in an export role with Lion and saw the trend continuing. “When the opportunity came up to work with friends Sam and Marcus Wickham of Ormond Nursery, we thought it could only be a good prospect.”

They planted in 2021 and the Glera has proved an excellent performer on the deep fertile soils of the Rapaura vineyard. Bunch weights were up to 930 grams in 2022 and in perfect health, Ben says. “Glera has a loose architecture and we’ve seen no disease. It has a long growing season, with an early bud burst and harvest around the same time as Sauvignon Blanc.” Fruit is harvested at 18 brix and acid drops quickly after that point, but the “style accepts this”.

Balvonie is the sole source of Chardonnay fruit used to make Tohu Rewa Blanc de Blancs, a Marlborough méthode traditionnelle. Tohu Wines won the New Zealand Wine Centre Legacy Trophy at the Marlborough Wine Show in November, for their Tohu Rewa Méthode Traditionnelle Blanc de Blancs 2011, 2014 and 2016. “It has been a very successful wine and that encouraged Helen and I to grow and produce a sparkling wine under our own label,” Ben says. “That label’s finer details are still a work in progress – but watch this space.”

The couple manage Balvonie with sustainability top of mind, and “diversity across the property continues to be a driving force”. Today Balvonie New Zealand is an established vineyard as well as a partner with First Light Foods to finish grass-fed Wagyu beef. The name is steeped in history – the McLauchlan family settled in Marlborough back in 1859, with Ben’s grandfather establishing his own farm in 1935 and naming it Balvonie as a nod to his Scottish heritage. That parcel of land has been extended over the years and now the blocks planted in grapes are named to commemorate the family’s past, present and future.

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