Saturday, 16 December 2023 15:25

Ten years of Méthode Marlborough

Written by  Stephanie McIntyre
Méthode Marlborough members Stewart Maclennan from Saint Clair Family Estate, Claudia Yanez from Nautilus, and Patricia Miranda-Taylor from Wither Hills. Photo Credit: Jim Tannock Méthode Marlborough members Stewart Maclennan from Saint Clair Family Estate, Claudia Yanez from Nautilus, and Patricia Miranda-Taylor from Wither Hills. Photo Credit: Jim Tannock

New Zealand wine enthusiasts have a deepening understanding and growing appreciation of sparkling wine, says Mel Skinner, Chair of Méthode Marlborough and co-owner of Esse in Kaikōura.

"Whilst people are drinking less, they are also drinking better. And locally."

Marlborough sparkling wine and Sauvignon Blanc have a shared demographic, and Méthode Marlborough members are noticing an increase in consumers choosing sparkling wine over their traditional pour, Mel says. “This aligns with our belief that a glass of Méthode Marlborough celebrates our everyday moments.”

Méthode Marlborough was established in 2013, with the primary goal of increasing consumer awareness of premium sparkling wine from the region, and now has 12 members and myriad wines under its umbrella.

Member criteria stipulates that wine is produced using the traditional method and aged on lees for a minimum of 18 months. This is the same secondary fermentation technique used in Champagne, but it is taken a step further by increasing the time on lees requirement by three months. “Our members have always felt that 18 months on lees ensures a quality and complexity level that other sparkling production methods can simply not achieve,” Mel says. “Most Méthode Marlborough wines far exceed that minimum, with member wines averaging around 36 months. Several sit for over seven years.”

Méthode traditionnelle is the most laborious technique available to sparkling wine producers. It is said to produce the most complex and elegant examples, with the finest and most persistent bead. The second fermentation is carried out in bottle, followed by time on lees, the intricate riddling process and, finally, disgorging (the removal of lees). “It is important that we keep talking about what sets Méthode Marlborough wines apart from the pack and consumers seem to be ready for more detail,” Mel says.

Méthode traditionnelle is versatile for food and wine pairing, which “Méthode Marlborough highlights in its activities, she adds. “We continue to work with restauranteurs about having a méthode section rather than narrowing their field to Champagne.” As all Champagne is méthode traditionnelle but not all méthode traditionnelle is Champagne, this seems like a natural fit. But it’s not easy. “It’s slowly changing, but there is still an expectation by many to see a Champagne category on a menu,” Mel says. “It was interesting to read recently that American Airlines swapped out Champagne for an Italian Brut in their long-haul business class.”

The Méthode Marlborough portfolio offers consumers zero dosage, non vintage, vintage, rosé, blanc de blancs, and sec, among others. There is a Méthode Marlborough wine for everyone, Mel says. “We love sharing the diversity of our member wines – they range from youthful and vibrant through to aged and complex. It is a delicious discovery.”

Exclusively Sparkling At Esses

Mel and Aaron Skinner chose to exclusively produce méthode traditionnelle wines when they moved to Kaikōura 12 years ago and purchased an established vineyard with their new home, nestled at the base of Mt Fyffe. Under their Esses label they currently offer seven distinct sparklers from 1.5 hectares of vines, including a non-vintage, two blanc de blancs, three vintage expressions, and a sec, with time on lees ranging from 3.5 to nine years.

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Ten years of Méthode Marlborough

New Zealand wine enthusiasts have a deepening understanding and growing appreciation of sparkling wine, says Mel Skinner, Chair of Méthode Marlborough…