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Tuesday, 23 March 2021 13:30

Growing business: Martinborough vineyards set for significant growth

Written by  Joelle Thomson
Escarpment Escarpment

Martinborough’s wine industry is known for its small size and big profile, but three of its best-known wineries have significant expansion plans.

The developments on Te Muna Road, Martinborough, will boost the region’s plantings from the current 1039 hectares of New Zealand’s total 39,935ha of producing vineyard.

Craggy Range Vineyards is doubling its vineyard holdings from 93ha to nearly 200ha, says Marketing Manager David Peabody. “The big focus has been on taking the best of our existing vineyards both from a knowledge and material standpoint and using this to plant the new blocks. An excellent example of this is massale selection. We took the best cuttings from our Abel block (Pinot Noir, Block 19) and used these cuttings as the basis for the new plantings.”

The expansion is also an opportunity to kick off the winery’s native planting programme, he says. “Last year we planted more than 23,000 natives. When the programme is complete, it will cover close to 100ha... While there are many benefits to planting native trees, we believe this will dramatically improve our vineyard’s monoculture, heightening native yeast levels and reducing pest pressure from the increase in native birds.”

Also on Te Muna Road, The Escarpment Vineyard has just completed the purchase of Cobblestone Vineyard, adjacent to its existing land. This will add 4ha of mature Pinot Noir vines, which they have previously managed and taked fruit from.

The Escarpment Vineyard is now owned by Torbreck Vintners from South Australia, with its new growth plan to be headed up by winery founder Larry McKenna. He has always used grapes from single vineyards that he regards highly elsewhere in Martinborough, but growth nearer to the winery will add substantially to its holdings. A new winery, offices, laboratory and hospitality centre is all scheduled to begin construction in February, unless held up by the consent process. The new winery will be capable of fermenting up to 300 tonnes of Pinot Noir as well as white wine, and is scheduled to be operational for the 2022 vintage.

The third winery with expansion plans is Julicher Estate, which was bought by the Butterworth family in November 2019, and will grow from 13.9ha to a new total of 24.2ha of vines. While retaining the Julicher name, its wines will be rebranded under the Butterworth banner. At the time of purchase, it was planted with 13.9ha of grapes, and 2ha of fallow blocks have since been replanted with Abel, Clone 5 and Mendoza Chardonnay. The team has also removed a block of olive trees from behind the winery, in order to plant 1.3ha of Chardonnay.

Further expansion includes an extra 8ha of Pinot Noir on land that the Butterworths bought next door, which will see an increase in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling, says Butterworth Estate General Manager Nick Hewitt. “Graduated planting will start in this new block from 2022 and we will start to harvest the fruit in 2023 and 2024.”

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