Tuesday, 12 December 2023 16:25

Haere Ra 2023: Awatere Valley

Written by  Staff Reporters
Stu Marfell and Sandy Stu Marfell and Sandy

Foley Wine’s chief Marlborough winemaker Stu Marfell grew up on a farm in the Awatere Valley, and has seen the area transformed by grapes over the past 40 years. The Marlborough Wine Show Judge explores the Awatere.

The Good

It’s so great to see people travelling again, and to be visiting our markets and hosting trade and visitors. We have missed telling our stories and showing off all that is great about the Awatere. Fifty years of Marlborough wine this year is an amazing milestone. I feel very lucky to have lived through this history in the Awatere Valley. We have gone from dusty dryland sheep farming, to producing high quality bottled wine, sold around the world. We all owe so much to the original pioneers for their courage, foresight, and drive for excellence.

The Bad

My biggest worry is losing the quality focus across Marlborough. The legacy created 50 years ago is immense, and it’s up to this generation not to lose it. It was disappointing to see some vineyards harvested at very low brix and very high crop levels this year. Brand Marlborough is very strong, but only if we are all paddling the same waka; we must all strive to make the best wines possible across all price points, and can’t just cash in on our reputation. We need real leadership and courage to drive the next 50 years.

& The Awesome

The Awatere was such a standout this year. The sun came out at just the right time and we had some outstanding fruit, with concentration and elegance. It took some patience getting ripeness, but our 2023 Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc is one of our best ever. Judging the Marlborough Wine Show this year was such a thrill, with so many great wines and the introduction of three subregional trophies. There were so many wines that were exceptional, but the Awatere really showed strongly with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. It was great to see our Awatere mates Tohu win the Legacy award with their Blanc de Blanc. We are making some of the best Sauvignon Blanc anywhere in the world and we have a group of winemakers who are really at the forefront of Sauvignon Blanc winemaking, so its great to celebrate that. It was an honour to judge with Oz Clarke; he was so excited about the quality of our wines and is such a fan. I’m looking forward to a great summer, and to welcoming overseas guests to our sunny valley.

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