Oyster Bay is a special place. Here in the South Pacific Ocean, on the tip of the Marlborough Sounds, it’s a world away. For many wine lovers around the world it’s a special wine too. From New York to Sydney to London and beyond, we are enormously proud Oyster Bay is one of the most sought after Super Premium wines internationally.
From the moment we released our first vintage, we knew. Not only did we win ‘best in world’ for our Sauvignon Blanc in 1991, we thrilled palates with New Zealand’s unique cool climate flavour intensity.
Oyster Bay is a passion. It’s a vision. It’s a single minded promise to bring the best of New Zealand wine to the world. We don’t make reserves, anything more or less. We don’t reserve anything. We are the same family that’s been here from the very beginning, only grown a little, and learnt a lot. Oyster Bay has many stories. We can’t wait to hear yours.
When they were creating climate classifications for wine regions around the world, we weren’t exactly complaining that ours was called ‘cool.’ Step out in the middle of the day on a classic Marlborough or Hawke’s Bay’s summer, and you may wonder if they got it right. The brightness is beautifully intense, and sunshine plentiful.
But stay about a little. Until nightfall. The shift from day to night isn’t just defined by light, but temperature too. It chills quickly. The South Pacific Ocean taking its deep breath over our two islands. For the grapes, this makes for more than a chilly night. Ripening is gradual, almost methodical. As each day edges the grape towards ripeness, each night captures its flavour.
This pattern creates one of the longest grape growing seasons on earth – and those unmistakable, remarkable zesty flavours, and fragrance that are the hallmark of our wines.
Marlborough immediately conjures images of grape vines perched between seemingly boulder like stones. Some even ask if you can actually call that soil!
The story of Marlborough’s soils starts a little while back, around 18,000 years ago. So in the scheme of ancient wine regions, we are considered to be quite young.
Once a towering glacier, the plains of Marlborough’s valleys are the trail of its slow (yes glacial) retreat.
In the distance, the stern Southern Alps are guardians and providers. Their foundations are broad, but lie upon two tectonic plates that are perpetually moving in different directions.
This battle beneath the earth is only discernible by rocks sent down from the above. With purpose, the snow and rain fed rivers carry these away and over centuries smooth the harsh edges of their abrupt beginnings away. They spread across the valley floor, where our vines call home.
As the stones bask in plentiful sunshine, vine roots edge beneath to find nutrients. When the air cools at night, the stones share with the vines the warmth they have collected over the day, to help create the immaculate flavours synonymous with this special place.
There’s a lot to be said for a place that can create a world-class cool climate sparkling wine, aromatic and refreshing Pinot Gris and stunning elegant Merlot. This incredible diversity of wines and flavour speaks of the region’s diversity itself.
Ironically, one of the things that ties the Hawke’s Bay together from a viticultural perspective, also creates some of its diversity. This is the impossibly hard to pronounce Ngaruroro River.
Weaving its way persistently as a single thread from the ranges and across the high country, the river has helped etch the seemingly fort like high walls that form the boundary of our terraced Crownthorpe Vineyard. The river then makes its way downward ushering alluvial stones toward the plains.
Of course there are times when the rain likes to contribute more than usual, turning a tranquil flow into an urgent surge. One such event occurred in 1867, which altered the course of the river, leaving behind a bed of alluvial river stone and shingle soils. As you can imagine, nothing much can grow on stone. In an area known for its agriculture – this place most probably wasn’t a highlight. But in its pocket of sunshine it certainly was for the growing of New Zealand’s most acclaimed Merlot. This place is now called the Gimblett Gravels.
We don’t take for granted that we live in one of the most picturesque landscapes imaginable. We have an enormous responsibility. Just look into the pristine snow fed rivers and waterways that run through our vineyards and you’ll see they are the arteries that sustain so many forms of life, including our own grape vines.
We don’t stop at being compliant to Sustainable Winegrowing practises. As a founding member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand we have taken this further. At our Fault Lake Vineyard in Marlborough, we have over many years restored its natural wetland area, which is now home to a significant number of native plant species and native wildlife.