A Taste of New Zealand’s Marlborough Wine Region

According to New Zealand Wine, Marlborough is home to 2/3 of New Zealand’s vineyard acreage. Sauvignon Blanc comprises almost 80% of plantings, with Pinot Noir coming in second followed by aromatic white varieties and Chardonnay.

Marlborough has three sub-regions: Southern Valleys, Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley. Sunshine, moderate temperatures and significant diurnal temperature shifts are characteristic of the region. Soils are variable and include sandy loam over gravel and clay. Water retention varies greatly depending on the proportion of soil types.

We recently received three wines as tasting samples made in New Zealand’s Marlborough wine region. All three are varietal wines and it won’t be difficult for you to guess the varieties. Let’s taste.

Crowded House Sauvignon Blanc2016 Crowded House Sauvignon Blancpale yellow with a hint of green in the glass. Complex aromas include tropical fruit, ripe melon and dried hay. Casaba melon flavors predominate along with dried hay and juicy limes in the background. The body is medium and the finish is long and juicy. 12.8% abv. $12.95

The Crowded House winemaking team has succeeded in making a Sauvignon Blanc that is more tropical than grassy, which suits me just fine. It is a Sauvignon Blanc for those of us who prefer a tropical fruit expression rather than a tart, gooseberry expression of the variety.

All of the Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from the Marlborough region with 85% coming from the Southern Valley sub-region. 2016 was a warm growing season resulting in ripe fruit. Fermentation in tank with selected yeast was followed by lees aging.

Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc2016 Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blancpale yellow with hints of green in the glass. Dried hay and citrus aromas predominate, but there is a hint of green grass and the flavors to come. Citrusy, gooseberry flavors are moderated by cut grass flavors. This wine has nice acidity and is a bit tart. The flavors last a good long time and the body is on the lighter side of medium. 13%abv. $15.95

The aromas and flavors of this wine will leave no doubt that it is Sauvignon Blanc, but happily, the gooseberry flavors are not overwhelming. If you love Sauvignon Blanc, this wine will not disappoint.

50% of the Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from Sound of White Vineyard (the Catalina Sounds estate vineyard) in Waihopai Valley and the balance is purchased fruit. The Sound of White Vineyard is a 45-hectare property planted to 32 hectares of vines. The property has been a farm and olive grove in previous lives.

Winemaking included a small amount of oak aging as well as aging on the lees.

Catalina Sounds Pinot Noir2015 Catalina Sounds Pinot Noirtranslucent ruby in the glass with generous blackberry, alfalfa, berry bramble and dusty earth aromas. Ripe boysenberry flavors combine with black tea, a hint of cedar and earthy flavors. Tannins are smooth and well integrated with the flavors, acidity is nicely balanced and the finish is medium + in length. 13% abv $18.95

This is a delicious Pinot Noir with lovely, familiar aromas and flavors. It is a bargain at under $20.

Winery notes inform us that the 2015 vintage produced a small Pinot Noir crop due to cold weather during flowering. Also of interest from the winery:

Predominantly sourced from 2 ideally located clay hillside blocks in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys – one offering seductive, savoury interest while the other, our home vineyard Sound of White, offering darker fruit characters and structure to the wine. Both vineyards have a mixed clonal selection, scattered randomly throughout each block to promote greater complexity and interest.

Please be sure to read the story of Catalina Sounds and how it was named. Then take a close look at the wine bottle labels; they are thoughtfully designed.



  1. My eyes tend to glaze over when reading most tasting notes, but yours are more like a story – I love it! And I like the background you’ve chosen for your pictures – Native Wine Grapes of Italy. Another example of technical wine writing that reads like a novel, and one of my favorites. Cheers, Nancy!