Marlborough to get ‘first AOC’ classification?

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

30 May 2017

Could Marlborough be about to get its first AOC, complete with restrictions on bottling and brix levels? The answer is ‘yes’ if some of the region’s most respected winemakers have their way.

More than 30 wineries are working on the first draft of a voluntary ‘code of ethics’ that they believe will safeguard the region’s reputation and help to set apart those who sign up to it.

'People have been cashing in on the reputation of Marlborough by cutting all sorts of corners, and we need to do something,' said one winemaker. 'We don’t want to see a special region undermined.'

The exact criteria of the 'AOC' are yet to be precisely defined, but it seems likely that members will need to guarantee to bottle their wines in New Zealand. There will probably be minimum brix levels for grapes as well.

A voluntary system, rather like Chile’s Vigno grouping for old vine Carignan, so it’s possible that wineries could sign up some of their portfolio to the ‘AOC’ while leaving others apart, to allow for continued experimentation.

'One of the great strengths of Marlborough has been the fact that it’s allowed experimentation,' said Matt Thomson of St Claire. 'But now we need to do something to start protecting it. We don’t want to stifle innovation – it’s inappropriate cropping levels and cutting corners in production.'

With the 2017 vintage now in tank, it’s expected that the plan will gather momentum (including, presumably, a name). One signatory said we could expect to see something concrete 'in the next 12 months.'

Movers and shakers within the proposed scheme include respected names such as Dog Point, Greywacke, Mount Riley, Staedtland and Astrolabe.

'Being unregulated has got us where we are,' said the latter’s Simon Waghorn. 'But there’s a feeling that now we need to consolidate our ideas.'

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