Last week a group of Marlborough winemakers launched a group called “Méthode Marlborough“.
According to the press release, its aims to “Through collaboration, communication and education, we aim to build recognition and respect for the heritage and quality of Marlborough traditional method sparkling wines.”
Now I would like to think of myself as a bit of an expert in Champagne and sparkling wines. A connoisseur even. I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship through the MW programme that involved two fabulous and educational trips to the region. And luckily I have a handful of friends who have been willing to help me on my quest to extend my tasting experience in this area as far as possible…
Through working at Nautilus, I get to drink my fair share of fizz. And the MW programme has taught me the differences between global styles and I genuinely have to say that Marlborough should be proud of the méthode wines it produces.
But recent trends to sparkling sauvignon and big brand tank method fizz means that quality producers have to do something to differentiate themselves.
Because sparkling winemaking is confusing. Most people in the wine industry – at least those who have studied via WSET or sommelier programmes – have some dim and distant memories of the difference between traditional and tank method production, or tirage and disgorgement. But most consumers know little about this. At all pricepoints sparkling wines are marketed as special occasion wines – whereas a typical Pinot Noir geek can tell you about clones, sites and whole bunch fermentation, the typical fizz-lover has no idea what winemaking causes the wines to taste the way they do.
It is not the first initiative of its kind. Aside from the obvious comparisons with Champagne’s regulations, South African producers have the “Cap Classique” organisation.
However the criteria for membership – Marlborough grown and made, traditional method production, traditional varieties and a minimum of 18 months on lees – provide a simple but firm line in the sand about what sets them apart from the likes of Lindauer and Te Hana.
Hopefully it will encourage more discussion about the winemaking behind these wines and a better understanding of the different styles produced.