What I enjoy most during vintage is the sight of primordial vines dotted along the hillsides and the heavy perfume of grapes that lingers across the landscape. More than any other New Zealand wine region, Marlborough is all its own, standing shoulder to shoulder with the great wine regions of the world.
Having visited the region many times, I have assembled my own hall of fame, representing entrepreneurism and innovation, one member being Peter Yealand. Peter’s entry into the wine industry 14 years ago may have seemed an unlikely choice for this modest gent who ordinarily shies away from the cut and thrust that consumes the modern world of wine.
Until Peter entered the industry it had been the big wineries who led the way and who snared the major part of the market. Peter’s route to the wine industry was a little less orthodox than most, but the former mussel farmer had such a burning passion for wine he decided to create his own winery.
It’s true Peter doesn’t own a suit and would rather be in the vineyard on his bulldozer (where he was when I first met him) repairing fences or boring postholes than chairing corporate meetings. But don’t let this modest attitude to life fool you into thinking Yealands Estate isn’t revolutionising the wine industry.
From its very conception, Peter’s aim was to become the most sustainable winery in the world and to produce award-wining wines. An audacious task and a goal rife with challenges and one that has been accomplished many times over, with these distinctions due entirely to Peter’s wealth of business expertise and sheer tenacity.
While it’s true that initiatives like sustainable wine growing now play a pivotal part of the New Zealand wine industry, Yealands Estate is unique in that it was the first winery in the world to be carboNZero certified, meeting international standards of greenhouse-gas emissions from its very inception. In its short time of evolution, Yealands has become a major player and a picturesque showcase of a diverse habitat of grapes with the largest acreage of grapevines in New Zealand. And while it balances a focus on the traditional wine styles, the addition of newly emerging varieties such as gruner veltliner and viognier are setting the pace for the industry. For the avid wine lover the burning question remains, do their wines stack up? Absolutely! Here are three from my cellar you should try.
Yealands ’14 single block Sauvignon Blanc RRP $25. Displaying rich and vibrant flavours, with a long crisp clean lingering finish on the palate. This wine is ready to drink now. Serving suggestions: seafood, green-lipped mussels, summer salads.
Crossroads ’12 Talisman $50. A full-bodied classic red with a mystic twist of structured blends known only by the wine maker. Clean and supple on the palate with soft tannins. Rich and satisfying in flavour. Serving suggestions: red meats, lamb, duck.
Yealands ’13 winemakers reserve Gibbston Central Otago Pinot Noir $40. Beautifully balanced with intense flavours, oozing with citrus characteristics. A unique sweetness that is crisp and toned finished with a light but enduring textural acidity. Serving suggestions: seafood, shellfish, chicken, pork.
Words: Dennis Knill