It’s been a while since we added to our “iconic wineries” series started earlier in the year, but we were saving Brancott Estate for the unveiling of their vast new geometric installation among the vines – right on the spot where Marlborough’s first Sauvignon Blanc grapes were planted. The 8-metre high corten steel sculpture, entitled Under/standing, was designed by New York based Dror Benshetrit and was 18 months in the making. Brancott’s website explains, “Dror’s intricate, volumetric sculpture fuses art and science – a direct reflection of our artful winemaking process and commitment to innovation.”
Innovation is what Brancott is all about and we’re going to take a look at this winery responsible for bringing the crown jewel, Sauvignon Blanc, to Marlborough.
The New Zealand wine industry was born in the North Island. This was a time when Marlborough, situated in the South Island, was considered too cold to be a wine region of any quality. Luckily, someone dared to question that logic, and in planting Sauvignon Blanc in an area known for farmland and livestock, revealed what would become known worldwide as a top wine region.
The winery that boldly planted in an area previously deemed unsuitable, paving the way for the hundreds of wineries to follow, certainly is iconic of Marlborough.
Brancott Estate – forging a path that hundreds will follow
Brancott Estate is best known not only for putting its faith in a region others were quick to skim past, but also for finding the perfect grape varietal for the region. When Brancott Estate first came to Marlborough, it bore a different name: Montana.
Montana was founded by a Croatian immigrant, Frank Yukich. Montana was already an established winery in the North Island when they sought to expand their company. The high price of land in proven wine regions drove Yukich to look elsewhere, eventually landing him a purchase of bare land in Marlborough, which at the time did not grow any grapes.
It wasn’t by accident that Yukich planted Sauvignon Blanc. Trials were run and it was decided that Sauvignon Blanc would flourish in the region’s hot, dry days and downright cool evenings. In 1973, Marlborough saw its first vineyard of Sauvignon Blanc planted by the determined Brancott Estate.
In time, Brancott Estate became one of the biggest producers of wine in New Zealand. They export around the world, today under the name Brancott Estate so as not to confuse the USA market, where Montana is more likely to register as the state than the wine.
As one of the oldest wineries in Marlborough, Brancott has certainly grown up over the years. Their cellar door and restaurant is a visual metaphor for how far they have come. Sitting atop a hill running wild with tall prairie grass, the elegant, modernist building looks out over the expanse of their original vineyard as it stretches out beneath the Wither Hills.
The restaurant at Brancott Estate features fresh, local dishes made with flavour combinations carefully designed to match their collection of wines. The view you have while eating is not just beautiful; here you are treated to a visual display of how one man’s vision changed an entire region, with a sea of green vineyards in every direction proving it was a wonderful idea to plant Sauvignon Blanc here.
Preserving the land
The elevated position of the Brancott Estate Cellar Door and Restaurant shows off more than vineyards. While tasting, you might be lucky enough to see a native New Zealand falcon gliding over the vineyards. It is a special treat to see these birds, as their numbers have lowered to the point of near extinction in recent times. To put it in perspective, there are fewer of them than there are the rare kiwi bird.
Luckily, Brancott Estate has stepped up to support the Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust as they protect and repopulate these birds. They kindly donate for every bottle of their wine sold in New Zealand, and are also host to a number of birds living on their property. These native birds do earn their keep. They deter smaller birds that damage grapes as they fly over the territory, making them a vineyard’s best friend.
Brancott Estate makes a collection of wines they call the “Terroir Series”, which aims to highlight particular sub-regions in Marlborough. One of these sub-regions is the Awatere Valley, which is known for having a colder, longer growing season because of its proximity to the sea. Brancott Estate Marlborough Awatere Valley Pinot Gris expresses a sense of place by keeping the winemaking technique extremely simple, making it a wonderful example of both the maritime nature of the Awatere Valley and of Pinot Gris. Like most Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks to retain the purity of subtle pear and floral aromas, followed by a rich, luscious mouthfeel and lingering minerality. It is one reason so many people who leave Marlborough do so with a new favourite type of white wine.
Ready to go?
We consider Brancott Estate to be one of our favourite destinations to show visitors on our full day wine tours or private tours. So, whether you’re a local or visitor and want to experience this iconic winery yourself, give us a call today and we’d be more than happy to help.