‘Grand cru’ organic Marlborough vineyard

5:00 AM Wednesday July 8, 2015 Colin Taylor

The vineyard for sale at 941 Waihopai Valley, Marlborough.

An established, organic Marlborough vineyard is for sale in the Waihopai Valley about 15 kms west of Blenheim’s airport.

The 41 hectare property at 941 Waihopai Valley Rd has 22 hectares of planted vineyard with the balance of the land comprising grazing, forestry and scrub river terrace, says Tim Crawford of Bayleys Blenheim who is marketing it for sale through a tender campaign closing on July 31.

Crawford says the vineyard, which has a rateable valuation of $3.28 million, is planted across rolling land contours and, due to its strategic position, is one of the earliest vineyards in the region to ripen.

“The vineyard supplies the internationally renowned Churton label which is known for its distinctive flavour and style combining the intensity of the vineyard’s fruit and the texture of more traditional European wines. Churton has earned praise from top national and international wine reviewers including Bob Campbell, Andrew Jefford’s World of Fine Wine and Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide, which described the 2012 pinot noir vintage as “deeply coloured, enticingly floral and silky textured, with impressive density and the structure to age”.

Strategically situated on the hillside, the vineyard is one of the few in the region that faces northeast enabling it to maximise early morning sun while enjoying relief from the harsh afternoon heat – a benefit to both the grapes and vineyard workers.

Crawford says the vineyard is known for being the first in Marlborough planted to contour, in addition to pioneering innovative cloning and planting methods, which combined with its elevated location, has enabled it to produce a superior product.

After developing their wine company Churton in 1997, followed by the vineyard in 2000, the owners built up the business to produce grapes for a portfolio of wines under the Churton label which sold in 14 markets around the world.

The land is planted in European style, with very close vines to produce high quality fruit, and comprises 56 per cent sauvignon blanc vines, 38 per cent pinot noir, two per cent petit manseng and four per cent viognier. The petit manseng grapes produced by the vineyard is the first fruit of its kind grown in New Zealand with the highly-regarded wine released in 2013.

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 Grapes in the Waihopai vineyard are among the region’s first to ripen

Crawford says the biodynamic management regime followed by the vineyard was a notable point of difference and, in addition to the owners’ attention to detail throughout every stage of the process, produced fruit of exceptional quality.

“The high density plantings set out in 17 blocks, with 4630 vines per hectare, is twice the number of vines of the conventional set-up. Using biodynamic principles, the vineyard is 100 per cent organic certified, and the fruit has responded extremely well. As a result, wine companies have been prepared to pay a premium of 60 per cent above average district prices for the grapes,” he says.

Soils comprise a thick layer of windblown loess, clays and silt loam layered over alluvial gravel, with mixed herbage to assist the soil’s natural water holding capacity. As no contouring was carried out during establishment, the soil has maintained its integrity and has been recognized for its quality. Renowned French soil scientist Claude Bourguignon notably described the vineyard’s land as ‘grand cru’ - of superior quality and great growth.

Irrigation is from a water right from the Omaka River and shares in the Waihopai Irrigation scheme with natural water also collected in a dam on the property during the winter months.  Irrigation is applied through drip line piping.

“The vineyard is endowed with the right characteristics to produce premium wines given its north easterly aspect, fertile soil and an ideal microclimate allowing the grapes to mature to perfect ripeness,” Crawford says.

“A new owner could take over an established business that is already known for its high quality product within the prospering wine industry. In addition, the land could be developed for additional uses such as converting the lower terrace to syrah, olives or forestry,” he says.

The owners have indicated they would be available to continue their management positions of the vineyard, by agreement with a new owner, bringing their extensive wine industry experience as winemakers, consultants and commercial industry knowledge to the table.  

“However, this property offers a new owner a number of exciting opportunities to develop the vineyard in their own way.

Tim Crawford, Bayleys Marlborough.jpg

 Tim Crawford of Bayleys Blenheim.