The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2018

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6  /  the tasting panel  /  july 2018 by Courtney Schiessl Equally likely to be found in boutique wine shops as chain supermar- kets, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most ubiquitous wines in the world. But when the late Nikola Nobilo first planted vines on New Zealand's North Island 75 years ago, Sauvignon Blanc was virtually unheard of in the country's sparse vineyards—and it might have stayed that way if not for this forward-thinking vintner. As the iconic Nobilo winery marks its diamond anniversary this year, it also celebrates the innovative vision and commitment to quality that puts Nobilo at the forefront of modern New Zealand winemaking. When Nikola immigrated to New Zealand with his wife Zuva from their native Croatia in 1936, they brought along 300 years of family winemaking history. Though the first grapevines were planted in New Zealand in 1819, a combination of the destruc- tive phylloxera pest and legislative challenges hindered the development of the country's wine industry until the 1970s, making Nikola one of New Zealand's earliest commercial vintners. The first Nobilo vines were planted in Huapai, located northwest of Auckland, in 1943, but the winery has since become synonymous with Marlborough wines. That's because Nikola helped launch this now-blockbuster South Island region, which currently yields the fruit for all Nobilo wines: By the early 1970s, when other Marlborough projects were just getting off the ground, the seasoned vintner was encouraging other winemakers to eschew hybrid grape varieties in favor of more noble Vitis vinifera vines. The two grapes in which Nikola saw great potential were Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. His vision clearly took root, as the varieties represent the two wines for which New Zealand is now known. Sauvignon Blanc in particular boomed internationally, as the variety comprised 86 percent of the country's wine exports in 2016, according to New Zealand Winegrowers. In recognition of Nikola's role in developing New Zealand's wine industry, he was awarded an Order of the British Empire medal before his death in 2007. Classic Wines from Noble Grapes Fittingly, Nobilo's wines center on the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes the winery's founder believed in early on. Current Winemaker Dave Edmonds upholds Nikola's vision to produce wines with freshness and balance, crafting three bottlings that express the diversity New Zealand—and the Marlborough region in particular—has to offer. Though Marlborough is a familiar appellation on wine labels, there's more to this area than meets the eye. Located on the northeastern tip of the South Island, sunny, dry Marlborough two

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