The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2012

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Page 72 of 140

The Voice by Meridith May T he first planting of Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough, New Zealand's largest grape- growing region, only dates back to 1973. This relatively young valley experiences a long growing season, but one of its best attributes are the cool nights and low average daily temperatures (about the same amount of heat as in Burgundy and less than Bordeaux) that enhance its lengthy, sunny ripening period. But, ironically, the Sauvignon Blanc variety that has evolved as the country's iconic—and ideally aromatic— grape is not what this story is about. What turns our chairs around, and those of the wine buyers we talked to, is the cool-climate Chardonnay from Marlborough. American wine-drinkers are pay- ing attention, too. In fact, Oyster Bay Marlborough Chardonnay leads the market in the U.S. as the consumer's favorite premium Chardonnay import (according to A.C. Nielsen, referencing imported Chardonnay over $10). It was in 1988 that Oyster Bay began planting Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in Marlborough's Wairau Valley. Since then, the family-owned winery invested further in the area, developing vineyard sites in and around the central valley and along the coast at Rarangi (for Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc) the Awatere Valley (for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauv Blanc) and Hawke's Bay (for a full, ripe, round Merlot). OYSTER BAY IS THE CATEGORY LEADER FOR PREMIUM CHARDONNAY IMPORTED INTO THE U.S. At Bluewater Grill in Redondo Beach, CA, customers enjoy the restaurant's first-ever Sustainable Seafood dinner, paired exclusively with sustainably-farmed Oyster Bay wines from New Zealand. Pictured is the leading premium Chardonnay in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia and is a significant emerging trend in the U.S. market. 72 / the tasting panel / november 2012

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