The Spy Valley estate did not get off to a great start. Back in 1992 Bryan Johnson (a wealthy Wellington stockbroker – aren’t they all!) planted 200 acres on the edge of Marlborough, New Zealand. But was forced to replant almost immediately as phylloxera swept through the vineyard. Proving that wine-making is all about experimentation depending on local conditions – it is after-all farming and thus dependent on so many variables – the first two vintages were cropped too high. “We reduced our cropping levels in 2002, and then started to get very serious about quality in 2003.”
From then the estate prospered and now covers 365 acres and has to buy in Sauvignon Blanc grapes to cope with demand. In 2004 the winery made 58,000 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and another 18,000 cases of other varietals.
In the UK the wines are available from Bibendum and several independents (a couple of which I have listed). Surprisingly for a boutique producer, they are not excessively priced.
Wine Tasting Note: Spy Valley Pinot Gris, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Bibendum £8.99 Wine Buy The Case £8.59.
Oh, my. I just adore this. Packed with rich peach and pear flavours, ripe, rounded, complex and a delicious lean structure. Sherbety finish. Delicious. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating – 96/100
Wine Tasting Note: Spy Valley Riesling, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Powerful nose – lively, minerally, limes. Spritzy palate with an edge of honey. Crisp finish. Nice but I am not a great fan of Riesling. Alcohol 12%.
Scribblings Rating – 90/100
Wine Tasting Note: Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Bibendum £8.99 Wines of the World £9.99
Sauvignon Blanc, the grape that made Marlborough’s name. This is in the full-frontal style with a nose exploding with asparagus, grapefruit, canned peas. Lively and juicy palate. Herbs notes too. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating – 94/100
Wine Tasting Note: Spy Valley Pinot Noir, 2003, Marlborough, New Zealand.
Red berry fruit abound in a full style with the addition of something earthy and spicy. Superb texture/mouthfeel. Elegant. Alcohol 14%. Three separate blocks of vines were hand-picked for this 100% Pinot. They recommend 3-5 years aging.
Scribblings Rating – 92/100