by Fred McMillin
for October 2, 1998


Winery of the Week

White-Hot Brancott


Only New Zealand and California have produced Sauvignon Blancs to match the best of France. The first New Zealand version to cause a stir came from the Montana Wine Company [parent company of today's winery, Brancott], made in the Marlborough district.

...New York Times, March 1995

The best-value New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc by far is by Montana [Brancott]. However, for me, the Chardonnays have even more interest, as witness recent bottlings by Montana. The foremost region is Gisborne.

...J. Robinson, Wine Spectator

The Rest of the Story

Chief Winemaker
Jeff Clark has just completed his 22nd vintage.

So today's wines are the new arrivals in the U.S., Brancott Vineyards' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Gisborne Chardonnay. Let's look at their origins.

1642—Captain Abel Janszoon Tasman is the first to sight "a large, high-lying land" that today we call New Zealand, named after the Zeeland province of Holland. Approaching are two double canoes, "paddled at considerable speed." They are manned by large, fierce-looking Maoris, each wearing a large, white feather in his hair. A small boat is sent out to make friends. One of the canoes rams it, killing the four Dutchmen, and flees, as did Capt. Tasman who decided "not to linger long on this inhospitable shore." No explorer returned for nearly two centuries.

1835—The missionaries now have Maoris happily attending their flourishing grape vines, observed by none other than visitor Charles Darwin.

1961—Montana Wines is founded, planting a small vineyard. It will become New Zealand's largest winery.

The Marlborough Man
Peter Hubscher planted the first Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough.

1973—Montana's Peter Hubscher startles the two-island country by planting the first vineyard in the sheep-country named Marlborough. It will become the home of Brancott Vineyards, which will plant the largest single-vineyard in New Zealand. Thirty years later they will win "Best Sauvignon Blanc in the World" in a large London competition.

As for the Gisborne Chardonnay...Chardonnay likes a cool climate; New Zealand is the southernmost winegrape region in the world; Gisborne is the "Chardonnay capital of New Zealand." You'll find a lot of flavors of the grape and more subdued oak than in most California counterparts. Like the Blanc, it too, is $15. Happily, the above two exciting Brancrott wines have now been brought to America by Seagram. So if you want to find out what's up down under, phone Brancott's Greg Crone in N.Y.C. at (212) 572-7573, FAX (212) 572-1280.


Memories...In New Zealand some years ago our Sauvignon Blanc was paired with a soup made from one of New Zealand's great delicacies, the clam-like TOHEROA (tow-her-row-ah). Absolutely delicious. Maybe Greg can tell you where to get a can of that, too.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.



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