Folium: Marlborough Sauvignon and Pinot Noir with a difference

I visited Takaki Okada’s vineyard, Folium, when I was hanging around Marlborough (New Zealand) for a while, back in 2017/18. He purchased his 8.5 hectare Folium vineyard block in the Brancott subregion in 2011. It had originally been planted in 1996 and when he bought it, it was managed by Fromm, who are a good producer and farm organically.

But like pretty much every vineyard in Marlborough, it had been irrigated throughout its life. Takaki had different ideas. Previously, he’d worked at Clos Henri for eight years, and they’d done a trial block unirrigated; while the yields dropped, the vines survived. Takaki reckoned that with the soils in Brancott, which have a bit of clay, he’d stand a chance without irrigation, so he turned the water off. He wasn’t sure that it would increase the quality (although he hoped it might): the real motivation was that as a small producer in Marlborough, he needed to stand out, and this was one way of being different. The vineyards experienced a lot of stress for the first few years, and yields were heavily impacted. The vines cropped at 35-40 hl/ha (about 6 tons/hectare, in a region where 16 tons/hectare might be expected for Sauvignon). Only in 2016, with its very dry spring, has Takaki needed to turn his irrigation on, and that was just once.

The wines are sensitively made (at Fromm), and offer something a bit different. I tried these four, which are now being imported into the UK by a new importer 266 Wines, who have a nice-looking portfolio.

Folium Sauvignon Blanc 2019 Marlborough, New Zealand
13% alcohol. This is a crisp but textured example of Sauvignon Blanc with a lemony core and some riper white peach and pear notes, as well as a touch of grapefruit and some green notes on the finish. There’s ripeness here, as well as good concentration, reflecting the warmth of the vintage. Crystalline and stylish with nice intensity. 90/100

Folium Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. This is quite lovely. It’s not typical Marlborough Sauvignon in style. There’s a real flourish of ripe citrus: mandarin, lemons, grapefruit. And there’s a touch of honey, a faint toastiness, and lovely fine green hints around the fringes. It’s a delicate wine of real finesse with some canteloup melon, too. It’s sealed with a cork not a screwcap (DIAM), and I think this has helped with the openness texturally that this wine displays. There’s a slight umami savouriness here, and some green tea and leafy notes in the background. 93/100

Folium Pinot Noir 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
13% alcohol. Sweetly aromatic with some cherry and strawberry fruit, and also a hint of tar. The palate has a silky texture but round the edges it’s a little angular and has a touch of reduction, although the overall effect is a good one. Has a slight tingle on the finish. The core of the wine is sweet cherry fruit, with a subtle note of rhubarb and spiciness. Very drinkable and balanced. 90/100

Folium Pinot Noir Reserve 2017 Marlborough, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. This is all about texture: it’s a gentle, balanced, elegant expression of Marlborough Pinot Noir with smooth cherry and berry fruit, with fine spicy notes and a broad but focused palate showing fresh, floral cherry and plum fruit with a subtle savoury edge. Such harmony and smoothness, but it also has a presence to it. Very fine. 94/100

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