Marlborough at 50: the grower’s story

Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine region, relies heavily on growers. Wine arrived here relatively lately (first vineyard plantings of the modern era were 1973, but things didn’t really get going in earnest until the mid-1980s), and much of the development has involved farming families here planting vineyards, in order to sell grapes to wineries. Growers are critical to the success of the region today.

Back in December 2017 I spent a day exploring with Mike Eaton, who has worked here since the 1980s and now acts as a vineyard consultant. He established the region’s first hillside, close-planted vineyard in 1991.

We take a look at some of the more interesting spots for growing wine grapes, beginning with the Ensors in the Waihopai Valley. We then visit the Hilles in the upper Brancott, and the Griggs in the Taylor River valley, before heading over to the Awatere Valley, where there are some really interesting vineyards.

Mike Eaton
Typical Southern Valleys soil profile
The Ensor’s Tintersfield vineyard in the Waihopai – a family farm going back three generations. Good spring grazing sites for lambs often make the best vineyards, says Mike Eaton. The upper parts of the southern valleys, up next to the Withe Hills, give excellent flavour development, although the frost risk can be higher.
The Griggs’ Meadowbank vineyard in the Taylor River valley
Looking down the Brancott Valley from the Wither Hills
The Awatere valley