When you think Marlborough, you think Sauvignon Blanc. Never has a region become so synonymous with a varietal that it has almost become its own brand. These zesty, passionfruit wines single-handedly took Chardonnay’s market share in Australia in the early 2000s, and continue to do so today. Positioned in the northern-eastern end of the South Island, the first commercial vines were planted in Marlborough in 1973 by industry giant Montana (now Brancott Estate). However, it wasn’t until 1985 that Marlborough was recognised, and Cloudy Bay put it on the map with, of course, Sauvignon Blanc. Today, around 50% of plantings in Marlborough is Sauvignon Blanc which accounts for 85% of New Zealand’s Savvy production. Pinot Noir has just pipped Chardonnay for the next largest plantings with Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Syrah bringing up the rear. Marlborough’s main sub-regions are Wairau and Awatere Valley. The climate is relatively cool, but the area does experience sunny, dry summers that makes irrigation essential. The soil profile tends to be free-draining alluvial loams over a gravelly subsoil that is of low fertility providing ideal conditions for vines. The main challenge for Marlborough is spring frosts that can mark the arrival of wind fans and helicopters to circulate the air and minimise damage to the fruit. The white wine styles of Marlborough, especially Sauvignon Blanc, can be identified by their pungent passionfruit, tropical and herbaceous characters. Marlborough is now trying to build a reputation for its Pinot Noirs that tend be tight in structure with an abundance of cherry and plum fruit. It is also worth mentioning that Marlborough produces some decent sparkling wines that are rich and full-bodied.