Dog Point Vineyard: one of the oldest vineyards in Marlborough

Dog Point Vineyard: one of the oldest vineyards in Marlborough

The Dog Point vineyards were among the first to be established on the Wairau River in the Marlborough region, the benchmark region for Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand.

Created by ex-Cloudy Bay people, the Dog Point project is completely independent where viticulture is carried out following a viticulture program of the New Zealand authorities called 'Biogrow' (Certified Organic Farming) which encourages more ecological and less destructive practices of the environment.

Meeting and explanations with Matt Sutherland, son of the founder and commercial director.

The story of Dog Point began at Cloudy Bay between James Healy and Ivan Sutherland. What motivated them to create a project together?

For many years, Ivan and his wife Margaret grew their own vines in the Wairau and South Valleys, Marlborough. The couple had long planned to create a quality-focused estate using grapes from their own vineyards.

In 1986, Ivan joined Cloudy Bay as Head of Cultivation, a position he held for 18 years. In 1990, James joined Cloudy Bay as an oenologist. He stayed there for 13 years. Together, James and Ivan have played an integral role in the evolution of the Cloudy Bay brand.

After realizing that they shared the same aspirations, James and Ivan decided to return to more “artisanal” winemaking, launching Dog Point in February 2004.

Your vineyards are among the oldest in Marlborough and you farm organically. What work do you favor to obtain quality grapes?

Dog Point Vineyard is one of the oldest vineyards in Marlborough. The place is hilly, composed of clay and loamy soils and an ideal north orientation. Dog Point white wines are mostly planted on draining loamy clay soils in the plains, soils which mainly express aromas of citrus and grapefruit. The grapes from plots located on the hillsides have a dominant clay influence and bring added value to Chardonnay. Clay soils on gentle, narrow hill slopes are ideal for Pinot Noir. These soils express the characters of our terroir.

In the vineyard, organic conversion began in 2009. One of the initiatives we are carrying out is to transform waste from vine and cellar pruning into chips to create healthy organic compost which is used for planting throughout the property. We then collect the residue from this process and use it in the vineyards as fertilizer to help retain moisture and improve soil structure.

In spring, we sow buckwheat and phacelia in the vines to encourage beneficial insects for biological control of harmful insects. During the winter months, 2,500 sheep are brought onto the property to mow the grass and help add organic matter to the soil. We focus on producing quality wine using ecological and responsible practices.

Sauvignon Blanc is the grape variety that made New Zealand viticulture known beyond its borders. What is his identity at Dog Point?

Sauvignon Blanc is THE king grape variety of our production. We produce two styles of Sauvignon Blanc: a 'classic' wine with fruit and citrus flavors, and 'Section 94', a structured barrel-aged wine.

Our ‘classic’ style of Sauvignon Blanc is produced from estate-grown and hand-harvested grapes. The grapes are pressed in whole clusters, cold settled before fermentation and aged for 2 to 3 months in stainless steel vats. The nose is intense on the fruit and mineral, with a good acid support which gives it tension.

On the other hand, our Section 94 is a fuller and richer Sauvignon Blanc, fermented in barrels. The name “Section 94” is taken from the first land census of New Zealand carried out in the late 19th century. The grapes come from a single plot of the Dog Point Vineyard, planted in 1992. The grapes are hand-picked, whole-cluster pressed and fermented in old French oak barrels for 18 months.

You also grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. What are their typicalities?

We produce a wonderfully structured Chardonnay with mineral notes of yeast and a hint of wood. Harvested by hand from a vineyard planted in 1981, the grapes are whole-cluster pressed and transferred directly to French oak barrels (10% new barrels) for fermentation. The wines are aged there for 18 months, then are bottled without fining and with minimal filtration.

Our Pinot Noir develops notes of red fruits, sweet spices, violet and has a tannic structure. rich and seductive. The vines, planted in 1983, are harvested and sorted by hand before destemming (25% of the entire bunch included). Everything is fermented in small open stainless steel vats without pumping. Fermentation is carried out by native yeasts over a period of 2 to 3 weeks before spending 18 months in French oak barrels (35% new barrels). Bottled without fining or filtration.

The labels of your wines bear the design of a Ti Kouka. Can you describe this endemic plant?

Dog Point is home to one of New Zealand’s cultural and ecological treasures, “Ti Kouka”. Commonly known as cabbage, Ti Kouka is a very unique and resilient native New Zealand plant. Ti Kouka embodies the landscape and wines of the Dog Point Vineyard, so a stylized version was adopted to illustrate our wine labels.

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