A risk worth taking

Mike’s hit a home run with his 2022 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

One of the joys of this business is working with winemakers who value quality above all else.

Which is the complete opposite to most of the wine business, where it's a race to the bottom on price.

Especially in big regions like Marlborough.

And for winemaker Mike Paterson, this commitment has just paid off big time.

From humble beginnings...

Marlborough has come a long way since Croatian immigrants first planted vines here 50 years ago.

They reckoned that the valley’s free-draining soils, strong winds and intense sunlight would be ideal for growing healthy grapes packed with flavour and freshness.

So they bought a few paddocks, which were good for nothing more than grazing skinny sheep, and planted a wide range of varieties… from Riesling to Gewürztraminer, Saint-Laurent and Müller-Thurgau.

And Cabernet Sauvignon - even the skinny sheep laughed at them for that one.

But one grape took hold and shone bright - Sauvignon Blanc.

Its grassy, tropical and herbaceous aromas were unlike anything they’d ever tried before. Even from the other great Sauvignons of the world - Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé.

...to an unstoppable beast

The Marlborough machine has since become a bit of a monster, with 30,000 hectares of land now under vine (that’s about the size of Dublin).

98% of which is destined for big-volume, mass-produced wine that you’ll find in supermarkets and bog-standard restaurant lists.

To be fair, they do a pretty good job of it. It’s hard to think of another region that produces a generally decent level of quality at such a volume.

But for lots of people, the wines don’t exactly get the pulses racing either.

Step in Mike Paterson - the great-grandson of a Clare man

I know Mike from my time in the UK, where I took him from the prized position of Chief Winemaker at Jackson Estate to starting his own independent business and making wines called Lay of the Land.

Little did I know at the time that he also had a small family label on the side, called Corofin Wines.

Named in tribute to his great grandfather, Marcus Joseph Paterson, who emigrated from Corofin in Co. Clare in 1927.

So here was one of New Zealand’s best and most experienced winemakers, with deep and proud Irish roots, having never sold his wine in Ireland before.

You couldn’t make it up.

Fortune favours the brave

Mike’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all farmers.

And he proudly continues this tradition today, working with the region’s best growers who farm their land sustainably and organically.

This approach allows the grapes longer hang-time on the vine, which builds the flavours even further.

But it comes at a big cost - the vineyards yield 40% less fruit than the region’s average.

2022 was a tricky year in Marlborough with the weather. After a perfect spring, it started raining in the late summer and never really stopped until harvest.

The big, commercial vineyards had to be picked early, otherwise they'd lose their entire crop.

And the resulting wines were thin, weedy and short-lived, with all sorts of nasties like acid and sugar needing to be added in.

Yet Mike’s organic vineyards in the Wairau Valley thrived, and the grapes ripened to perfection.

From good to great in three simple steps

Mike then uses all of his winemaking nous and experience to take his Meltwater Sauvignon Blanc to another level:

  1. He lets fermentation start naturally, rather than adding commercial yeasts. This takes up to a week instead of 1-2 days, but the wine develops more complex and natural flavours
  2. He then ferments the wine to complete dryness - there’s no sugar remaining or added - which makes it lip-smackingly refreshing and drinkable, especially with food
  3. And finally he ages the wine on its lees for eleven months instead of the standard five - which gives it extra richness and texture.

These small improvements cost a little extra time and money - but the wine tastes all the better for it.

The 2023 is on its way - get the last of the 2022 Meltwater here

Mike's new vintages will roll in later in the summer (along with Takaki Okada and Rod Easthope’s wines - hooray!)

But the 2022 Meltwater has just hit its stride and is drinking beautifully right now.

And we're down to our last pallet of it.

It’s the ideal wine for drinking in the garden this summer (and I speak from experience, this past weekend).

Think grapefruit, passionfruit and lime flavours… it’s got all the vibrant, tropical fruit of New Zealand, with the texture and complexity of a good Sancerre.

A dream come true

97 years ago, Mike’s great-grandfather left Ireland with his young family to pursue a better life on the other side of the world.

Now Mike is proudly continuing the family’s farming tradition, and doing it justice with amazing wines like these.

The story has come full circle - he’s finally been able to have his wine enjoyed in the land of his ancestors.

And it’s all thanks to our members and their support!

One last thing... Mike’s no one-trick pony. He’s also behind some of the most amazing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay coming out of the southern hemisphere. You can have a look at all of his Corofin wines here.

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