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“Wairau” is a Maori term meaning “Many Waters”. This sub-region is broadly defined by its proximity to the 170-kilometre Wairau River that meets the sea at the now famous “Cloudy Bay”. This area is home to some of Marlborough’s earliest established vineyards.
This sub-region refers to a group of smaller valleys that run broadly North to South and which meet the larger Wairau Valley at their Northern end. While some of Marlborough’s earliest vineyards were planted on the flat valley floors, the slopes have been developed much more recently with more modern clones and viticultural practices. This sub-region is considerably drier than the Wairau Valley and is home to much of the region’s most exciting Pinot Noir plantings.
The Awatere Valley is far more dramatic than the tranquil Wairau Valley. Named after the Awatere River (“Awatere” means “fast flowing stream” in the local Maori language), tiny river terraces are incised into the steep cliffs, and the elevation rises quickly towards the high country. The soil here is quite different from the rest of Marlborough with a base layer of a sedimentary mudstone known by the name of “Papa”. Fossilised shells are often found imbedded in the papa – a reminder that most of New Zealand has emerged from under the sea.
Marlborough is a stunningly beautiful grape-growing region situated on the northeastern corner of the South Island of New Zealand at 41.3 degrees south.
The region is sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds, derived from the roaring forties and from the southerly winds which funnel up from Antarctica. The region’s local climate is moderated by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean which creates a cool, maritime climate.
Marlborough enjoys some of the highest sunshine hours in New Zealand averaging over 2,400 hours annually. The average summer (January) temperature of 23.8°C and winter (July) average of 12.8°C belie a large diurnal temperature range: a variation of 15°C/60°F between the cool clear nights and bright sunny days is not uncommon. Daytime temperatures over the harvest period of March/April average 19°C - 21.5 °C with a night time temperature range of 7.5°C – 10.5°C. This diurnal temperature range is significant for the accumulation and retention of flavours.
Wine Marlborough, the local winegrowers’ association, defines Marlborough as having three main sub-regions. Each sub-region has distinctive soils and climatic characteristics. Nautilus draws grapes from specially selected sites in each sub-region in order to harness their diverse flavour components to add layers of complexity into our wines.
Over the past 20 years, we have searched out special spots within the Marlborough region that give what we think are distinctive and exciting flavour profiles to the grapes grown there. Early plantings were on the alluvial flood plains of the Wairau River focussed around the Rapaura area. We also saw potential in the Awatere Valley, drawing fruit from there in the early 1990s which led to the purchase of our Awatere River Vineyard in 1998. Later developments have encompassed sites on the northern and southern sides of the Wairau Valley, and into the adjacent Awatere Valley. Meso-climatic differences brought about by altitude, aspect and topography combine with diverse soils to produce unique individual growing conditions and wines.
Viticulture in Marlborough has evolved rapidly, from an early general farming approach towards more specialised wine-growing techniques which target the unique requirements of each site and variety.
An ever deeper knowledge of what this land is capable of producing provides direction for our husbandry of these vineyard sites.
The Nautilus Estate vineyards, grower blocks and winery have all been 100% accredited to the pioneering Sustainable Winegrowers New Zealand (SWNZ) programme for a number of years. The SWNZ programme was introduced in 1995 and is a framework of industry standards to encourage and aid growers to manage their vineyards in a way that is more sustainable in the long term. The New Zealand wine industry aims to be the first in the world to be 100% accredited and aims to achieve this by vintage 2012.
As part of our efforts to use water more efficiently, Nautilus Estate was chosen by the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as a case study of a business managing the threat of climate change in 2009. Read more here.
Our Renwick vineyard is managed under organic protocols, with the intention of integrating the knowledge gained here into the management of our other sites.