Nikki in New Zealand – a visit to Auntsfield

De-snotting and Auntsfield visit 

I’m now the chief desnotter at Forrest … and yes, unfortunately it goes with a predictable name … well, you can guess. At least I know the name can only last another week, so that’s fine. No, Beth, I really don’t mind!

Not sure how many loads of lees onto the vineyard I did, but quite a few. Only hassle was overzealous tightening of the butterfly closure which managed to cause a considerable outflow in the wrong place … twice. And in between those episodes Lindsay and I had a miscommunication and managed to have a major overflow. Easily cleared up, but I think the penalty is a 6-pack of beer. I don’t have to drink it, just provide it!

Very interesting bench tasting of all the vats that hadn’t completed ferment, then I whizzed off to Auntsfield. Firstly, I had to drive an automatic car. I can’t remember if ever have and yes, they are simple, but I don’t like them. I feel there’s more control with a manual. Still, I’m delighted to have wheels.

Auntsfield lies in its own valley, just over the hill from the Brancott Valley. It’s quite magnificent as you go up the long drive – it nestles in closely to the wonderful barren Marlborough hills. A quite unique spot.


It’s quite a place (this picture doesn’t do it justice), uniquely set in this valley, with its special soil and climate


This is the rather rugged Ben Cowley who took me round – the viticulturalist member of the family, so knowledgeable and passionate about his art!

I  heard all about the unique soils – the loess clay and Greywacke rock – and the whole history. His parents bought the estate after much searching of the area, in 1995, then set about researching its history. They discovered that a Scottish herdsman, David Herd, had owned it and, when the price of sheep plummeted, he planted the first vineyard in Marlborough instead, in 1870. He grew Muscat, hoping to make the big fortified style of Rutherglen, Australia, where he’d previously visited. And the family today still have a few bottles of this ancient wine. Ben was saying how good it tasted still, not oxidised at all.

He showed me the original winery with its minute basket press, old barrels, corking machine (just like we used to have in the shops), the original hut that his family of 6 lived in … it was fascinating.

auntsfield 2

The original winery of 1870, owned by David Herd, built into the hillside to keep the wine cool

Finally, we did a tasting of the three wines – the Sauvignon very Loire-esque with its brilliant purity and tight minerality, the Chardonnay quite oaky, finishing with good acidity, and the 2011 Pinot Noir which smelt still quite young with dense blackcurrant and raspberry notes. Delicious. Critic Stephen Spurrier had awarded the 2005 Pinot Noir Top New World Red for Decanter and couldn’t believe the wine was made from grapes taken from 5 year old vines. He came to visit to check it out!

auntsfield botts

The original winery is featured on the label of the bottles today

Good visit and brought the bottles home for everyone else to try with their fish and chips!

Laithwaites Wine

About Laithwaites Wine

Started in 1969, Laithwaite's Wine is still owned and run by Tony and Barbara Laithwaite and their family. We take around 40,000 wines each year to find just 800 that are good enough for our customers and are suitable for every occasion from everyday wines for dinner to celebration sparkling.

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