New Zealand wine legend cites Albarino and Godello as grapes of the future

Villa Maria founder and New Zealand wine legend Sir George Fistonich believes varietals like Albarino and Godello can ensure a healthy future for the country’s wine trade.

He told OLN there is a slight danger of becoming too reliant on Sauvignon Blanc, but he is confident that New Zealand’s versatility will allow it to shine with other grapes.

“I don’t think we are ever going to stop growing Sauvignon Blanc but like anything you need to look at other varieties and try to expand them,” said Fistonich. “It also makes it more interesting for the winemakers.

“Albarino is going extremely well. We need a popular variety that grows well in New Zealand and Albarino seems to be taking off. Godello goes very well too.

“We have an ideal climate for Pinot Noir. Quite a lot of vineyards are now 25 years old and delivering great wines. We don’t have to use a lot of oak. Previously our Pinot Noirs were quite oaky but now as we have got older and are only using maybe 20% new oak and one-year-old and two-year-old oak we are letting the fruit speak for itself. Our Pinot Noir is fantastic now. It’s had a pretty good reputation for 20 years but in the past few years the quality has really increased.”

But he added: “New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is so well established worldwide now and it seems to have really captured the imagination.

“France and Australia do well too, but now we sell more Sauvignon Blanc than Australia and that says something about our maritime climate. We have hot days and cool nights. We have that extreme climate with days up to 28C and nights as low as -2C.

“There definitely is a huge difference in the Sauvignon Blancs too. Ten to 15 years ago they were very green with a lot of asparagus. There is a lot more sophistication now. A lot of vineyards are very different. The industry is focusing on different styles, using a little bit of oak. Sauvignon Blanc has changed quite dramatically. There are some really good styles and there’s more subtlety.”

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