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Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) Viticulture Tutor Glenn Kirkwood says the new varieties have all grown "incredibly well" on the fertile soil, however it remains to be seen how the fruit pans out.
"We've been surprised by the amount of vigour and growth. However it's too early to say how this will relate to the fruit composition".
In 2012, NMIT Viticulture and Wine staff and students began replacing rows of Pinot Noir with several new and classic varieties. Further plantings were completed in 2013 and 2014 and the vineyard also had three rows of state of the art steel trellising posts donated from Eco Trellis Systems. The new plants were all donated by Riversun Nursery in Gisborne.
The main focus over the past three years has been trialling different cool climate reds.
"The one thing that’s probably missing from New Zealand wines is a cool climate red. Apart from Pinot Noir, there’s really nothing else", Kirkwood says.
The five new varieties that will be harvested this year are: Tempranillo (Spanish red variety famous for making Rioja), Gruner Veltliner (an Austrian aromatic white variety), Chardonnay (a new clone called 809), Verdelho (Spanish white variety from the Isle of Madeira) and Muscat á Petits Grains. A row of Syrah/Shiraz from the Rutherglen region of Victoria that was planted in 2012 was later replaced with a St Laurent after proving too vigorous. The other red that is being trialled is a Northern Italian variety called Lagrein, planted in 2014.
Kirkwood says he is "reasonably confident" that they will come out with at least a couple of varieties worthy of further investigation from the new plantings, but it's early days yet.
"What we've learned so far is to be very wise with our selections. It's very important to select varieties to match soil type. The soil we have here is very vigorous - a silty loam which doesn’t really reflect a lot of Marlborough, which tends toward more sandy and free draining gravels.
"The exciting part will come once we can get multiple rows which will enable us to do some serious research with a good amount of fruit".
The first grapes will be harvested in March/April by students studying NMIT's Viticulture and Winemaking programmes and Kirkwood says they expect to harvest around 4kgs per vine of fruit. All of the students will be allocated a row, and they will each be making a micro-vin ferment under the watchful eye of Wine Tutor David Hayward. The first wines from the new varieties should be ready for tasting around September/October this year.
Anyone interested in taking a look around the on campus vineyard can contact Glenn Kirkwood or David Hayward at the Marlborough Campus on 03 578-0215.