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What Marlborough’s New Wine Map Says About Its Future

Image Courtesy of ToiToi Wines

Marlborough, the region that put New Zealand wine on the map and Sauvignon Blanc into the glasses of millions of wine drinkers, marks its 50th birthday this year. After emerging from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, the appellation is using the milestone to refocus its image on quality over quantity.

One way it’s doing this is through a newly released map, the first of its kind to detail Marlborough’s subregional differences. Defining the “subregional hierarchy” of the region is vital for understanding the diversity of the region, says the map’s creator, Appellation Marlborough Wine (AMW). Founded in 2018, AMW endeavors to safeguard regionally-grown Sauvignon Blanc and, more recently, other varieties, in a manner similar to Europe’s appellation program.

Marlborough Map / Image Courtesy of Marlborough Wine Map Collective

The map was designed by five winemakers, all AMW members. Over two years, the map’s lines were “robustly debated” and laid out with help from a Wellington-based cartographer and local designer.

“Naturally, subregions with distinct microclimates and stylistic features have been identified over time,” says John Buchanan, AMW’s chair. “The Wine Map of Marlborough represents the first genuine attempt to map these in a detailed way.”

The map’s debut comes at an important time for Marlborough. Sauvignon Blanc is one of the wine world’s greatest success stories, having enjoyed unprecedented growth over the past five decades. Today’s 30,000ha (74,130 acres) of vines represent two-thirds of the New Zealand’s total vine plantings and 80% of its total wine exports. The U.S. remains the nation’s biggest export market by a long shot, valued at over $NZ 550 million ($US 341 million) in 2022.