The story of Marlborough's first winery (as in, first ever)

Posted by Joelle Thomson on

First is always a big claim to make but in the case of the relatively unknown Marlborough wines from Auntsfield, it's true. The brand is family owned company and the inspiration comes firmly from the French camp. Burgundy and white Bordeaux are the wines that inspire the Cowley family's wines but there is also an interesting history behind their wines and the vineyard on which their grapes grown.

It is the original site of the first grapes and wines ever to be planted and produced in Marlborough. 

Auntsfield was originally founded by David Herd in 1873 and wine was produced there by David Herd until 1905 when his son, John Paynter, took over. Which explains why the winery is on Paynter’s Road today. Herd planted Muscat because he brought cuttings of it with him from Australia to produce fortified Muscat. The winery today is now producing Muscat again in homage to the winery’s’ early days and vines grow on the same patch of land that Herd once used. 

Auntsfield wines are made by brothers Ben and Luc Cowley, whose parents were looking for land for many years when they happened upon this piece of it in Marlborough, in the late 1990s. They bought 100 hectares and currently have 65 hectares under vine in a mix of 50% Pinot Noir, 45% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Chardonnay.

Three single vineyard wines are now made from these vines which grow on clay hillsides above the Wairau Valley at about the same elevation as the Clayvin. The Auntsfield Vineyard has its own microclimate and the soils are a combination of greywacke rock mixed with clay.

Ben Cowley is the viticulturist while his brother Luc is the winemaker. The wines are made at the Dog Point Vineyards winery.

2019 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 
Flinty, dry, fresh, salty… no oak but lees work to replace the green spectrum - flavours of intense lime, lemon blossom  and leanness in taste with medium to full body. Dialled down aromatics - not the tropical style. Beautiful flinty. RS 2-3 grams each year. 

2018 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Chardonnay 

Two small blocks on the vineyard (only 5% of overall production - 600 to 700 cases). Clone 95, burgundian clone and Mendoza clone - no malo. Their philosophy is no malolactic but a rich and flavoursome wine due to low cropping levels, which are easy to achieve with Mendoza clone (aka hen and chicken due to small berries). This wine is dry and full bodied, due to 10 to11 months in oak, 25-30% new, all French. Powerful.

2019 Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 

Deep ruby-crimson colour, very youthful, totally dry, very tight. Clonal blend off the main slopes at Auntsfield on the steepest oldest hillside portion of their vineyard. Planted in 667, 777 and Abel clones of Pinot Noir. All spur pruned. Very small, very tight bunches and 2019 was year of small berries with great depth of fruit tannin coming through. Very gentle winemaking, all French oak, 25% new for less than a year in oak. Savoury character and very dark fruit flavours. 

We have all of these wines in stock, with the exception of the 2019 Auntsfield Pinot Noir (which we will roll to soon). In the meantime, we have the sensationally savoury and delicious 2015 Auntsfield Pinot Noir. Buy it here

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