Yesterday, at a meeting at Cloudy Bay, some of the top producers of Marlborough launched Appellation Marlborough Wine (AMW), a historic initiative for a non-European wine region that will establish a European-style appellation for their highly successful brand. The committee comprises Ivan Sutherland as chairman, John Forrest as vice-chairman, John Buchanan as secretary/treasurer as well as James Healy, Fiona Turner, Clive Jones and Yang Shen – so a pretty heavyweight team.
Their aim is 'to protect the integrity, authenticity and brand value of wines produced in Marlborough', safeguarding Marlborough's reputation via certification to be administered by AMW members, so far 36 in number but with many more wine producers having expressed interest.
The idea is that certified wines can be recognised by a small version of the logo below.
To be certified as an AMW wine, a wine must
- be made entirely from grapes grown in Marlborough and bottled in New Zealand
- comprise 100% of grapes grown in vineyards which are part of a recognised sustainable viticultural programme
- be made from grapes grown at an 'appropriate' cropping level, to be decided each year by the Licensor (the AMW organisation), which 'will be expressed as tonnes of grapes per net producing hectare and be pertinent to each separate vineyard parcel of grapes'
The stated rules say that 'if grapes used to produce the certified wine do not comply with the Licensor's desired cropping level, then the Licensee may submit the wine with any necessary supporting evidence to the Licensor's wine tasting panel which at its absolute discretion may permit that wine to become certified. The tasting panel shall be entirely set by the Licensor and the decision of that panel shall be final and binding.'
The Licensor of AMW is an Incorporated Society with its members (Licensees) being companies involved in the Marlborough wine industry. The idea is that there may be random inspections and audits of certified wine – although presumably this could be quite difficult to put into practice in such a tight-knit, rural community as Marlborough.
The whole initiative is to be funded by members who have paid an initial fee and will then pay a levy, probably one cent per bottle, to be administered by an independent accountancy firm to maintain confidentiality. There is also some sponsorship from the contract bottler Wineworks Marlborough Ltd and the Cresswell Jackson NZ Wine Trust, a wine industry charity established in 2011 funded by auctioning surplus bottles from wine competitions. What a good idea.