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Patrick Materman Winemaker of Brancott Estate

Posted: Tuesday, 01 November 2016 17:21

 

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Star Interview: Patrick Materman Winemaker of Brancott Estate

Nov 01: Patrick Materman, Chief Winemaker of Pernod Ricard- owned Brancott Estate in New Zealand was the VIP Guest judge invited for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Competition held last month in Hong Kong where Subhash Arora spent 4 days judging with him and also talking with him about his years with Bancroft and his contribution to their winemaking and the current status of New Zealand wine industry

Click For Large ViewPatrick Materman is shy, modest, down-to-earth and humble Kiwi who has spent over half his life in winemaking. His contributions make him stand tall-also because he is very tall; looks like 7 feet in Hong Kong though he must be around 6 ft 6 in tall. He is polite and quiet normally but once he opens up, he is a fountain of knowledge he is willing to share with anyone on anything relating to winemaking, especially his favourite grapes Sauvignon Blanc about which he is probably the most experienced and knowledgeable in the whole of New Zealand. As far back as 2001 he was recognised as the ‘New Zealand Winemaker of the Year’ by Winestate Magazine.

‘I had no interest in winemaking as I was growing up,’ he says. ‘My passion since childhood was to learn about horticulture and to grow flowers- I guess because of my Dutch connection as I had a Dutch father,’ says the winemaker with experience of 27 harvests with Brancott Estate, owned by Pernod Ricard at their Brancott Wine Estate. He is as passionate about his company as about Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough.

‘I joined Bancroft, then known as Montana Estate in 1990, straight after my degree in Massey University in New Zealand where I went to study originally Horticulture specializing in growing flowers and fruits but fell in love with the idea of winemaking and viticulture. Therefore studying Horticulture at the University, my focus changed from floriculture to viticulture and then to winemaking, ’says Patrick who started as a cellar hand and worked 4 vintages in that position when he became an assistant winemaker at Montana.

Marlborough the Star

So when did New Zealand become an important country at the global level, I asked him. ‘Marlborough was already the star at that time- and so unique in the world stage. Montana planted Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough in 1975 and was the first winery to cultivate it in this region.’ Wasn’t it Cloudy Bay which first grew the grape that has made New Zealand famous in the world? ‘No, we were the first ones to plant Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough.

Matua’s Sauvignon Blanc planting in Auckland earlier though. But Marlborough was so uniquely different. In fact we had planted n 1973 first but not in Marlborough. Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in 1975 and our first vintage was released in 1979. The second vintage won a Gold Medal in London and there was no looking back after that.’ Today the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc pioneer Brancott Estate can claim to be the largest producer and exporter of Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand.

What about the style of Sauvignon Blanc as it was planted in those days?  ‘Style has changed enormously since the early days; partly through the improvement of a bit of viticulture. We learnt about standard planting. Earlier, the wines were very green and herbaceous. But we moved to ripe style- with more grapefruit, tropical and exotic fruit like passion fruit but not losing some of what I call the ripe green character which gave vibrancy to the wine.’

Working with Sauvignon Blanc for 27 vintages has given Patrick a lot of insight to the grape. We now make sparkling wine with low alcohol also. You can make amazing dessert wine with Sauvignon Blanc. We have also moved towards more complex style – like hand harvested whole bunch pressed, some oak, some fume style, getting a little complexity with aging potential,’ he says, elaborating  that  generally Sauvignon Blanc ages quickly.

Click For Large ViewPatrick has used his ingenuity to produce many interesting wines and styles that have won several recognitions. Brancott Estate Flight is a range of wines that retain full flavours despite lower alcohol. Brancott Estate Chosen Rows is another example of premiumisation of Sauvignon Blanc. This is an excellent, slightly oaked wine from a few specially chosen rows and a single vineyard expression with all fruit coming from the Brancott Vineyard. He had personally carried a magnum to HKIWSC where the delicious, crisp and elegant wine disappeared in no time. He also talks fondly of another key label Stoneleigh which has not been exported to India yet.

Pioneer of the cool climate Sauvignon Blanc

He is also considered a pioneer who created Sauvignon Gris in Marlborough, It is a highly intense perfumed wine made from the variety that almost became extinct until he revived it. He says that Brancott Estate was the first wine producer to introduce also Pinot Noir in Marlborough. We are continuing to experiment with various characteristics of this wonderful grape variety,’ he says.

When I chat with him I am reminded of Liam Steevenson MW from UK, who had come to India over a year ago and presented a Master class for the members of the Delhi Wine Club, specifically about Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. He is a strong advocate of cool weather climate for Sauvignon Blanc to be flavoursome. Agreeing with his viewpoint, he says, I love the purity of the fruit flavours that come by working on the fruit in cool climate.’

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is the country’s most differentiated style and that’s why it is so successful. New Zealand is world’s second producer of Sauvignon Blanc behind France and 90% of the Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc comes from Marlborough, making it world’s biggest region producing Sauvignon Blanc. But there are also great opportunities for Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay.’ Brancott Estate was also the first producer in Marlborough to plant Pinot Noir in 1975. But he adds, ‘although we study and keep a watch on the Sauvignon Blancs from other parts of the world also but we find it more relevant to do the benchmark against the domestic producers.

Click For Large ViewPatrick loves to spend a lot of his time in vineyards, monitoring various blocks, tasting fruit and determining the optimum harvest date. Always experimenting with processes and how to improve them, he loves to study how the terroir affects the style of a wine. He is always trying to have a better understanding of the sub-regional differences in Marlborough and also with the other regions.

I used to hear about Montana wines when they were imported into India by Brindco in early 2000’s and then they went into oblivion. What happened, I ask him. Patrick is not comfortable with the commercial side of business but says, when Pernod Ricard bought over the Estate they decided to promote the Brancott Estate label as the Estate has a lot of history behind it. It was always popular in the US. So the company decided to continue with the ‘Montana’ label in the US but promote ‘Brancott Estate’ elsewhere. The label is still not very popular in India but he is hesitant to venture any guesses on the volume. ‘I had heard about some label issues with India. I believe they have been sorted out and I suppose you will see them more now.’

Cathay Pacific HKIWSC

Lastly, I ask him his experience with the HKIWSC where he had been the VIP judge. ‘I am extremely happy and honoured to have been invited. Not only did I meet so many wine lovers and experts from so many countries, it was a learning experience for me as well. The food and wine matching judging was very fascinating for me. I am glad I could share some of my winemaking experience with several judges who were very keen.’ He had also conducted a Fault Finding workshop with Debra Meiburg MW, when he shared his personal experiences. He was also a big draw at the Test Your Palate. For more details, visit

Cathay Pacific HKIWSC Gains Further Strength

So next time you open a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir from Brancott Estate, think of the winemaker whose passion and creativity you are familiar now and not only as the wine from a big producer.

Cheers! Jai Ho!!

Subhash Arora

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