wine news

HIGH HOPES

Take a trip to the amazing Leefield Station winery, situated in an ancient glacial valley in Marlborough

By Anna King Shahab

Answering the phone on a Sunday morning, Brent Marris – owner and winemaker of hugely successful Marisco Vineyards – “stinks like a polecat” (his description), having just returned from a morning out hunting pigs on Leefield Station. The pigs are both a benefit and a curse that come with owning Leefield Station. The 2200-hectare sheep and cattle station was first established in the 1840s and has long been known as one of the jewels in Marlborough’s farming crown. 

With the Marris family’s purchase of the station in 2012 and the subsequent planting of sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, pinot noir and chardonnay vines (on about 400 hectares so far), this tract of land is now at the beginning of its role as a vital character in the region’s winemaking story. 

It’s a parcel of land that has held importance to Marlborough born and raised Marris his whole life. “My dad used to always describe Leefield Station as one of the very best stations in the region; he couldn’t believe it when I told him I’d bought it.” Marris senior, John, was an expert on Marlborough land, starting out as a stock agent then moving into real estate, helping with Montana’s land acquisitions in the early 70s. He then became one of the first contract growers in the region – hence Marris grew up literally surrounded by vines. 

For Marris, the purchase of Leefield Station was a natural move to be able to produce more wine to meet the kind of demand that his brands, The Ned and the King’s Series, have attracted. Those wines are from grapes grown on Marris’ Waihopai River site which sits on ancient river terraces. The purchase of the new property opens up not only greater production but a much wider variety in soil types and elevation. 

The acquisition has allowed a new brand to be established and named after the station. So far Leefield Station has released its first sauvignon blanc and pinot gris, and they’re very different flavours from The Ned wines. “The Leefield Sauvignon has a preciseness, a fresh minerality whereas The Ned is known for those gooseberry flavours. The pinot gris, which is a much whiter wine than the salmon-hued The Ned, has quite a full-bodied quality that is well balanced by the crisp backbone,” says Marris. Pinot noir and chardonnay from Leefield Station will be released next year. A Leefield rosé is, Marris confirms, definitely on the cards further down the track, which seems only natural given The Ned Rosé’s staggering success. It’s currently the top-selling rosé in New Zealand and was awarded the trophy for best rosé in Australasia at the Sydney International Wine Competition in 2016. 

TWO TO TASTE

Leefield Station Pinot Gris is full bodied, balanced and crisp, (RRP $18.99).

Leefield Station Sauvignon Blanc has notes of lemongrass and ripe fruits such as currants, (RRP $18.99).

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