Saturday, April 13, 2024

Sweet sound of success for global wine champ

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Classically trained musician brings top trophy home to NZ for first time.
Yealands’ chief winemaker, Natalie Christensen, took top honours as the International Wine Challenge White Winemaker of the Year, the first time a New Zealander has taken the title in 15 years. 
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Marlborough wine producer Yealands Wine Group has been acknowledged as one of the world’s top wineries, scooping a raft of medals at the International Wine Challenge awards in London.

On top of a dozen awards and across every wine the estate entered, Yealands’ chief winemaker, Natalie Christensen, took top honours as the IWC White Winemaker of the Year, the first time a New Zealander has taken the title in 15 years. 

The awards included the International Sauvignon Blanc Trophy for its estate single block S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2022.

Christensen joined the team in 2014 and was appointed to the top wine-making role in 2019. That was after a career spanning 17 years working across Europe and the United States, including as a winemaker at La Cana in Rias Baixas, Spain, and producing albariño for the Jorge Ordonez group.

She is also a classically trained double bass player and holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Canterbury. She is known to use music to help promote the growth of her grapes.

Christensen said the win is humbling and while Marlborough is known for its sauvignon blanc, to have a range of varietals performing so well is meaningful as it shows the breadth of winemaking ability outside of its “flagship” sauvi.

An 80% majority of the company, founded in 2008 by entrepreneur Peter Yealand, was sold to electricity company Marlborough Lines for $60 million in 2015. 

The winery is NZ’s sixth biggest wine exporter, producing more than 15 million litres of Marlborough sauvignon, pinot gris, chardonnay, albariño, and a pinot gris, gewürztraminer and riesling blend into about 65 countries across its three brands – Yealands, The Crossings and Babydoll.

While most of its grapes are grown in Marlborough, it does contract to growers in Otago and Hawke’s Bay.

In December 2020 it sold off four of its Marlborough vineyards to the NZ Super Fund for $34m, to help pay down debt and fund future growth. 

IWC co-chair Oz Clarke said the awards celebrate Christensen’s “exceptional talent” and expertise and lay the foundation for increased recognition and expanded opportunities for female winemakers around the world.

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