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Allan Scott – First Family and Family First

By July 15, 2011No Comments
Allan Scott Family Winemakers is aptly named. All of the family are involved in the business of growing grapes, making wine and selling it. If there was any family that could claim the title of ‘first wine family’ in Marlborough, the Scotts would be top of the list for most. Allan is one of the pioneers of Marlborough’s now burgeoning modern wine industry, involved in planting some of the first vines in the region in 1973, and Catherine his wife and children have been beside him all the way. Nearly four decades later, the next generation, daughters Victoria and Sara are marketing and viticultural specialists and son Josh is the winemaker for the family concern. The worries of succession that dog many wine businesses in New Zealand do not apply to the Scott family.

Allan Scott as a wine brand has experienced phenomenal growth, and is one of the most familiar of Marlborough labels. Some critics would say too familiar, as to ensure the continued supply of wine for all distribution channels, including supermarkets as well as traditional liquor retail and on-premise, let alone exports, pressure has been put on the vineyards to yield higher to make more wine, and for the vinification to become more expedient. To achieve what the family has, is a credit to their work ethic and abilities, and that of their team. However, I feel that the Scott family have for some time seen a drop in standards below what they regard is acceptable, even though the wines continue to sell as quickly as ever.

A meeting scheduled at the Scotts’ ‘Twelve Trees’ restaurant in Jacksons Road to meet Victoria was changed at the last minute, as she was taken away for other business. Instead we met up with the energetic Josh instead, who was multi-tasking, as he was also looking after his Moa craft beer operation, with his cellphone ringing hot. Josh had at his side winemaker Bruce Abbott, and they explained that quality had returned as the focus of the business, this being essential for the long term success of the brand. To achieve this, yields have been lowered and greater attention has been applied to all the winemaking processes. This allied to a much firmer stance with regards discounting in the market place. Josh and Bruce discussed the more modest 1700 tonne crush for the 2011 vintage, and the desire to clearly express the Rapaura and Omaka fruit source character. The topic of social media also cropped up. Josh is heavily involved using SM with Moa beer, and its use with Allan Scott wines is certain to grow.

As if to demonstrate the changes, Josh and Bruce offered samples of just-finished 2011 vintage wines for tasting. The Sauvignon Blanc 2011 had excellent ripeness, and a stylishness that will ensure great accessibility and drinkability. Just as well, as the variety accounts for 75% of the production! The Pinot Gris 2011 displayed classic aromatic lift and spiced pear flavours. Josh and Bruce felt the Riesling 2011 had potential, the wine showing the benefits of vine age, being planted in 1978. Certainly the aromatic interest was a real feature. The Gewurztraminer 2011 was rather shy on bouquet, but displayed real weight and richness on the palate. The prestige tier ‘Hounds’ Pinot Noir 2010 was right down the line Marlborough, and the Scott Base Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 a reminder of their acquisition of the Mount Michael vineyard in 2004.

After tasting the wines, and Josh and Bruce sped back to their duties, we had an excellent lunch at ‘Twelve Trees’, with wine, of course! A glass of reasonably complex-flavoured, but fine-textured Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionnelle NV represented the part of the Scott portfolio that is significantly growing, and glass of the layered and serious single-vineyard ‘Wallops’ Chardonnay 2010, proving how good the Allan Scott wines can be.

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