In the last 30 years wine-growing in New Zealand has developed an impressive dynamic. Someone who has played a significant role in this development is Brent Marris who, as the first Marlborough-born oenologist who graduated at the famous Roseworthy College, is leaving his mark on what is probably the most well-known area for wine-growing.
Marlborough is situated on New Zealand’s South Island and is regarded above all as the home of the very finest, superb Sauvignon Blancs. Brent Marris, who did his oenology diploma in 1983 at the Roseworthy College in Australia, which at the time made him the first Marlborough winemaker to graduate there, quickly gained a reputation as an outstanding winemaker. He is also a master in capturing the purity of single grape varieties and the unique flavours derived from the estate’s vineyards.
One of his wines, a Chardonnay, is called „Bastard“. This extraordinary name is a reference to the family’s descent from a certain William de Marisco, who lived in England around the year 1100 and who was said to have been one of King Henry I’s 35 illegitimate children, that is, a „bastard“. The Marris family is still just a little bit proud of their colourful past and tells the tale that another William de Marisco was even executed for being a pirate and traitor in 1242. He is said to have attempted to murder King Henry III. For this reason one of the winery’s Pinot Noirs has been given the fitting name of „Wrath“ as the kings’s wrath knew no bounds: he had William hung, drawn and quartered, a true „sticky end“ and hence „Sticky End“ is also what their superb botrytis Sauvignon Blanc is called. In 1204 William de Marisco fortunately received a royal pardon when King John gave him the command of a small fleet (to hunt pirates of all things!) and he was given a rural estate in Devon: this „King’s Favour“ gave its name to the Sauvignon Blanc. The king’s favour was however probably an exception as the Mariscos entrenched themselves for over 90 years on the island of Lundy, which King Henry II was actually wanting to present to the Knights Templar. The eviction order remained without success; the refractory clan must have been a thorn in His Majesty’s side („Thorn“ is the name of the Marisco Pinot Gris).
Old English lettering on the labels and the stormy seas of the island of Lundy, which the lovingly designed website features, should not detract from the modern aspects of the modern winery built in 2009. The wines are produced following all the rules of the art. An impressive 268 hectares are under cultivation; they are situated on the bank of the Waihopai River and in the Waihopai Valley. The soils consist of sediment from the river. The warm daytime temperatures, the cool nights and the temperate climate with low rain fall provide the best conditions for wine-growing and are the basis for the intense fruitiness of the Marisco wines.
The Ned, the wine label launched in 2005 and named after a mountain summit in Marlborough, is being marketed in collaboration with the New Zealand star fashion designer Trelise Cooper. The Ned Sauvignon Blanc was awarded the prize as best International Sauvignon Blanc in its price category at the Decanter World Wine Awards. William de Marisco, the „Bastard“, would have been proud of that, also because for Brent Marris Great Britain is the most important export market. Of course Brent Marris is proud thereof, too – but also of the fact that a pair of the endemic falcon Karearea, an endangered species, is living in his vineyard. “Maggie“ and “Astin“ are nourished by the personnel. Kareareas are ground-breeding birds, and thus threatened by opossums, wild cats and the like. As a reward for the protection, they take care of other birds not approaching the ripe grapes. The eldest of Brent and Rosemary Marris’ four daughters is already following her father’s footsteps by starting studying winemaking at Roseworthy College in2012. It looks as though there will not be any paternal „wrath“ – very likely Marisco Vineyards will remain, what it is: 100% family-owned winery.