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Alliance breaks new ground in New Zealand

Published:  22 May, 2023

UK importer, distributor and producer, Alliance Wine Group will soon release the inaugural vintage of its New Zealand project, Earthsong. 

Led by Giles Cooke MW, winemaker for Thistledown, Earthsong’s first release is a 2022 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from the renowned Dillons Point sub-region in Marlborough. The project will bring together much of the same team behind the company’s award-winning Thistledown Wines.

“When we started Thistledown, the challenge we had was to find a market for old vine Grenache and in little over 10 years, we have not only helped to find a market for Grenache but to lift the average price to the highest in the region,” said Giles Cooke MW, winemaker.

“The challenge for us with Earthsong is almost the opposite. The demand for Marlborough Sauvignon is very high, but differentiation is low and understanding of sub-regions (and their influence on flavour) is very limited. Along with the great work done by Appellation Marlborough, we hope to communicate the message that, just like most of the great regions of the world, there are huge differences between the different sub-regions with consequent distinct styles,” he added.

Working closely with growers, just as Alliance did with Thistledown, Earthsong will forge a community within its vineyards.

“Over 20 years ago, one of New Zealand’s most revered winemakers was sourcing some of his best fruit from a plot in Dillons Point West,” continued Cooke.

“Next to this small plot was an organic apple orchard which, upon further investigation, had the same free-draining alluvial soil profile. Having approached the owner of the orchard, he managed – after much persuasion – to get him to grub up the orchard and plant it all to Sauvignon Blanc. The belief that the site had the potential to be a ‘Grand Cru’ for Marlborough Sauvignon was borne out when, in the first few vintages, the fruit was made into a wine that scooped a string of national awards,” he added. 

Earthsong is now working with John Blackmore, the owner of said vineyard and a passionate advocate of regenerative farming. The vineyard also benefits considerably from its proximity to the sea which means that the cool easterly breeze that rises in the afternoon tempers the summer heat, resulting in a longer growing season and more pronounced diurnal temperature fluctuations. 

The combination of the soil, cool breezes and considered viticulture results in a “distinctive and incredibly intense style of Marlborough sauvignon with blackcurrant leaf and passionfruit exploding on the palate followed by the refreshing mineral/ saline finish (as one might expect from a vineyard planted on an old sea bed)”, according to the Alliance team. 

Earthsong Single Vineyard Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc 2022 arrives in the UK in May and will be distributed by Alliance Wine.