family came to New Zealand from their native Holland in the 1990’s, attracted by what Hugh Johnson
and Jancis Robinson
describe as ‘a bucolic life….producing, in the most pleasing environment, one of life’s more delicious commodities from the earth’. This was very young winemaking country, the first wines really only having been released in 1980. The style of Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough was immediately recognised as having extraordinary potential, being, again as described in The World Atlas of Wine, ‘exhilarating, easy-to-understand wine’.
When Sophie and Har Eradus first came to New Zealand it was to grow tulips in Auckland. At the time, Awatere was a sheep farming region with only a few brave souls growing vines. They saw beauty and potential in this harsh outpost and fell for a strip of land between a high rocky terrace and the glacial river below. When they uncovered a pot-bellied stove on the property with their initials engraved on it, they knew their instincts had been correct. That intertwined H, S and E is now their logo. The vineyard was to be a semi-retirement project. Unsurprisingly, they quickly realised there might be a bit more work to it than that!
Har, Sophie, Michiel & Hanna
What makes Marlborough unique is its combination of long days, cool nights, plenty of sunshine and a relatively dry autumn. This results in a very long growing season, giving ripe grapes but keeping the acidity high. This climate is exaggerated in the Awatere Valley. Drier, cooler and windier than their neighbours in the wide, flat Wairau Valley, they benefit from a bigger diurnal temperature variation (the difference between day and night temperature) which leads to wines of great freshness. The long growing season extends the fruit’s ‘hang time’, ensuring more intense and complex flavours.
All the extremes which characterise this exposed and untameable landscape benefit the production of exceptional fruit. The vines grow on a sliver of land bedside the Awatere river
, where the roots dig deep into a rocky terrace, four metres above the river, giving elegance, minerality and crisp, clean acidity. Swift, cool winds, which sweep up from the Pacific Ocean, provide natural disease protection. Harsh sun, along with those cool winds and rocky soils lead to small berries with concentrated flavour. Both their Sauvignon Blanc
and Pinot Noir
are seductively powerful.
In 2004, Michiel and Hanna Eradus took over from his parents. Around that time, Oz Clarke wrote about Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc: ‘This brilliant, pungent, aggressively green yet exotically ripe style of wine was unlike anything the world had ever seen before’. He makes the point that New Zealand showed the actual flavours of the grape more than the so-called ‘classic’ regions like Bordeaux and the Loire. The notion of terroir at that time didn’t exist there as grapes hadn’t been planted for long enough to create or show a terroir. One of the big changes since then is the discovery, by the likes of the Eradus family, that there are indeed important regional differences. In a valley they describe as ‘forged by fault lines, carved by winds, scorched by sun, and cooled by the ocean’ they have a very special terroir. It was good fortune which led them to this area, now renowned for making exceptional wines. Michael and Hanna believe it is their role to let the vines and wines pay homage to the exceptional natural environment they were given.