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Awatere Valley

Awatere Valley is the smaller of two subregions within the famous Marlborough wine region of New Zealand. It lies south-east of the region's main wine-growing area, the Wairau Valley, surrounding the small township of Seddon. Herbaceous, grassy Sauvignon Blancs with characteristic aromas of tomato leaf are a particular specialty of the region.

Awatere Valley is on the seaward side of Marlborough, in a valley running parallel with the east coast of the South Island. The Awatere River, which flows south from Clifford Bay, gives the region its name – awatere meaning "fast-flowing river" in the local Maori dialect. The Wither Hills in the north separate Awatere from the Wairau Valley.

The vineyards of the Awatere Valley sit on a variety of hills and river terraces in the rugged, rolling landscape. Wind-blown loams sit atop a base of alluvial gravel, mostly made up of greywacke. These dry, free-draining soils are one of the most important features of the terroir in Awatere because they stress the vines. Stressed vines grow deep root systems in search of water and nutrients and produce high quality berries to ensure the propagation of their species.

The climate is influenced heavily by the ocean that makes up the northern and eastern boundaries of the region. Intense sunlight during the day is cooled by ocean winds, contributing to the diurnal temperature shift that extends the growing season in the Awatere Valley. These winds are a challenge to vignerons, but also contribute positively to viticulture here. Both canopy growth and yields are limited by the winds, and the berries grow thick skins to protect themselves, contributing to the structure of the finished wines. The wind can help to dry the vines as well, reducing the risk of rot after rainfall or dew.

The potential of the Awatere Valley as a premium site for viticulture came a decade after the first Marlborough vines were planted in the Wairau Valley. In the late 1980s, the first pioneering growers began establishing vineyards on the hills in Awatere's more challenging terroir. Now, the valley is home to a significant acreage of grapevines, and although not as important commercially as the Wairau Valley, produces some of Marlborough's best known Sauvignon Blanc.

The distinct minerality of Awatere Sauvignon Blanc has led to inevitable comparisons with the famous wines of Sancerre.

Pinot Noir and Riesling have also found a home in the vineyards of the Awatere Valley and, as well, growers are experimenting with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner and Tempranillo.

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