Dog Point winery visit

Dog Point winery visit

Arriving on a hot Marlborough afternoon in early January, we were delighted to be hosted by the winemaker, Murray Cook. He assembled our 4 groups around a big table in the winery kitchen and poured us some Sauvignon Blanc. Murray confirmed that we would be tasting all 4 of their current vintage wines today - 2 Sauvignon Blancs, the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir. He’d only poured two for now because it was sweltering and our glasses would quickly become far too warm.

Two very different glasses of wine sat before us.

On the left, a pale straw liquid beckoned with Marlborough typicity - this is premium tank harvested Sauvignon with a good aromatic nose of fresh fruit (white peaches and citrus) and in the mouth reveals a delicious fruit greets with a punch of acidity ensuring harmony. A clean, dry finish beckons another sip. This is the 2023 Sauvignon Blanc, a pillar of the winery’s success but this is not mainstream Sauvignon at only 9 tonnes per hectare [bulk wine producers who are driven by yield will aim for as much as 25 tonnes per hectare in the region].

Moving to the right glass, the 2018 Section 94; a sniff revealed a very different character: Barrel aged wild fermented Sauvignon from a single block of grapes (block 94). This is an exceptional and divisive wine, it’s ideal to taste alongside a Chardonnay. Here we see a complex, full bodied wine with a much higher amount of alcohol and an oak barrel ferment that results in a serious challenge for a blind taster. The couple tasting opposite us remarked that they don’t normally drink a Sauvignon Blanc, but this works for them. That’s because this isn’t like new world Sav - it’s chalky and mineral, with a racing acidity and displays its fruit with a totally different profile. It is holding onto its age beautifully and will continue to develop in good conditions for a decade. The Section 94 is a representation of what Marlborough can produce in an organic 100% natural ferment.

It’s now creeping up to the 30s in the Dog Point kitchen, but the 2021 Chardonnay speaks for itself as the cool beads of condensation form on the freshly poured glass. I asked Murray if the goal is to keep a consistent style and he tells me that the style isn’t as much a concern as the investment in organic methods and careful viticulture; this he says makes a big difference to the yield and resulting complexity of the wine. With Chardonnay, their focus is the low yielding Mendoza clone - with some clone 95 making up a lesser proportion. On the nose, citrus and nutty brioche fill the senses, the palate is tight and concentrated leading with citrus but moving into a creamy textural finish. Despite the wine getting 18 months’ elevage on oak, there is no heavy use of new oak here, with only 10% new French oak in the regime. I find this one exciting to drink now, but it will easily go another decade and continue to improve.

The Pinot noir is our final stop on the tour of Dog Point wines. The pinot in this lineup is a veritable medley of clones grown on hilly clay slopes. The 2021 Pinot Noir produces aromas of bright plum, spices and generous red fruit, and as you sip the deep ruby red wine you’ll be greeted with bold red fruits and a solid stroke of acidity. This wine is sporting some fine grained tannins and has a classy balance of oak (30% new). This is a hold for me - I think it’s too young to enjoy fully and will reward time in your cellar. In an ideal world (without accountants) it would probably be released in another few years’ time. 

Murray is generous with his knowledge of the winery, wines and the region and It’s clear from the answers that Dog Point are focused on producing a representation of their own place. There is an emphasis on organics and sustainability with a commitment to a hands-on process that places quality above quantity and prefers gentle intervention in the vineyard to improve the results in the winery.


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