Observing Wines

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is owned jointly by Bill and Rosemary Allen and Jim and Vivienne  Murray. They both grow grapes in the favoured Rapaura area of Marlborough, New Zealand.


The photograph shows Bill and Rosemary Allen to the right,   and Jim and Vivienne Murray  in our vineyards with the Richmond Range in the distance. The highest peak is Mount Riley.


vineyard2  The photographs show our vineyards. Rosemary and Bill Allen’s Alvine Estate is to the left, and on the right    Thainstone Estate owned by Jim and Vivienne Murray. Refer to the home page for more details.



mwc group photoOn the 13 March 2003 Observing Wines visited the Manawatu Wine Club for a wine tasting evening. The photgraph shows the team with the founders of the wine club Julie and Grant Burnett. It was a great evening with over 100 members attending. Eight wines were presented by Jim Murray. The Manawatu Wine Club was founded in 1996 by Grant and Julie and now it is one of New Zealand’s  largest clubs with 900 members. They hold fortnightly tastings which are booked out twelve months ahead. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the club and thank Grant and Julie for making us so welcome and wish the club every success.

Marlborough New Zealand

house march 2003Marlborough is the largest of New Zealand’s wine growing regions. The first commercial vineyard was established in 1973. In the year 2000, 3800 hectares were planted. Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted variety at 1600 hectares which represents 75% of the national area planted.
The population of the province is 45000, and Blenheim is the largest town.

Marlborough at the north eastern tip of the South Island of New Zealand consists of a large, flat, river valley with deep deposits of free draining alluvial soils. Varied soil patterns are found throughout the valley and even within single vineyards leading to significant variations in style. The shallow stony free draining soils which aid drainage and limit the fertility produce high quality wines.

Surface boulders reflect the suns rays and retain the warmth during the regions cool, clear summer nights. Irrigation is extensively used to relieve vine stress during the typically dry Marlborough summers.
Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is Marlborough’s best known variety. These pungent, aromatic wines that blend tropical fruit flavours with gooseberry and capsicum herbaceousness are the regions national wine style of International importance. 15000 tonnes were produced in the 2000 vintage.

Marlborough Weather Data

Marlborough is New Zealand’s sunniest region with over 2400 sunshine hours recorded annually. The Wairau Valley is the main grape growing area of Marlborough. The average monthly weather data is as follows.

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Month Rainfall
( C )
Ground Frost
( days )
( Hours )
Jan 51 18.1 0 260
Feb 34 17.9 0.2 228
Mar 54 16.5 0.4 214
Apr 59 13.5 1.9 188
May 71 10.5 9.6 165
June 58 7.8 16.6 153
July 64 7.3 18.1 158
Aug 69 8.5 14.5 175
Sept 45 10.7 7.8 195
Oct 54 12.8 3.8 227
Nov 49 14.4 1.4 239
Dec 49 16.7 0.1 245
YEAR 657 12.9 74.4 2447


The Vintage Lane

observatoryThe Vintage Lane Observatory is located in the Alvine Estate Vineyard in Marlborough New Zealand. Marlborough is one of New Zealand’s sunniest locations and this combined with the rural setting makes its an ideal place for observing with clear skies an no street lights. The observatory is equipped with a 41 cm cassegrain telescope shown above with the SBIG ST 9XE CCD camera for CCD BVRI photometry and a classical UBV PMT photometer.

The observatory undertakes observations of variable stars for observers within New Zealand and around the world.


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The fruit was sourced from the Renwick, Marlborough vineyard of Don and Kath Elley. Hand picked at optimum ripeness the fruit was fermented in the traditional style using small open top fermenters then matured for 10 months in new and seasoned French barriques.

The Gifford Road Merlot is a dense, powerful red wine with ripe plum and boysenberry flavours, balanced by complex spice and savoury notes; a full bodied wine with a long and harmonious finish on the palate.

Another essential addition to any wine list this wine will reward with careful cellaring for at least 5 years.

Brix 23.6                        pH 3.27       TA 5.9

Residual Sugar <1.0       Alcohol 13.5


A long dry summer of warm days and cool nights resulted in beautifully ripe fruit for this 2001 Pinot Noir.

The hand picked fruit was fermented in the traditional manner in small open top fermenters followed by 10 months maturing in new and seasoned French barriques.

This wine shows vibrant characteristics of plums and berries with a subtle hint of spice to balance.

Another essential addition to any wine list this medium bodied wine will develop further with careful cellaring for at least 5 years

Brix 24.2                       pH 3.37           TA 5.6

Residual Sugar <1.0     Alcohol 14.0


The Gifford Road 2001 Un Oaked Chardonnay is made from fruit picked at optimum ripeness and cold fermented in stainless steel to maximise the full tropical fruit flavours.

Careful cellaring for 2-3 years will reward however this is a popular addition to any wine cellar for drinking now.

An elegant and subtle wine this Chardonnay is ideal served as an aperitif or as a compliment to all poultry and seafood dishes

Brix 23.0                      pH 3.21           TA 5.7

Residual Sugar 4.2       Alcohol 13.5



Gifford Road 2001 Chardonnay was hand picked in late March from Jim and Viv Murray’s vineyard in Rapaura. The grafted clones are 2/23.

The grapes were whole bunch pressed and 100% fermented for 10 months in new and seasoned French barriques. The wine went through malolactic fermentation with extended lees aging.

This fuller bodied, vibrant Chardonnay is a subtle balance of spices, stone fruit and citrus. The crisp focussed palate follows through to a gentle persistent finish.

Complimenting a wide range of dishes this wine is an essential addition to any wine list, however will cellar beautifully for the next 4 years.

Brix 23.0                     pH 3.40       TA 6.0

Residual Sugar 1.2      Alcohol 13.5


Sauvignon Blanc

The Gifford Road 2002 Sauvignon Blanc is made from fruit from our own Rapaura vineyards and is a result of ideal growing conditions.

This wine exhibits intensely varietal aromas of herbs and nettles. Showing good complexity on the palate this crisp wine lingers on to a balanced finish.

A classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from a superb 2002 vintage

Brix 22.5                    pH 3.21       TA 6.8

Residual Sugar 3.1     Alcohol 12.5



With fruit sourced from a local Waihopai Valley vineyard this Gifford Road 2001 Dry Riesling exhibits honeysuckle and stone fruit flavours balanced by a lingering aftertaste of citrus.

This is a wine with both weight and finesse and is an ideal partner for poultry and seafood dishes or as an aperitif.

This classic Marlborough Riesling will carefully cellar for 3 to 5 years and drinking beautifully now will compliment any wine list.

Brix 21.8                    pH 3.05       TA 6.1

Residual Sugar 5.8     Alcohol 12.5