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When the 10 acres of young apple trees had served their purpose, they were pulled out and replaced by more Sauvignon Blanc and some Riesling.
In 1993 the Forrests managed to buy 25 acres of land right next door. This parcel was invaluable because it provided better access to their cellar door, which was becoming an increasingly important part of their business. John also devised an ingenious way of funding the purchase. The Auckland company buying some of his grapes helped finance the purchase of the land in return for a guaranteed ten-year supply of a proportion of the Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling from the new vineyard. However, development of the Forrest enterprise did not come without compromises. For ten more years the Forrests continued to live in a converted Skyline shed, investing in their vineyard and winery rather than building a house.
John has definite ideas on the intricate interactions between the profitability of wines made from different varieties of grapes and the soil types where they are grown. He draws on his experience growing Cabernet and Merlot on the Gimblett Gravels of Hawke’s Bay compared with Sauvignon Blanc grown in Marlborough. As he points out: ‘Gimblett Road took two and a half times as long to reach positive cash flow as Marlborough.’ The Forrests’ red varieties grown in Hawke’s Bay are cropped at lower yields per hectare than Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and irrigation must be sensitively handled to avoid diluting their flavours. Most important of all, these wines need some time in the bottle before they are sold. These factors cumulatively make the Cabernet Merlot wines noticeably more expensive. The comparison with Sauvignon Blanc is stark:
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Sauvignon Blanc is a fantastic grape in Marlborough because come August of each year you can put it in a bottle, and come 20th of October someone’s paying you for it. Wonderful!
The importance of yield of grapes per vine or per hectare is an essential element of the Forrest winemaking philosophy and practice:
At about four and a half tonne per acre, the textural quality of Sauvignon Blanc begins to diminish, but not the flavour. You’ve got to get beyond six, six and a half tonne before you see significant losses in flavour in the good years. If it’s a poor year, then at six and a half tonne you’ll never get it past the green and grassy. But in an average year you can push it into a flavour spectrum of currants and gooseberries that the world wants, particularly the English. I believe the US market wants something slightly riper and more complex.
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