Originally part of a 220 acre sheep farm, our 25ha vineyard in Marlborough's Brancott Valley was planted in 1982 by Ken and Jill Small and the first wines released under the Fairhall Down’s brand in 1996.
Since our purchase of the property in 2014, the focus has been on vineyard improvement, introduction of sustainable management, working towards the application of organic and biodynamic principles.
Uniquely free-draining, the soil is a nutrient rich top layer over a gravel clay base, making deep root penetration easy - perfect soil for growing grapes.
The Fairhall River-Brancott Valley has its own microclimate, with even cooler evenings and even warmer days than is typical. It is not unusual for a day/night temperature variation around 20oC allowing the grapes to build brix levels during the day, yet with fruit acids being retained due to cooler nights over the long dry autumn ripening window.
Combining this with a lower rainfall than most parts, we can safely claim our piece of dirt is truly a sub-region within a sub-region, indicative of terrior reflected in single vineyard Marlborough wines already enjoying a world-renowned reputation for exceptional quality.
Sauvignon Blanc - includes Bordeaux clones, not widely grown in Marlborough but adding an interesting European structural element which when married with the Marlborough signature thiols, creates amazing flavour combination.
Pinot Noir – Grapes from 20 plus year-old vines exhibit a maturity apparent in the complexity and depth of flavours and nuance spanning lighter red fruits through to the rich dark end of the spectrum. Resulting wines display hallmark richness yet elegance.
Pinot Gris – mature vines lending themselves well to a drier wine style. Exacting vineyard monitoring ensures picking at optimum ripeness and expression of lightly spiced pear notes balanced by a crisp finish.
Chardonnay – typically producing grapes with strong primary fruit characteristics, allowing for rich complex wines.
Different clones and variance in vineyard terroir provide unique nuances of aroma and flavour, and complexity to the wines. While it is clichéd to say ‘our wines are made in the vineyard’, we genuinely do see quintessential Fairhall Downs captured in every bottle!
Organics, Biodynamics and Complementary Vineyard practice
This land is our home. We want to live on ‘healthy’ land as caretakers for future generations and are passionate about creating wine in a sustainable manner. We firmly believe an organic approach will further enhance vineyard health, the biodiversity of the land, the concentration of flavour and quality of fruit.
The process of conversion to organics has been aided by the free draining soil making weed management easier, as has the less dense vine canopy allowing for lower pest and disease risk threat.
Initiatives consistent with complementary practice include:
- ‘Worm Tea’ from tiger worms, fed cow droppings from neighbouring Highland cattle provides natural fertiliser.
- Inter-row planting of phacelia and buckwheat, as a food source for the native wasp which effectively controls the leaf roller caterpillar .
- Sowing a mix of five plant species to stimulate humus formation (including brassicas, cereals, grasses, clover and the chenopod family) as it contains useful nutrients for healthy soil and therefore healthy vines.