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Wines of Staete Landt with Ruud Maasdam

By Tom Cannavan, 06/10

The family-owned winery of Staete Landt in Malrborough is a tighty-run ship. "Just me, my wife and five staff," says owner Rudd Maasdam (below). Planted in 1998, the 21 hectares originally consisted of only white varieties. Planting was done in conjunction with Steve Smith MW, one of the world's top viticulural consultants and now supremo at Craggy Range.

ruud    The estate takes its name from the name given to New Zealand by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, when he discovered the country in 1642 (meaning 'Land of the Governors', Staete Landt was also the same name given by early Dutch explorers to the territory that is is now Staten Island in New York, and to several other newly colonized regions around the world).

It seemed an obvious and fitting choice for Dutch born Ruud and his wife when embarking on their own journey. Indeed, the estate's motto appears on every cork: "The Journey is the Reward."

Many people are talking about a 'crisis' in the New Zealand wine industry, and in particular in Marlborough, where some say an over-reliance on Sauvignon Blanc will now see the region suffer as part of a boom and bust cycle that has seen Sauvignon Blanc soar in world popularity, perhaps inevitably to head for a fall. Certainly that, plus over-production, has seen the price of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc soften, and some wine estates and growers have gone into receivership in recent months.

Ruud's own Sauvignon Blanc is an example of how the premium producers are tackling this problem, by re-engineering the style of Sauvignon to make a more complex product that aims to differentiate itself from the pack. "Around 20% of my Sauvignon is barrel fermented in older oak," Ruud tells me, "and we use a myriad of yeasts." A big portion of the blend is aged on full lees to add texture and flavour richness, and Rudd also uses a special Gewürztraminer yeast, all in an effort to add complexity.

I suggest that the oak-influenced but mineral and dry styles of Bordeaux's best white wines might be a model for him and some other premium producers in Marlborough and he readily concurs: "But let New Zealand be the producer of both the generic Entre Deux Mers and the finest Péssac-Leognan," he says.

A painstaking approach to gaining complexity is taken across the range. The Staete Landt Pinot Noir mixes Dijon and Pommard clones, with 10 separate lots vinified and assembled before bottling, the Syrah is a blend of a Chave clone from the Rhône plus a clone simply known as 'the old clone', brought into New Zealand 100 years ago, whilst the estate's Pinot Gris is barrel-fermented in old oak puncheons then aged on full lees through partial malolactic fermentation.

This is a broad-ranging portfolio of wines that certainly dispels any notion that Marlborough is only about Sauvingon Blanc. The wines are not the most flamboyant or obvious examples of the region, but they make up for that in having many layers to them, that are a delight for the drinker to unpeel. Staete Landt's wines are imported into the UK by Thorman Hunt & Co.
   staete landt bottles

the wines

Staete Landt, Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009
14% ABV. 500 cases, Quite a peachy, lightly honeyed nose, with some spice. The palate is dry, with a real orangy and lemony bite. Firm, nutty and food-friendly, with a real sense of minerality. 91/100. Around £15.50, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Staete Landt, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
13.5% ABV. Hugely pungent nose, with very punchy, tropical fruit, floral and musky aromas and lots of personality. The palate has a pure core of lemony fruit and a decisive finish with some minerality and a bit of that endive-like, green grioppiness. 91/100. Around £12.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Staete Landt, Marlborough Dry Riesling 2009
13% ABV. Partially fermented in oak, this is nutty, cool, very clean nose with lemon fruit. The palate is very cool, lemony and pithy with a little phenolic, textural quality. 88/100. Around £12.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Staete Landt, Marlborough Chardonnay 2008
14% ABV. Meursault clone and clone 15 from UC Davies which is a version of the hen and chicken Mendoza clone. Fermented in puncheons - one third oak to juice ratio of a barrique. Beautiful nose, with honey and a Brazil nut quality, very fine, sweet, plump and ripe apple and pear fruit. The palate has a core of lemony finesse that pushes through to a lovely point in the finish. 92/100. £14.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Staete Landt, Marlborough Viognier 2008
14% ABV. There's a sense of warm, oatmeal and honey richness on the nose of this wine, fermented partially with wild yeasts and given some lees maturation in old oak puncheons and barriques. Slightly exotic aromas start to emerge, suggesting downy peach skins and a hint of fragrant mango. On the palate this is big and full, a powerful wine with its 14.5% alcohol, and those fleshy, ripe fruit flavours filling the mouth. There's great volume and richness here, but Ruud Maasdam has done an excellent job in tempering it by retaining good acidity and adding a little grippy, nutty complexity with the oak and lees ageing. 90/100. £14.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Staete Landt, Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008
Beautiful floral lift, something leafy and brackeny, with cinnamon and clove notes and very clear raspberry fruit. The palate has a lot of dry extract, but not remotely heavy, with lovely clarity and juiciness. 91/100. £15.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Staete Landt Marlborough Syrah 2007
14% ABV. Lovely nose, with lots of peppery, cool-climate lift. Green peppercorn, but not underripe. There are floral notes too and darker, spice character. The palate has terrific clarity, with firm, spicy, tight tannins and very good length. 91/100. 120 cases. £18.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Staete Landt, Riesling Auslese 2008
8.5% ABV. Use a yeast that dies naturally at around 8 or 9 degrees. Softly waxy nose, with lime and nice clear, lemony notes. Palate has lovely sweetness, with lovely clarity and a tingling minerality. 90/100. £26.99, see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.