Opawa, meaning ‘smoky river' in Maori, is the secondary tier of Nautilus Estate in Marlborough, sitting below ‘Nautilus' but above the ever-popular ‘Twin Islands' wines. Nautilus' winemaker Clive Jones and his assistant Brett Bermingham vinify all the Nautilus, Opawa and Twin Islands wines, but Brett has a special responsibility for the ‘Opawa' brand that he takes personally, and it shows in his pride of the wines.NZ wine critic Raymond Chan has described Opawa as a designer brand. Quality, ripeness and yield are inextricably linked, and any winegrower who requires any sort of consistency will know what quality and quantity of grapes any given vineyard will provide. Growers and winemakers base their decisions on previous experiences and after doing some quick calculations, and barring any unforeseen disaster can predict what sort of wine and how much will come available to them at an early stage in the growing season. The Opawa wines are made, in fact designed, according to such formula that dictate grapegrowing.The Opawa wines are designed stylistically to be juicy and fresh, eminently approachable and drinkable straight away. The fruit is sourced from vineyards and blocks that have been identified as particularly suited to the style required, and cropped higher than that for Nautilus wines, at 3.5 kg per vine, which is still in no way excessive. Half the fruit comes from ‘Nautilus' estate vineyards, the other half from contracted fruit. The quantity of Opawa wines is surprisingly small. Around 22,000 cases of the top tier Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc are produced each vintage, and around 30,000 cases of Twin Islands. However, only 3,000 cases of Opawa Sauvignon are produced, showing how it is a rare commodity as well as being designer. Most of it is sent overseas, but a limited quantity is reserved for the D.estic market.
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