When wine maker Chris Darling joined forces with organic viticulturist Bart Arnst in 2007, Darling Wines was born from a passion for organic.An experienced viticulturist, Bart had converted Seresin Estate to organic before embarking on a solo career as an organic vineyard consultant.
Hailing from Australia, Chris studied wine making at Adelaide University before undertaking vintages in Australia, France, Czech Republic, Greece and New Zealand.
From its first vintage in 2008, Darling Wines has blossomed from 200 cases a year to an annual vintage of 15,000 cases from grapes grown organically on contract throughout Marlborough’s sub-regions, covering some 20 hectares in total.
“Because we have growers in different sub-regions within Marlborough we have selected the best regions for different varietals,” says Chris. “We do the Marlborough classics like sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, a bit of gewürztraminer, chardon-nay and pinot noir and a rose. “Sauvignon blanc is our biggest by volume with pinot gris pretty big as well.”
All wine is made at the Wine Studio in Marlborough under Chris’ direction.Certified organic, it houses quite a few small producers similar to Darling Wines who are not wanting to commit large capital outlay in winery equipment which is predominantly used for only four weeks in the year.
While Darling Wines are sold to New Zealand restaurants, independent retailers and selected supermarket stores, the wines are mainly exported within Australia forming its biggest market, selling also into Japan, Denmark, Scotland and the United States.
Chris says that demand for the organic product is ever increasing, particularly with greater awareness around global warming, sustainability and what people are putting into their bodies.
“I think organic fits into that as you’re not poisoning the ground the grapes are growing in. “Most non-organic producers spray Round-Up underneath their vines and if you look across the vineyard you have almost one third to a half of the vineyard sprayed out with poison.
“With the younger generation brought up with climate change, I can’t see how they can buy into not being organic. “The demand is coming from the new generation – but if you go back 60 years everything was organic. That’s where Bart comes in—he’s the organic grape master so we’re in a good position I think.”
As well as organic, all Darling Wines are vegan friendly; free from animal proteins in the wine making process, another thing people are asking for in their wines.Darling Wines’ low alcohol sauvignon blanc called ‘Moscato Inspired’ is crafted in the style of an Italian wine called Moscato d’Asti where fermenting is stopped half way through, producing a lower alcohol offering.
“It’s sweet, low in alcohol and a little bit spritzy on the tongue. We’re also thinking about doing a no alcohol product this coming vintage as well as a sparking grape juice. “I don’t think anyone has ever done a Marlborough sauvignon blanc juice – were toying with doing just a very small bottle that can be poured over ice as an alternative.”
Recently Chris stepped away as a wine maker for a large corporate to concentrate solely on the Darling brand—a clear indication of his passion and commitment to the brand.
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