YEALANDS WINERY: THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE BABYDOLL SHEEP

Why is this sheep so happy...?

Why is this sheep so happy...?

Because this is his view each day!

Because this is his view each day!

Perhaps you've heard the tale that there are more sheep than people in New Zealand?

There are definitely more sheep than people in Yealands' Marlborough vineyards, over 1,500 of them, and they're called Babydolls.

Nestled in the Awatere Valley, in the northeast corner of New Zealand's South Island, the vineyards are surrounded by a ring of hills, and buffeted by ocean winds, keeping it chilly at night.

Chief Winemaker Tamra Washington visited the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference to pour Yealands wines, and share more about the winery's initiatives, some more successful than others, but all unique: seaweed mixed with crushed green-lipped mussel shells laid down as compost for the vines, a team of guinea pig lawn mowers (sadly, not a winner), solar lights in the wetlands areas to attract bugs for the fish, solar panels powering classical music played to keep vines happy, vineyard clippings to help power the winery, and of course, there are those roaming Babydolls among the vines.

NZ's Awatere Valley, south of the Wairau Valley, within the Marlborough zone. In the Maori language, Awatere means "fast flowing stream", and the deep stony soils here are remnants of river paths.

NZ's Awatere Valley, south of the Wairau Valley, within the Marlborough zone. In the Maori language, Awatere means "fast flowing stream", and the deep stony soils here are remnants of river paths.

In the winery, there are cool advances too: like switching from an egg white fining product to one produced from potatoes, making the wine certified vegan.

Sunny days and cool nights, plus strong coastal winds produce small, intensely flavoured grapes. Fruit from the northern Wairau Valley is known for tropical fruit flavours, and from the southern Awatere, a notable saline herbaceousness (with inland vineyards giving blackcurrant, citrus, and floral notes).

Sunny days and cool nights, plus strong coastal winds produce small, intensely flavoured grapes. Fruit from the northern Wairau Valley is known for tropical fruit flavours, and from the southern Awatere, a notable saline herbaceousness (with inland vineyards giving blackcurrant, citrus, and floral notes).

Thinking differently is what we do at Yealands. Crafting award-winning wines in harmony with nature has seen us lead the world in sustainable winegrowing. But most importantly, it means great tasting wines that don’t cost the earth.” –Peter Yealands
Yealands' Chief Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington

Yealands' Chief Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington

Yealands' Owner Peter Yealands

Yealands' Owner Peter Yealands

Babydoll Sheep.jpg

Don't the sheep eat the grapes?

No, they're too short to reach them! This diminutive breed get to roam the almost 1,000 hectares of vines while munching on the green grass, with chickens and tiny Kune Kune pigs for company. The sheep are built in weed eaters, with the benefit for Yealands of less tractor use, saving the ground from compaction and reducing machine use.

All this sustainability would be for nought, if the wines weren't delicious; thankfully they are. Start here:

2014 Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc: gunpowder meets elderflower in this powerhouse SBL. Think dried herbs, blackcurrant, perfumed with a long finish. Pair: fruit salad, grilled asparagus, pesto pasta, ripe goat's cheese.

2014 Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc: gunpowder meets elderflower in this powerhouse SBL. Think dried herbs, blackcurrant, perfumed with a long finish.

Pair: fruit salad, grilled asparagus, pesto pasta, ripe goat's cheese.

2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Gris: peachy, honey and tangerine zest, with great intensity and a satin texture. Pair: sablefish, spicy moules frites, honey glazed chicken.

2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Gris: peachy, honey and tangerine zest, with great intensity and a satin texture.

Pair: sablefish, spicy moules frites, honey glazed chicken.

2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Noir: mocha cherry action in this juicy Pinot, with a little peat smoke on the nose, raspberry and cinnamon on the palate. Notably smooth tannins. Pair: roast salmon, duck with black cherry sauce.

2015 Peter Yealands Pinot Noir: mocha cherry action in this juicy Pinot, with a little peat smoke on the nose, raspberry and cinnamon on the palate. Notably smooth tannins.

Pair: roast salmon, duck with black cherry sauce.

The people demand more sheep! If you want to learn more about how the Babydolls help out in the vineyards, check out Yealands' video.

All images and video courtesy of Yealands Family Wines.