Scientists think they've found a way to capture the aromatic magic of Marlborough's world-renowned sauvignon blanc - and recreate it in other big-selling varietals.

Some of the distinctive Marlborough sauvignon that has proved so popular internationally has been revealed through research by Professor Paul Kilmartin at the University of Auckland.

His work had already shown how a combination of macerating the fruit well through machine harvesting, and good antioxidant protection straight after harvest, produced a type of sauvignon high in aroma compounds and known as varietal thiols.

They now knew that these varietal thiol compounds can be elevated in all New Zealand white wines, when harvesting techniques regularly used with Sauvignon blanc are applied to other varieties such as chardonnay and pinot gris.


A sensory panel at the university's Goldie Wine programme on Waiheke Island had already sampled a specially-produced pinot gris.

"Our panel found that the pinot gris they were asked to profile retained a distinctive pinot gris character, typically more floral with light fruity attributes, even with the higher varietal thiols present and they liked the wines," Kilmartin said.

"So it's important to point out that one type of wine doesn't become another using this method – a pinot gris doesn't change into a Sauvignon blanc - but another dimension is added to the wine by these potent varietal thiols."

The research, being presented at a Wellington conference today, and which also involved PhD candidate Xiaotong Lyu and Dr Leandro Dias Araujo, aimed to give winegrowers a new way to target different markets, with low or high varietal thiols.