Jules Taylor is the namesake winemaker of a boutique, woman-owned winery in Marlborough, New Zealand. Known as the “Queen of Sauvignon Blanc,” Taylor wears the title with pride. Born in the cool and sunny Marlborough area, Taylor came of age during the 1980s at the same time as her beloved Sauvignon Blanc and grew up to make some of her country’s best-known wines. Sauvignon Blanc has been particularly successful in New Zealand; it transformed the fortunes of the Marlborough region and has paved the way for many other grape varieties and talented winemakers to shine.
Like most winemakers of her generation, Taylor did not grow up in the wine industry. Mom was a schoolteacher with a passion for gardening, and the family grew their own vegetables. Taylor remembers the Marlborough of her school years as “dry and dusty, with heaps of sheep” but also “bloody awesome!” She spent her summers picking corn in the same fields that would later become the home of Jules Taylor Wines, a testimony to the transformation of the Marlborough landscape from humble beginnings to worldly grapevines. Winemaking drew her in to pursue a postgraduate degree, and she maxed out on harvest experience by working the spring season in New Zealand’s southern hemisphere and the fall in Italy. Several life-affirming vintages in Piedmont and Sicily would deepen her love of wine as a simple pleasure to be enjoyed alongside good food and friends.
Originally a French variety, Sauvignon Blanc is at its most exuberant in New Zealand, highly aromatic with an intense, mouthwatering freshness and loads of flavor. Wine writer Bob Campbell, MW, describes Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc as “a bungee jump into a gooseberry bush,” spring-loaded with notes of tropical grapefruit, freshly mowed grass and green bell pepper. Situated on the breathtaking northern end of New Zealand’s South Island, Marlborough vines benefit from cool breezes and ripen with high levels of UV light and minimal air pollution, all factors that accentuate the quality of the wines.
By 2001, Taylor had risen in the ranks to Group Senior Winemaker at Kim Crawford Wines, one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed wineries. Encouraged by mentors like Kim and Erica Crawford to launch her own brand, Jules Taylor Wines emerged as a “little moonlighting project with a mere 200 cases” based in the heart of Marlborough. Five years, two children and many late nights later, Taylor and her husband, George Elworthy, put everything on the line to pursue their venture full time. Big advocates of all things local, Jules Taylor Wines sources fruit from a few hardworking families and keeps production small. Taylor explains that she left her corporate winemaking career to make wine on her own terms. It’s a source of joy, not a cash crop, and she only makes one batch of each wine in every harvest. Once it’s gone, it’s well and truly gone.
JULES TAYLOR MARLBOROUGH GRÜNER VELTLINER 2021
100% GRÜNER VELTLINER. DELICIOUS FLAVORS OF PEACH, MANDARIN ORANGE AND LEMON ZEST WITH A HINT OF WHITE PEPPER. FINE AND CONCENTRATED WITH CRISP ACIDITY AND A LONG, REFRESHING FINISH.
JULES TAYLOR MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2021
100% SAUVIGNON BLANC. INTENSE, VIBRANT AROMAS OF PASSIONFRUIT, LIME ZEST AND LEMONGRASS LEAP FROM THE GLASS. THIS UP-FRONT WINE CAPTURES THE ESSENCE OF MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC.
JULES TAYLOR ON THE QUIET SINGLE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2019
100% SINGLE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR (WREKIN VINEYARD, BRANCOTT VALLEY). DENSE, DARK PURPLE IN COLOR WITH INTENSE PLUM AND BOYSENBERRY FRUIT, FLORAL NOTES OF VIOLET AND EARTHY OVERTONES. RIPE AND CONCENTRATED TO DRINK NOW OR CELLAR THROUGH 2028.
In a region that is so synonymous with one variety, Sauvignon Blanc is the natural place to start. The 2021 Jules Taylor Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc captures the purity of the local fruit with aromas of passionfruit, lime zest and lemongrass, followed by notes of freshly crushed herbs and a touch of wet-stone minerality. It comes down to one simple truth: The best grapes make the best wines. It also helps to be on very friendly terms with the best growers. Come harvest time, you’ll find Taylor walking the vines, tasting berries for days on end, searching for the precise moment when sugar, acidity and flavor meet in perfect balance. Taylor makes the crucial decision of when to pick to ensure optimum results purely by taste, not by relying on results from the laboratory.
She is determined to show the world that Marlborough is not a “one-trick Sauvignon Blanc pony.” The winery offers a barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc as well as a honeyed, late-harvest style. Taylor is also a longtime proponent of the region’s other top cool-climate grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as emerging varieties like Grüner Veltliner, a crisp white of Austrian descent. Jules Taylor On the Quiet is a curated selection of single vineyard wines from sought-after Southern Valleys sites in Marlborough. The idea started with a perfect parcel of Sauvignon Blanc grapes, hidden at the back of the cellar in an old barrel and kept “On The Quiet (OTQ)” from the rest of the world (including husband George). Crafted in limited quantities, Taylor fondly refers to OTQ wines as her “personal indulgence,” a break from convention that show just how far winemaking has taken her. *
Helen Gregory is the founder and president of Gregory + Vine. She has worked in strategic brand management and communications for beverage industry leaders such as Moët Hennessy USA, Rémy Cointreau and STOLI, and has led award-winning hospitality, beverage and lifestyle campaigns for prestige clients from the European Union to Argentina, Australia, Chile, Israel, South Africa and across the United States.