A veritable ‘Forrest’ of grape varieties

The mists of time tend to cloud one’s memories, but my first exposure to Forrest wines must have been the late 1990s when I was working for a (now closed) Dunedin wine store. With children at varsity and old friends here, John and Brigid Forrest, founders of Marlborough’s Forrest Wines, were regular visitors to Dunedin hosting many popular and successful tastings of their portfolio.

Their range was typical of Marlborough at the time, though their chenin blanc may have been an early hint at their fascination for the less "mainstream". A Hawke’s Bay venture added a Bordeaux blend to the mix, while their Collection Series saw the introduction of a blended white "The White" — a radical departure for the time. Vineyards in the Waitaki Valley and Central Otago followed, further extending the offering.

That early fascination for less mainstream grapes saw the Forrests plant a raft of varieties that were new to New Zealand, their evolving portfolio likely one of the most diverse in the country. John was also an early advocate for screw caps, and a pioneer in the development of lower alcohol wines.

Fast-forward to the present and John and Brigid’s daughter Beth now heads the company. Her bio suggests some mad scientist qualities (undoubtedly picked up from her parents) in her willingness to experiment and push the boundaries, but even she had initial doubts about the breadth of wines they produced. Those qualms about inheriting such a diverse range have given way to recognition that they are a major point of difference for the company, attracting consumers keen to step off the beaten path.

Albarinno, gruner veltliner, chenin blanc, petit manseng (one of only three in New Zealand), semillon, lagrein (off a leased vineyard) and more. Many are made in understandably small quantities, so if you are looking to broaden your wine experience, the Forrest cellar door or their mailing list will be the best way to track these down.


2019 Forrest Marlborough petit manseng


Price $28
Rating Excellent


Powerful nose, smoke,
Barley Sugar, exotic fruits.
Rich and dense palate,
again tropical and exotic
fruits, dry honey, spices,
evident sweetness here,
yet there’s a tangy aspect
(hinting at Sour Worms),
which transforms that
sweetness. This pushes
some very different
buttons, and may be best
enjoyed by itself, or better
still, shared with good




2020 Forrest Marlborough lagrein


Price $35
Rating Excellent to outstanding


Tar, bramble, peppery spice,
mixed fruits, dusty hints, nice
complexity. Richly fruited,
great depth of flavour,
showing more savoury
aspects with blueberry,
spice and stony
minerality. For all its
power, it’s not a bruiser,
backed by fine, yet
building tannins and
bright acidity, which lends
freshness and vibrancy.
A rare New Zealand
example of the grape,
and classy stuff.




2021 Forrest Marlborough malbec


Price $35
Rating Very good to excellent


Liqueur fruits, perfume,
florality, subtle but attractive.
Red fruits, spice and
earthiness lead, darker fruits
and charriness follow,
leading to a
sweetly-fruited close.
There’s a hint of kernel
adding a bittersweet
element, the tannins
really evident, balancing
the fruit sweetness. The
inherent depth creeps up
on you, perhaps not yet
expressing all that it can