I am really enjoying sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc again after too many years of simply tasting it the swirl, sniff, sip and spit way. I don’t know what has endeared me again to our king and queen of white wine varietals but maybe it was travelling overseas and missing the taste of New Zealand that is so lively and refreshing. As a result I’ve recently been taking a bottle of Sauv with me to put on the table at friends and rellie gatherings. It’s a great conversation or starter wine and terrific with salads. And it’s so encouraging when you hear someone say, “Yum, this is nice.”
Tasting the gold medal winners at the NZ International Wine Show for the Champions List booklet (now published and available at independent fine wine liquor stores around New Zealand) looked liked it was going to be terrifying with a line-up of 28 Sauv’s put in front of me. What if they all tasted the same? But the judges did a truly great job and picked not only typical Marlborough expressions, but some exciting alternative styles as well. And every wine had its own distinctive trait.
It was a scintillating result for Saint Clair with six of the ‘Pioneer Block‘ wines and the flagship Wairau Reserve going gold – all from 2013. Juiciness and texture was a similar trait. Interestingly five of the Block wines came from the Dillon’s Point subregion, Blocks 1,2,3, 18 and 20, while the multi award winning Block 24 is from Woodbourne.
The Wairau Reserve simply says Lower Wairau, which encompasses the Dillon’s Point area. It is selected by the winemakers and stakeholders from a tasting of all the vinified parcels that came into the Saint Clair Winery. It is the best of the best. And that’s how it presented to me when tasting the Saint Clair gold medal septet.
Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is concentrated and powerful with a hint of tomato joining summer herbs and a subtle sweaty note. It’s ultra impressive and complex with tropical fruit, waves of citrus surging with tangy notes of lime, lemon and orange, a vibrant herbaceousness with flinty nuances, smooth mouthfeel and exceptional length.
Riding the crest of the Sauvignon Blanc wave continues for Yealands Estate, The exciting Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2012 was the most awarded in New Zealand competitions last season, and the 2013 vintage under this label similarly impresses. Peter Yealands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is vibrant and pungent with juicy flavours of passionfruit , pineapple, summer herbs and lime with a smooth oily texture that makes it very, very appealing. It could quite well be my ‘go to’ wine this year. It was on promotion somewhere this week for just $11.99.
I loved all the Yealands wines: the juicy fresh Clearwater Cove Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013, the powerful and harmonious Yealands Estate Land Made Series Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and the more classical Yealands Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013. But it was the Yealands Estate Single Block M2 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from the lower Wairau Valley that had me swooning. If you want the metaphorical rocks and gravel in wine, the aroma of this wine has it. And with a tropical infusion to the scent it’s like being on a summer alpine hike and stopping to picnic on a tropical fruit platter beside a glacial river. Then the taste … complex and textural with exciting citrus and tropical fruit, an infusion of tomato stalk and summer herbs. A very delicious, juicy wine indeed.
Pernod Ricard had a great competition with their Triplebank Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013 getting the nod for the class trophy by the judges. Fresh and juicy with a zesty citrus vibrancy but lots of sweaty characters too. Like it or loathe it, it’s classical to a T. Gold medals also went to the tangy Stoneleigh Latitude Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013, the soft and textural Boundary Vineyards Rapaura Road Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 and the funky, smoky, wild yeast-influenced Brancott Estate Letter Series ‘B’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013
When it comes to alternative sauvs, I found it hard to resist Giesen The August 1888 Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – a soft, full-bodied, chardonnay-like Sauvignon Blanc with oak from barrel ferment adding textural complexity rather than flavour. The Fuder Single Vineyard Matthews Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2012, also made by Giesen, is funky with wild yeast and barrel ferment flavours infused with butterscotch and peach but retains its varietal expression with classical citrus brightness.
I don’t know much about Rapaura Springs but do know they entered two Sauvs and came away with two gold medals. I preferred the complex and intriguing Rapaura Springs Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 over the Rapaura Springs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 which seems a totally different style of wine with something that reminiscent of bath salts in there.
I was very excited to see Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 come through to the gold medal room. It was my first taste of mainstream 2013 vintage sauv earlier this year and I just loved it. It has a soft oily texture and delectable flavours of passionfruit, pineapple and lime with a cut grass nuance and a tangy herbaceousness. Love the new packaging too.
Value packed wines include Left Field Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 made by Te Awa, with juicy apple and pineapple and tangy citrus imparting a zingy vibrancy, while Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is a bright, zingy, crisp, clean, take-to-the-beach kind of style. The Ned Waihopai Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is another that’s often on promotion. It radiates summer flavours that are simply delicious.
The label of The Sisters Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 reminded me of doodles I used to do, and the vibrant punchy flavours are everything you expect from Marlborough.
Sileni The Straights Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is so zingy it almost seems spritzy. With loads of classical pungency and juicy passionfruit coming through, it’s very hard to resist.
It’s good to see Villa Maria back in the Sauvignon Blanc gold medal arena and a top one at that. Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 has honking Sauvignon Blanc aromas and tastes so juicy and delicious with some wild yeast funk that adds complexity and richness.
I’ve always found that Nautilus Sauvs very tightly bound on release. But give them time in the bottle and they are just sublime. In my opinion the Nautilus Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 was one of the best in the Sauvignon Blanc line-up. It’s fleshy now with roasted peach, tarragon and basil, underlying funky nuances and a juicy finish with a vibrant pungency. And as it flows across the palate it’s totally seamless.
And lastly Rockface Waipara Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013, the only gold medal winner not from Marlborough. This Waipara wine, made by Bishops Head, was one of my faves. The aromatics have an intriguing smoky nuance and it’s rich and fleshy in the palate with a textural softness that is very appealing. Tropical fruit, stone fruit and citrus combine in harmony and the bright tangy finish is pungent, powerful and long.