With the racy acidity still on his lips, Peter Dean gives us the lowdown on the Sauvignon Blanc Day’s tasting at London’s New Zealand House, and realises that not only is he actually quite fond of it, buy why it is so important to buyers in the premium UK on-trade.
“It’s a good day for showing Sauvignon Blanc, Chris,” Oz Clarke says as he peers across the glorious view of London’s skyline that you get from the penthouse of New Zealand House. It’s hot and clear here on May 6, the day earmarked by New Zealand Winegrowers as International Sauvignon Blanc Day. Oz was talking to Chris Stroud, Marketing Manager for New Zealand Winegrowers in Europe.
The first leavers from the Circle of Wine Writers’ AGM straggle in, sensibly eschewing a whisky tasting for the chilled, fruitiness of New Zealand’s top wine export.
The tasting of the 2015 Vintage is split between Classic Marlborough Blends, Sub-Regional Marlborough, Regional New Zealand and Wild Bunch, not a homage to the Sam Peckinpah classic Western but a collection of oaked and wild ferment Sauvignon Blancs and ones that have spent extended time on the lees.
It’s a quality vintage despite the 30% reduction in grapes – weightier on the palate and reduced on the aromatics. The premium sector will offer the best value quality-wise.
So here’s 6 things we learned from the tasting:
1 Lower alcohol is coming
The first fruits of the industry-funded $16m research programme is in evidence. 18 months in and there are already two lower alcohol Sauvignon Blancs on show, Villa Maria (9.5%) and Old Coach Road (10.5%). The former was the better and didn’t taste like de-alcoholised wine. Good structure, lots of fruit. Wish I had a bottle here right now.
2 Te Mata Cape Crest was standout
Terrific weight but the acidity ran through it like a backbone and kept the 14% alcohol at bay. Tempting nose that thankfully didn’t smell like passion fruit compote. Layers of interest aided by 9% Sémillon and 6% Sauvignon Gris.
3 It has to be 85% to be Sauvignon Blanc
You don’t have to declare the other varietals in the blend to call it Sauvignon Blanc so long as its 85% dominant. Didn’t know that.
4 Nelson is a region to watch
It’s got a different climate (warmer), maritime influence and all the cool cats are hanging out there. We tried Old Coach, Waimea, Seifried, Anchorage and Mahana. All had the tropical fruit turned down and more Old World grassiness turned up. A region to watch. Across the water Ohau Gravels is an even newer region coming on the map.
5 Not sure about oaked Sauvignon Blanc!
Have tried a lot and still don’t quite get it. Why would anyone want Dog Point‘s ‘Section 94’ over their straight-hitting Sauvignon Blanc. Best of the Wild Bunch was Brancott Estate ‘Chosen Rows’ 2010 which is a new release. Great balance, multi-layered, solid acidity. Delicious.
6 The 2015 vintage is indeed quality
This is the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that I like. There were virtually no fruit bombs. Lots of clean acidity-driven, well made and structured wines.
Time to unscrew one I reckon. What with London Wine Fair, it’s been a busy old week.
Peter, your point 3 is EU law and goes for any “varietal-labelled” wine. Thought that was pretty common knowledge in the trade? (it’s 75% majority in the US)
Thanks DC. Yes, you are probably right. However, on the site we are aiming at a broad knowledge base with some buyers knowing a great deal about drinks and others not so much. As we are in an iterative stage we will get a better understanding of the level of knowledge as we go along. Thanks for your comment.