Published NZME Regional Newspapers Tue 29 December 2015
Sauvignon Blanc. It’s the fuel that drives the engine room of our wine industry. So it stands to reason that the home of the world’s first International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration should be Marlborough, New Zealand’s largest wine region. That’s right, between Feb 1-3 2016, the movers and shakers of the wine world will convene to absorb a programme involving the emerging styles, vineyard and winemaking innovations, science, research, marketing, journalism and gastronomy of this great grape. Internationally respected, UK-based wine critic Oz Clark summed up the impact of New Zealand sauvignon blanc in his Wine Atlas when he wrote “No previous wine had shocked, thrilled, entranced the world before with such brash, unexpected flavours of gooseberries, passionfruit and lime, or crunchy green asparagus spears … an entirely new, brilliantly successful wine style that the rest of the world has been attempting to copy ever since.”
So in light of this building crescendo of capsicum and incoming hail of herbaceousness, I’ve decided to dig deeper into some fascinating sauvignon blanc facts that’ll have you sounding flash in front of your friends…
- Sauvignon Blanc grapes were first planted in Marlborough in 1973 and the first commercial quantities were produced in 1979. Since then, the variety has ballooned in popularity and now makes up 72 percent of New Zealand’s overall wine production.
- Sauvignon Blanc is now a $1.1 billion dollar export earner for our country representing 86% of all wine that we export.
- Nationally over 20,000ha of vineyard land is devoted to growing sauvignon blanc.
- Sauvignon blanc probably got its name from the French words sauvage (“wild”) and blanc (“white”)
- Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc had some sexy-time centuries ago and gave birth to Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Sauvignon blanc is responsible for the world’s most famous (and expensive) sweet wine, Château d’Yquem
This is a massive, tropical, truckload of tastiness powered by sweet lemon and passionfruit sorbet. It has all that crispy, crunchy acidity that we know and love in Marlborough sauvignon, yet it’s incredibly rich and complex and has strong, textural length of flavour. Simon McGeorge heads the team at Waipara Hills, and clearly crafting seriously good sauvignon blanc is his strongpoint. www.waiparahillswines.co.nz
Sacred Hill Orange Label Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 $19 ★★★★½
You can buy this wine pretty much everywhere, which is a good thing if you’ve a hankering for pungent, classic cut grass, lemony, limey notes, a twang of snappy acidity and a mid-palate rich in lemongrass, passionfruit, peach, pepper and a burst of basil. It’s zesty, fresh and has fish and chips written all over it. Widely available.
Richmond Plains Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2015 $21 ★★★★
Fact: Richmond Plains produced New Zealand’s first sauvignon blanc from fully-certified organic and biodynamic grapes years ago, and they’re still doing excellent work. Floral and forward, it’s stacked with peach and passionfruit, tangy citrus and even a squeak of feijoa makes it in there. It’s a sauvignon that’s not only terrifically, it’s got feel-good factor too. www.organicwines.co.nz
So you think you’re a bit of a sauvignon guru do you? Well one thing we’re extremely good at doing down here in Godzone is pushing the envelope, (which is much healthier than pashing the antelope) and here are two examples that’ll have you second-guessing everything you knew…
Amisfield Central Otago Fumé Blanc 2014 $35 ★★★★★
If you’ve never ventured further south than Marlborough for your sauvignon blanc, then woah nelly! Prepare yourself for latitude 45 in all its loveliness. Smooth, toasty, biscuit and magic, mealy notes are stitched through incredibly rich, nectarine and lemon-like layers of flavour in this outstanding, barrel fermented sauvignon from the Deep South. There’s a honeyed, spicy tone, lovely minerality, hints of dried herbs and a long, generously proportioned finish. www.amisfield.co.nz
Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2013 $30 ★★★★★
The Donaldson family in Waipara, North Canterbury, have been crafting this quirky version of sauvignon since AGES ago, and it’s now got something resembling a cult following for its incredibly complex, toasty, tropical and herbaceous flavours. A splash of semillon imparts a distinct ‘moist hay’ and roasted almond character to the lemony, passionfruit and gooseberry intensity of the sauvignon blanc, making it an incredible match for whole roasted fish with lemon and herbs. www.pegasusbay.com