Article

SWA 2011: VARIETAL CLASSICS - NZ SAUVIGNON BLANC

Sauvignon Blanc
The customers’ love of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc shows no sign of abating, and the strong performance of this category shows why they may have a point

The big question here was whether reports of the category’s demise were justified or whether this was just a case of sommeliers getting as bored of the style as bartenders are with mojitos, and pining for something different. A situation made all the more problematic by the fact that consumers show no sign of getting fed up with it.

‘You still have to have New Zealand Sauvignon on a list – and people will pay a premium for it,’ pointed out Tom Forrest. True, and perhaps just as well, since our tasters weren’t shy in the early stages of putting through wines at the upper end of the competition’s £12 cut-off point for Varietal Classics.

‘These top wines would be around £40 on a list, but they would still sell at that price – they were generally worth what they were asking,’ said Mikaël Hannequin.

Irina Atanasova was less certain, though. ‘Upwards of £30 on a list, these wines are a harder sell. It’s tough to convince people to pay more’, she said.

In fact, there tended to be two styles. At the lower level, the wines were clean, fresh, light and breezily aromatic – a style that seemed to be handled pretty well, and most of the tasters were happy with the simpler style of these wines. 

It was when the prices started to move northwards that it all got a bit more complicated, and the hit rate became rather more sporadic. Essentially, success or not was often dictated by whether the wine was in the richer, more tropical style (less popular) or the elegant, minerally, grassier style that was favoured by the sommeliers for its balance and food-matching possibilities. Or ‘smokiness and grass, rather than just citrus’, as Charlotte Jonasson put it.

True, there were signs of over-cropping – ‘some wines were just dead,’ growled one taster – and the passionfruity tropical style isn’t to everyone’s taste. But there was plenty of varietal character, decent value for money and proof that, while there are obviously some entrants to the category who are leaping on the Sav-wagon, those who are serious and thoughtful are still making very good wines for competitive prices.

Overall then, this was a pretty successful category, and one that seems to have real strength and depth. Not only did it manage to provide three Golds at a variety of price-points – usually a good indicator – there were also a lot of new names to SWA among the medal-winners.

“The majority of these wines were clean, fresh and elegant, without hard acidity. ”
Charlotte Jonasson, Boxwood Café


“New Zealand Sauvignon ticks all the boxes for people and it’s not hugely expensive. You don’t have to try to sell it. ” Rhys Griffiths, Orwell’s

GOLD LIST

Awatere Pass Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand
£5.40 @ Greene King
SWA 2011 Gold List Green apples, gooseberry and citrus flavours throughout, with a grapefruit-pith finish, this is medium bodied with good balance. ‘This is a great-value wine,’ said Irina Atanasova. Laura Rhys, ex-Hotel TerraVina, agreed. ‘This would be perfect to serve “by the glass”.’

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£7 @ Maisons Marques et Domaines
SWA 2011 Gold List Instantly recognisable as Kiwi Sauvignon with its gooseberry/elderflower axis, this has intense aromas of passion fruit, pink grapefruit, a crunchy palate and a mineral twang. ‘An attractive “by the glass” option,’ said Rhys Griffiths.

The Pioneer Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£10.40 @ Enotria
SWA 2011 Gold List Vibrant and inspiring, this top Kiwi Sauvignon offers elderflower, green
gooseberry, asparagus and nettles alongside passionfruit and melon notes on a mineral-infused palate. ‘There’s a fine, clean mouthfeel and a long finish,’ said Laura Ward, Vivat Bacchus.

SILVER

Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£5.81 @ Babich Wines UK
With tart, tropical fruit as well as grassy, grapefruit flavours, this is more restrained than many Kiwi Sauvignons. Its nice texture underpins a well-balanced palate with pleasant mineral hints and herbaceous notes.

Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£6.69 @ Hatch Mansfield
Plenty of crisp aromatics, with gooseberry alongside guava and lime leaf, accompanied by
a mineral streak all the way through. ‘There’s a beautiful, charming fragrance,’ said Mikaël Hannequin. ‘Clean cut and very moreish.’

Tiki Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£6.99 @ Thierry’s
Herbaceous and fresh, this off-dry example has a fine complexity of flavours: passionfruit, orange and melon alongside gooseberry and green pepper. ‘Elegant,’ said a satisfied Tom Forrest.

Hunter’s Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£7.47 @ Laytons
With pear notes on the nose, this has a good mouthfeel, clean mineral, mango and passionfruit notes on the palate, and a long, silky, lemony finish. ‘Racy acid and good concentration,’ said Natasha Hughes.

The crossings Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Awatere Valley, Marlborough, new zealand
£7.62 @ Mentzendorff & Co
With green apple, gooseberry and citrus flavours, this has mineral and herbal notes to accompany its good acidity and balance.

Goldwater Wairau Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£8.74 @ D&D Wines International
Intense passionfruit nose with hints of grapefruit and tropical fruit continues along with grass, lime and pea on the palate. ‘The excellent acidity cleanses the palate with just a hint of ginger on the finish,’ said Mark Deamer. ‘Good value.’

Wither Hills Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£9.61 @ Bibendum
Charming, delicate aromas of lime and gooseberries,’ said Mikaël Hannequin. This is fantastically crisp with a moreish freshness.

BRONZE

Anapai River Sauvignon Blanc NV, Marlborough, New Zealand
£5.31 @ Waverley TBS
Typically intense with pungent grassy and tropical notes, this has hints of sweetness and a zippy finish. ‘The depth means it would go well with our carpaccio of beef with black truffle shavings,’ said Nick Chiu.

Coopers Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand
£7.25 @ Berkmann Wine Cellars
Clean, green and refreshing, floral notes join underripe tropical fruits leading to
a lime-infused finish. ‘There’s a gravelly mineral character and high acidity,’ noted
Garry Clark, The Chester Grosvenor.

Metis Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
£9.67 @ Carte Blanche Wines
Perfumed and aromatic, with peachy fruit, hints of smokiness and subtle jasmine tea notes leading to a medium-bodied palate. ‘The acid is well integrated with ripe Golden Delicious apple and fresh peach flavours,’ noted Emily O’Hare of The River Café.


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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