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Friday, August 17, 2018

Kiwi Sauv Blancs

                           Sauv Blanc is the star of the show in the Marlborough wine district 

New Zealand has been historically a world leader when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc (SB) wines.  The classical Kiwi style is easily recognizable---a kind of in-your-face pungency of grass and citrus.  (One critic has even said that if you don’t like New Zealand Sauv Blancs, it’s because you were forced to mow the lawn as a kid).   

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is native to France.  The Loire Valley, known for its gigantic castles, is also famous for its SB.  In Bordeaux, the grape is mixed with Semillon to create an unctuous white Bordeaux.  But, it’s on New Zealand’s south island that the varietal morphs into something quite different from its heritage.   

Some of New Zealand’s most spectacular SBs come from the Marlborough wine region on the south island.  Producing >75% of all of New Zealand’s wines, this area’s flagship grape is SB.  Marlborough is a river valley that empties into the sea and its sandy-gravely soil makes for perfect drainage.  The low fertility of the soil also encourages concentration of flavors via lower yields.   The heavier soils produce the more herbaceous SBs, while its stonier soils left over from the river’s erosion impart more lush and tropical flavors.   Some scientists, however, think that a hole in the ozone layer over this region influences these bold fruit flavors.

                      Stony soils washed down over centuries by the river exert a strong influence

As in all wine, the weather plays a major influence.  New Zealand’s geography ensures that no vineyard is more than 80 miles from the coast.  This means maritime climates that are moderated by the sea---never too hot, but never too cold.  Such climactic factors ensure a long and steady growing season that allows grapes to ripen slowly.  Also, this allows for the development in balance between acids and sugars, one of the hallmarks of a well-crafted wine.

In my opinion the best renditions of Kiwi SBs are those that have tamed the grassy profiles to merely subtle background notes.  Dogpoint offers a well-made SB full of melon and passion fruit mixed with citrus and mineral flavors.  Often available at our local Costco for $20, it consistently delivers big in the quality/price department.  Greywacke (owned by the original winemaker at Cloudy Bay) also delivers a tremendous product in the same price range.  This one offers a superb rendition of well-integrated citrus, tropical, herbal, and mineral.  

Wine Knows will be visiting both of the above wineries on its 2020 harvest tour.  Currently we have 7 seats available:

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