On the perils of 2011 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blancs
|A pack of Sauvs
None battered though..
There’s no escaping the fact that 2011 was a tough year in the Hills. You need only to read the Shaw + Smith blog to get a little background as to the challenges of this most peculiar vintage. Still, as in every vintage, there is/will be exceptions – standout wines (and standout wineries) that defy any vintage expectations to hit serious heights. I’m not sure if said highlights are amongst these four wines though…
The main problem, or at least I think so, with many of these 2011 Adelaide Hills wines centres around the shape of the acidity (which sounds ridiculously esoteric but bear with me), with elevated malic acid and lower sugar levels making for wines that have a hardness of acidity to them, an unripe hardness to them even that is rather difficult to ignore. Couple that with the muddling, muddying effects of botrytis (which was particularly widespread in the Hills this year with whole vineyards left unpicked. It was quite a surreal sight driving through in June and seeing grapes still hanging on the vine) and you’ve got hard wines that don’t taste right.
Now, again, I don’t want to tarnish all the 2011 Adelaide Hills wines for, as mentioned, there will be great wines made, with the key to this greatness being largely centred around how much work was done in the vineyards. In 2011 for instance handpicking was essential and diligent spray applications really paid off, with those who didn’t adopt either (or not throughly enough) ultimately paying the price with fruit that was often unripe or so heavily botrytised that the resultant wines needed to be pasteurised and heavily filtered (or they’d end up as hard, brown coloured wines).
Bringing it all back to this little bracket of four 2011 vintage Adelaide Hills Sauvs and I found that, for my tastes at least, the better wines were the ones that countered this hardness with a little winemaking nous, the wines that used oak or a little residual sugar (or whatever really) to deliver more harmonious and more integrated wines. Regardless, there was less love here than you’d normally see in a bracket of well regarded Adelaide Hills Sauvs…
Tempus Two Copper Series Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $19.95
A thoroughly varietal beast this carried a snow pea nose that looks fresh and reasonably pure, with a nice hint of mushroomy lees characters on the edges. Palate is nicely balanced too with a little sweetness and the textural lift of oak richness to counter the crunchy, slightly sour acidity. I thought to this be just a
little short but entirely pleasant, the acid still carrying the grittiness of the vintage but with a softer edge than the others. Definitely pleasure to be had here and the easy leader of this pack. 17.5/91
Longview Whippet Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
10.5%, Screwcap, $18
There’s a crystalline purity to this that is really quite attractive, though I may be mistaking purity for simplicity…. Anyway, this is all herbs and lime juice, dancing along with tangy, almost salty acidity, making for almost a Sauvignon
Blanc margarita! Acidity seems more natural and less forced here too, though the palate ends pretty quickly and leaves something of a herbal aftertaste. Still, considering the $$ this is really a rather solid wine. 16.5/88
Grant Burge Kraft Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $21
Sadly I really struggled with this wine – it looked hard and parched and ungenerous, a story of herbs without fruit. The palate too looked sweet and already
quite advanced, with abrupt acidity and little in the way of fruit sweetness (just sugar sweetness). Not much of a fan I’m afraid.
Nepenthe Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
12.5%, Screwcap, $19.95
Another slightly unfun wine, kicking off with a somewhat flat, dull nose that was like washed out, grassy lime cordial capped off with a hint of botrytis in there too. The palate
has a woody hardness that suggests unripe fruit to boot, though not quite as abruptly or awkwardly as the Kraft. Quite a margin off Nepenthe’s best Sauvs this one… 14.5/82