I’m in a benchmarking mood today, and Sauvignon Blanc is in the tasting headlights.
The focus for this lineup was a wine that I think is amongst NZ’s best ‘classic’ Sauvignon Blanc styles – the Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I figured I’d open up the Dog Point and a flush of comparably priced Aussie and Kiwi Savvies and see what fell out. Easy.
But this lineup had me thinking about what will happen to the popularity of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in the next few years.
But for how long?
As Tim Atkin suggests, there could well be a moment when drinkers switch off from Marlborough Sauv Blanc. Much like when Australian Chardonnay fell out of favour 20 years ago, Sauv Blanc could simply fall out of fashion.
Domestically, you could argue that the over-saturation point is already approaching, as signalled by a slight (5% drop) in imports into Australia this year. The increase in exports for the UK, USA and Asia is currently soaking up any excess, but the Aussie market could well be the canary in the gold mine.
Of course I could just be being a grumpy bastard, and Marlborough Sauv will just continue exploring new markets. But in the longer run I’d still prefer to be making high quality wine rather than anything at the volume end, particularly as the best producers will be somewhat immune from market conditions.
Anyway, back to this lineup. No surprises that the Dog Point came out on top, and the ’15 looks like another top release, maybe even nudging the ’13. Good to see the strength of a few other wines in this lineup too…
Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
I can pretty much just paste the ’14 review in here and be done with it. Worth mentioning, again, what makes this wine good. For starters, it’s ripe. Like made from properly ripe grapes ripe. There’s a real grapefruit character here which i don’t see in many Marlborough Sauv and the flavours run perfectly through your mouth. Acid is soft, but still gives this enough of a backbone to satisfy. It’s maybe a little firm this year, but mouthwatering as ever. Absolute top shelf Kiwi Sauv, only out pointed by its Section brother. I’d prefer to drink it in six months time, hence the plus. Best drinking: 2016-2019. 18.2/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $25.50.
Terre à Terre Down to Earth Wrattonbully Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Hand picked in two passes, the first tranche fermented in tank and spent 5 months on lees, the second tranche picked five days later and whole bunch pressed into a new 3,000L foudre and a 2yr old 2,000L foudre. 28% of the blend is from the foudre, with that ferment very slow (4 months!) and left a little RS. pH 3.2, TA 6g/L, RS 1.7g/L. Water clear despite the oak ageing, the style lean and delicate, the acid all natural and refreshingly well integrated. It’s perhaps a little taut and grapefruity – definitely not Sancerre – but the lightly pineappley, even and well balanced palate is quite something for Sauvignon Blanc. Admirably good! Best drinking: 2015-2018. 18/20, 93/100. 13.3%, $26.
Soumah Single Vineyard Yarra Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015
This spends a few months on lees post ferment. When I first opened it this looked very reductive, but a quick ghetto decant and it blew off, revealing some stalky herbs, lemon, grapefruit and seriously intense acid. Linear and dry, this is impressively concentrated of just a teensy bit too angular. Good though. Best drinking: 2015-2017. 17.5/20, 91/00. 12.7%, $25.
Wirra Wirra Hiding Champion Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015
A tricky vintage in the Hills. Water clear, grass and lemon juice only the sprightly nose with a suggestion of something riper underneath. Tangy, grassy lemon juice palate is taut and very fresh, angular but with some passionfruit juiciness. A clean, by the numbers Adelaide Hills Sauv at the upper end of the quality scale of just a little herbal to be great. Best drinking: 2015-2017. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $24.
Longview Whippet Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Green straw. Cut grass, sweaty Sauvignon nose, if still quite lean, dry and acidic palate. Medium concentration, medium finish. Does what it says on the box, no more. Best drinking: 2015-2016. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $19.50.
Alkoomi Black Label Frankland River Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Thiol heavy, nettles and snappy herbs. It’s slightly sweet and sour, the palate cool and lean, fresh and long but bone dry. Sour finish is a bit distracting. Best drinking: 2015-2016. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $24.
Stoneleigh Wild Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Wild fermented Sauv Blanc with a little oak maturation too. Water clear, the slightly sweaty nose but not strictly thiol characters, sweaty and full palate combines a slightly thicker passion fruit rich mouthfeel with typically biting acidity. The whole package is more compelling than some similar priced Sauvs, if not quite as cohesive as I would like – a little harshness to the acid. Fair intensity though. Best drinking: 2015-2017. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $21.99.
Invivo Graham Norton’s Own Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
A partnership with English talk show host Graham Norton who crushed grapes live on his show. All proceeds from this wine go direct to Graham’s chosen charity, Dog’s Trust. Water clear, the highly aromatic nose packs in very juicy tropical fruit and some rather sour and lean palate. All nose, no fruit, it’s a wine trying to make a statement but not quite delivering. Best drinking: 2015-2016. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%.