Based purely on subjective gut feel, I’ve presumed that Sauvignon Blanc sales in Australia have peaked and over the past year or so are on the downward slope.
Turns out that I’m wrong.
According to 2017 IRI stats, Sauvignon Blanc sales have grown by 4% YOY in dollar amounts, even though value has dropped by 8%. That means we’re actually drinking loads more Sauv, just paying less for it – and much of the growth has been in private label sales.
That leads me nicely into this collection of Sauv Blanc from both sides of the ditch. In this lineup we’re covering both classic Marlborough styles, a few contemporary Australian wines (plus a cracking blend) and then more than a few middling disappointments.
If there’s any learning that comes from lineups like this it is that there are some fantastic Sauvignon Blanc based wines out there, despite the ocean of cheap wines that flood our retail liquor landscape.
Mitchell Harris Sauvignon Blanc Fumé 2016
A worked style style sourced from the Moonambel Vineyard in the Pyrenees. Johnno Harris has quite a knack for crafting refined whites and bubbles and this is tasty wine. Wild fermented in tank and barrel, with up to 20% of the blend spent time on skins and 80% of the blend spends 6-8 months in 15% new oak barrels. It’s very much a fumé style, with a twist of passionfruit before the savoury, background winemaking influences tone down the fruit and adding a little meringue and vanilla for good measure. Dry, cool and sophisticated, this balances ripeness and fruit expertly. More Loire or Bordeaux Blanc than anything, and has a very stark freshness that is quite appealing. I’m a fan. Best drinking: 2017-2019. 18.1/20, 93/100. 13%, $27. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Dog Point remains the benchmark Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, with a level of detail not always seen in the style. Sourced from the family’s organic vineyards, this 2016 is an almost aggressively aromatic wine this year, with more herbs and thiols. Yet underneath it’s still a quintessentially ripe wine, with punchy fruit flavour and a long, powerful finish. It’s a very intense Sauv, yet the acid never looks hard – it’s integrated, real and anything but green. A powerhouse Sauv and still the archetype, even in a more herbal style this vintage. Best drinking: 2017-2018. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $28. Would I buy it? Yes.
Nautilus The Paper Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Like the Mitchell Harris, this is a fumé style. The inaugural release it handpicked, barrel fermented and spent 7 months a single old cuve. There’s an extra width here thanks to the extra time in bottle but it just gives this composure. Has that creamed asparagus nose that is almost like the American fumé model, but its fresher than that. Has a contrast between green tart fruit and the soft edges of barrel ferment, the palate dry and all ripe fbut with t textural volume. Real flavour intensity though. This is really nice, ripe, complex Marlborough Sauv. Best drinking:2017-2018. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? I’d go a bottle sure.
Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Always a big wine and true to form here. Sourced from a few vineyards in Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, it’s a full, tropical style, proud in its passionfruit juicy ripeness. Maybe a little tinny on the finish, but the generosity of tropical flavour and firm acidity all add up to a quality wine. It’s a very distinctive Sauv though, which fans will love and others hate. I like it, but couldn’t drink much of it. Best drinking: 2017-2018. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $27NZ. Would I buy it? I’d have a glass.
Grace Farm Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2016
Grace Farm are quietly building a portfolio of well-made Margaret River wines. This blend is on the money too. 10% of the blend saw new French oak, Very much led by Sauv aromatics, this has nettles and lemon lime with a twist of herbs. Not unripe though – there is quite punchy fresh fruit here, the palate showing good intensity of flavour. Freshness, but with a dash more complexity than most. High quality fruit at the core is the joy here for sure. Best drinking: 2017-2018. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.8%, $21. Would I buy it? Great drinking for the dollars. I’d share a bottle.
Leeuwin Art Series Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Leeuwin’s premium Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc. 30-50% is barrel fermented and the final wine spends 7-9 months in oak. Still retains the grassy Sauv edge, but it’s a textural style. Maybe a little too neutral? It’s a more subtle style, but not quite the depth to match. It’s almost nondescript. A fair drink but no fireworks. Best drinking: 2017-2019. 17/20, 90/100. 13.2%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
Leeuwin Estate Siblings Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2015
Leeuwin’s more classic Margaret River blend. Includes some barrel fermented Semillon. Simple grassy fruit but there is texture through the middle. More bottle age has rounded the edges of this style, though that also softens the appeal. Pleasant and has some palate width, but that’s about it. Best drinking: 2017. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $22. Would I buy it? No. I’d like to see a newer vintage though as historically there’s appeal here.
Toi Toi Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016
A well-priced Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough Wine Company. Exclusive to Dan Murphys and something of an own brand. Real lifted juiciness – that passionfruit really bursts out of the glass. It’s a little sweet and sour, but the lemon juice palate is really quite nice with just a little sweetness. One of the better budget Savvies. Best drinking: 2017. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $10.95. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Stoneleigh Wild Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Wild fermented – that’s the wild bit. Plump and slightly off-dry style with sweetened passionfruit flavours on a round palate. While commercially it probably kicks some goals, I’m ultimately not sure if that sweetness really helps this style – really dulls the flavours. Still, it has some palate intensity. Best drinking: 2017. 16/20, 87/100. 13%, $19.99. Would I buy it? No.
d’Arenberg Broken Fishplate Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Curious Adelaide Hills Sauv Blanc. Basket pressed and partially barrel fermented. Sharp, tart and comes up short. Acid really drives this, and it pulls up short without the fruit to carry off the acidity. Not quite. Best drinking: 2017. 15.5/20, 85/100. 11.6%, $20. Would I buy it? No.
Jacobs Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Clearly varietal, but the sweet and sour palate struggles to nail the balance. By the numbers Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc of limited appeal. Best drinking: 2017. 15/20, 84/100. 12.6%, $17.99. Would I buy it? No.