Sauvignon Blanc (Feb 2018)

It would be hard to exaggerate the extent to which Sauvignon Blanc dominates New Zealand’s wine output.  Over half the country’s wine flows from a single grape variety grown in a single region – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – and in 2017, Sauvignon Blanc accounted for 75 per cent of the country’s total grape harvest.

With their strongly herbaceous aromas and flavours, the 2017 Sauvignon Blancs exhibit pungent varietal characteristics.  Due to exceptionally heavy rain in early April – the main harvest month – 2017 has gone down (in the industry’s PR parlance) as a “challenging” year, but right now, the wines have lots of youthful impact.

Summer in Marlborough was “a bummer”, Framingham reported, and April rainfall in the region was 248 per cent of the long-term average. Disease pressure forced many blocks to be harvested at low levels of ripeness. However, Wine Marlborough, the regional body, declared quality-focused growers picked “clean, lower-brix Sauvignon Blanc fruit with pure aromatics and flavours.”  The top wines in this tasting – typically single-vineyard wines from the Wairau Valley – were surprisingly good.

But there’s more to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc than aromatic, punchy, new season’s wines.  The tasting also attracted rewarding 2014 vintage Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough and the Waipara Valley, proving that complex, barrel-fermented models can mature well for several years.