The Noble Writ: Is the Bloom off the Kiwi?
In addition to aggressive export, the New Zealand wine community has been at the forefront of two revolutions. First, as an industry, it committed early to employing screwcaps to close wines. Second, it has committed to having all vineyards in the country using certified sustainable practices by 2012.
As commendable as those causes might be, it's what is in the bottle that counts.
|The Marlborough region is highlighted green (inset).|
The epicenter for sauvignon blanc is the Marlborough region of South Island, where the cooler climate results in the characteristic bright green fruit and vegetable flavors that make New Zealand sauvignon blanc such a unique wine. Several other regions produce sauvignon blanc, but two-thirds of it comes from Marlborough.
|Phillip Capper, Wikimedia Commons|
|The Wairau Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand|
In contrast to much of my wine drinking, my ideal New Zealand sauvignon blanc isn't much of a food wine. Maybe some Southeast Asian salads that bring a little heat and citrus -- or some light fish dishes on those occasions when you're happy to let the wine be the star. Mostly, though, it's a solitary sipper.
In the early days of New Zealand sauvignon blanc's availability in the United States, it seemed as if you could choose blindly from the shelf and get a good bottle. As the tasting for today's post confirmed, it's time to start exercising some serious care if you're looking for that characteristic Kiwi assault. I sampled three wines, and found that only one of them delivered what I expected.
(All wines for this tasting were purchased at the Clayton location of the Wine & Cheese Place.)
2008 Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough sauvignon blanc ($14): Much more restrained on the nose. Apple jelly, tangerine and tarragon. Nicely composed in the mouth, but it does not seem distinctly New Zealand. A disappointing showing from a usually reliable (if somewhat industrial) producer.
2008 Matua Marlborough sauvignon blanc ($11): Better nose than the Villa Maria with bright apple and passion fruit. Very strange on the palate -- the acid is really out of sync with the fruit, giving a rough, disjointed mouthfeel. Not recommended.
Dave Nelson is the author of the blog Beer, Wine and Whisky. He writes about wine for Gut Check every Tuesday.