Wine Guide – Soulful Sauvs

While Chardonnays might be making a comeback and a lot of people are ‘branching out’ and trying different varietals, it is still the Sauvignon Blancs that dominate the landscape when it comes to our favourite white wines.

It is of course the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that we have to thank for the meteoric rise of wine exports from New Zealand and putting New Zealand on the map when it comes to ‘new world’ wines. Sauvignon Blancs are traditionally from the French Sancerre wine region where you’ll find the wine to be have a lot more minerality and none of the big fruity aromatics and tropical flavours that make our Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc so distinct. From the 90s when our Sauvignon Blancs first started to get recognition on the world stage to today, Sauvignon Blanc still maintains the ranks as our biggest selling varietal, with the mighty Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs topping them all.

It’s no secret that the 2017 growing season was one of the most challenging in a long time for our winemakers. Hit with three cyclones in just a few short months, the challenge was to get the grapes in before the wet weather ruined the crop but also ensuring that the grapes achieved optimum ripening. While it certainly wasn’t the best season and the quality and yield was a big issue, it is amazing just how well these winemakers did under the circumstances. Here is a selection of the 2017 vintage wines that we tried over the last month or so. Don’t wait try these though as Marlborough Sav’s are best consumed within the first six months, especially those with the big tropical fruity aromatics since these flavours will dissipate after a few months in the bottle.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Wairau and Awatere Valleys, Marlborough)

Villa Maria is New Zealand’s most awarded winery and under the helmsmanship of Sir George Fistonich has become New Zealand’s largest family owned winery. While they produce over 70 different wines under multiple labels, the team at Villa Maria are quick to point out that they still strive to maintain the feel of being a boutique winery. Each of their winemakers is dedicated to producing outstanding wines under the multiple ranges within Villa Maria.

The Cellar Selection is one of the best value for money ranges on the market. The quality is consistently higher than the price suggests (the quality of a reserve wine but a lot less expensive). The Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc is all about capturing the essence of Marlborough. To do that they have created blend of selective parcels from both the Wairau and Awatere Valleys. The warmer Wairau valley provides the big fruity aromatics and tropical flavours while the cooler Awatere valley parcels provide the fresh herbal and grapefruit characteristics.

Mills Reef Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Awatere, Marlborough)

One of the most awarded small wineries in the country, Mills Reef is well known for producing outstanding Syrahs and bordeaux style wines from their Hawkes Bay vineyards. However a New Zealand winery wouldn’t be complete without a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc as part of their portfolio.

The grapes for this delicious Sauvignon Blanc were grown in the highly acclaimed Awatere wine region of Marlborough. Despite the harsh conditions of the 2017 harvest season, Mills Reef managed to produce clean, healthy, flavoursome fruit that has translated to a delicious vibrant Sauvignon Blanc, in an off-dry style.

With aromas of intense passionfruit and lime, accompanied with attractive cut-grass, lemon citrus and floral notes. Textured and well balanced it matches beautifully with Asian dishes like Singaporean Chilli prawns or grilled teriyaki salmon.

Opawa Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Rapaura, Marlborough)

The name Opawa means ‘smokey river’ in Maori. The Opawa vineyard is situated on the old riverbed where the Wairau river once flowed. The Rapaura region in Marlborough is north of Blenheim, bordering the Wairau river (where it now flows). The land in Rapaura is some of the most sort after in the Marlborough region and one of the best areas for growing Sauvignon Blanc. The classic Rapaura gravels absorb the sun’s warmth during the day, radiating back onto the grapes by moonlight, to create the highly aromatic flavours for which Marlborough is so highly reputed. They also pick their grapes by moonlight to ensure that pristine flavours are captured in grapes.

Bright lemon in colour with a hint of green, aromas of citrus blossom, passion fruit and hints of fresh herbs leap from the glass. The palate is beautifully weighted, fresh and intense with lovely lime, grapefruit and passionfruit flavours coming through with crisp acidity and a long, juicy, mouth-watering finish.

Try this with seared tuna, zucchini and lemon salad with a green olive smash. Google this recipe it was absolutely stunning with this wine!

Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Awatere Valley, Marlborough)

When Yealands refer to this wine as being single vineyard, I find it rather hard case, the Yealands Estate Seaview vineyard is one of the largest in the country – in fact so large it could be a small country in itself. The Seaview vineyard is situated on a stretch of windswept land overlooking the Pacific and within the Awatere region. There were a lot of doubters back when Peter Yealand first announced his intention of growing vines on the land less than 10 years ago but the winery already has well over 1,000 accolades to their name including a few international trophies as well.
As far as the eye can see when standing on the estate are the Yealands vines and because the sheer size there are major variations in the wines from one end to the other.

This fresh and crisp wine is perfect on its own or serve it up with some freshly shucked oysters. As they claim, it is the proximity to the sea that makes their wines the perfect match for any seafood.

Mud House Sub Region Series Rapaura Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Rapaura, Marlborough)

Mud House is a winery that has achieved a lot of accolades for producing some outstanding Sauvignon Blancs. For over 10 years they have been the official supplier to Emirates Team New Zealand and continue to be leaders in the Sauvignon Blanc market.

Mud House developed the Sub Region Series range in order for their winemakers to express the unique flavours coming from the various sub regions within Marlborough. The variations in soil, aspect and climate contribute to unique characteristics of each varietal. We all know that wines from Marlborough have a distinctive profile but it is the subtleties of the different sub regions within Marlborough that the winemakers at Mud House wanted to capture.

This Sauvignon Blanc from the Sub Region Series is from Rapaura, situated at the eastern end of Rapaura Road where the convergence of boney braid river soils and younger silts gives an overt lift and pungency to Sauvignon Blanc; while adding lovely crunchy phenolic textures.

The palate is full and complex with a balanced quenching finish. The perfect accompaniment to pan fried snapper with a fresh rocket salad.

Trinity Hill, Homage Syrah, 2015 (Hawke’s Bay)

Trinity Hill, in the heart of the Gimblett Gravel region of Hawkes Bay, and named after the three small peaks that form a backdrop to the winery itself, has a reputation for producing outstanding Chardonnays and Bordeaux style reds that are so well suited to the Hawkes Bay region. They also produce this outstanding Syrah – the flagship of the Trinity Hill range and one of the high flyers of Hawke’s Bay Syrahs.

Founder and chief winemaker at the time, John Hancock created this highly acclaimed Syrah after spending time working under iconic winemaker Gerard Jaboulet of Côte-Rôtie, in the Rhône valley, who took Hancock under his wing.

Impressed by John’s work ethic, Gerard gifted John with Syrah cuttings from the La Chapelle vineyard in Hermitage and Viognier cuttings from Les Jumelles in Cote Rotie. The Homage is in honor of Hancock’s inspiration and mentor. Traditionally blended with a small amount of Viognier, and produced from grapes grown in the Gimblett Gravels, the Homage is an alluring deep red with indigo hues and beautiful floral notes, hints of spice and berries on the nose. The palate is full and rich with elements of blackberries, toasty oak and hints of pepper. With strong tannins and incredible texture this is a wine to truly savour or, if you can resist, keep in your cellar for years to come.

“It’s our spoilt child in the winery. It’s our flagship wine and a wine that we only make in years that is justified of this label…it’s essentially the best wine we can make in our winery”, explains winemaker at Trinity Hills, Warren Gibson. “We want this wine to be in all the best cellars and restaurants in the world”.

Mount Michael Pinot Gris 2016 (Central Otago)

Mount Michael winery have been producing wine for more than 20 years, but to date it has been a fairly closely guarded secret, only shared among a select few. The winery is owned and operated by Anna Robbie and at 28 years of age Anna is one of New Zealand’s youngest winery owners. In her short time at helm she has attracted a semicult following with the high quality wines they produce.

In September I raved about their Bessies Block Pinot Noir and following that their Rosé, now I’ve had a chance to try their Pinot Gris and I am hooked. The wine comes from a single vineyard in Lowburn – on the banks of Lake Dunstan, an area renowned for producing outstanding Pinot Noir and … it would appear … outstanding Pinot Gris too Central Otago is the home of stone fruit and the area where most of our apricots come from. These stone fruit characters seem to come through in abundance with this wine. Pronounced aromas of peaches and apricots come through on the nose with baked pear and hints of lemongrass. The exquisite stone fruit flavours also come through on the palate, melding seamlessly with a lovely balance of acidity and sweetness with a beautifully rounded and soft finish.

Being slightly ‘off dry’ I recommend this with something a little spicy like a Thai Green Chicken curry. But now the secret is out and you can buy it direct from the vineyard