We don’t get out for dinner often; with kids, work and general “stuff” to be done around the house, but we recently made that happen. We were supposed to travel over the Valentines, but the roads were cut, so out we went, and of course being Valentines, there were more people around than a Drug Intervention at the Titans Rugby League Club, and not having booked because we weren’t supposed to be here, we just managed to sneak into a spot at the third place we stopped at. By that time I was drier than an Englishman’s bath mat and could have eaten a horse and chased the jockey for dessert.
The wine list was interesting, but what amazed me was the sheer amount of Sauvignon Blanc (SB) on the list, especially the stuff coming from across the ditch. New Zealand SB especially that from the Marlborough region of NZ is Australia’s best selling wine. In 2009, New Zealand SB overtook chardonnay as the top selling white wine in Australia; with Kiwi savvy now accounting for 39 percent of the white wine sold across the Tasman. And if you drill down a bit on those stats, you find that of the 20 top-selling SB’s, 17 are from New Zealand, while only three are Australian.
Of course there are those big names out there like Giesen, Oyster Bay, Villa Maria, along with the plethora of Coles and Woolworths owned brands that are on the shelves at the big bottleshops (check www.whomakesmywine.com.au to see the list of 240ish names these guys pump out, I won’t get on my soapbox about this though, eg how woolworths own tasting panels rate their own house wines etc).
And to be honest there isn’t anything really wrong with most of the New Zealand savvies that we see here if that’s what you are looking for and that’s what you like. They deliver the same tastes time and again, generally not varying between vintages. And that’s fine, but for me I generally find that most of the stuff we see here is too kiwi fruit, too much passion fruit and, in a lot of the lower end of the market, it’s a bit like Golden Circle tinned fruit salad and some I even find to be a bit pongy, almost BO-ish.
But if you love your sav blanc, is there anything out there for those wanting to move away from that up-front fruit driven style that has become so popular.
The short answer is yes. For a while now we’ve been trying a lot of different SB’s through all varying price points, from $3 to $60. To me the best examples we’ve tried have used barrel fermentation to leave lingering touches of oak, wines with a silken texture and layers flavour complexities, that nutty yeasty complexity that sends cork-dorks wild, subtle details, along with myriad of tricks and talents that the winemakers have learnt over the years. Techniques that would be more at home with chardonnay, semillon or riesling.
Ultimately there will always be a place for that easy drinking style, but the sheer popularity of sauvignon blanc, might just end up being what drives people away from it, much like the decline of Australian Chard.
On the other hand if you are one of those people that don’t like the variety simply because of that popularity, then you are truly missing out. It’s definitely time to start trying some of the other styles out there and seeing what good sauvignon blanc can do.
Five of the more interesting Sauvignon Blancs:
The Fuder Single Vineyard Selection Matthews Lane Sauvignon Blanc – The Fuder is a new premium label from the team at Giesen, a team that has shown over the years that they know how to knock out savvy. It’s a much more complex style of sav blanc, and all the better for it. Shows dry grass, ripe white nectarine, white peach, a nutty complexity and flowing, almost creamy texture to it. Superb long finish to it. So far I’ve only been able to source The Fuder online, at much less than it’s RRP of around $55. Oh FYI a fuder is a 1000 litre oak fermenter.
Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – there’s probably only a point or two, depending on your tastes, between this and the Fuder. The yeast contact gives this a nutty, toasty complexity, with minerality to it that I can’t quite pin down. A great texture, it carries some weight in the mouth, yet has concentration and restrained power and purity to it that is just fantastic. Lovely finish. RRP is around $26, generally around $22 -$24.
Taltarni Fumé Blanc – a blend of fruit from Victoria’s Pyrenees Valley and Tasmania’s Coal Valley. 50% of the wine is fermented and aged in oak, with 20% being naturally fermented. It gives a wine with intense citrus and stone fruit with the oak giving a nice spicy note. Creamy in mouthfeel, with a great acidity which gives it a driving length and persistence on the tongue. Superb winemaking techniques here make a serious savvy. Around $22
Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – I’m really surprised the Cape Crest isn’t on more wine lists around the traps. It is so easy to match foods with as time on oak gives it toasty notes, almost a smoked fig type complexity. Pears and lime layered with white flowers and lemon curd. Great acid structure to it. And evolves so well with time in the bottle to develop richness to it. Around $22
Shaw + Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2014– the Grange of Australian Sauvignon Blanc, it’s zippy on the tongue with fruit and grassy notes, yet restrained too. Almost like a performance motor in a sports car, you know it can go, and it’s only holding back at that 60kmh speed. Great feel as it rolls around in the mouth, with all that zesty citrus leading the charge, with a nice clean acid finish. Superb stuff, and often on Halliday’s year ending Top 100. Around $22.