Most people tend to think of Sauvignon Blanc as an un-oaked wine, but some of the most interesting sauv blancs that are floating around on the shelves in the local bottleshop these days, are the ones that have seen time in oak barrels.
The use of oak in sauv blanc has been creeping back in over the last decade or so, and its not surprising because, winemakers, like the rest of us, can get a little bored in their job and like to experiment with their creations, or they are the type of person that likes to keep pushing their boundaries, trying something new and learning all the time. Either way it’s those winemakers that are knocking out some of the more interesting sauv blancs. Using techniques that would be more at home with chardonnay, Riesling or Semillon winemaking: the use of barrel fermentation to leave lingering touches of oak; wines with a silken texture and layers flavour complexities; subtle details, along with myriad of tricks and talents that the winemakers have learnt over the years.
Two of the more interesting oaked SB’s, that are at reasonable price points, come from across the ditch in the form of Cape Crest from Te Mata and the Sound of White from Catalina Sounds. Both are so far removed from the typical NZ wine that we see here that often carry too much kiwi fruit, too much passion fruit and green capsicum. Yes, Australia does have a lot of wineries that are making some interesting wooded SB, De Bortoli’s Phi, most of Larry Cherubino’s wines and Ten Minutes by Tractor are a few that spring to mind, but they can be hard to find, and aren’t as consistent from vintage to vintage as the two Kiwi labels are.
Both Te Mata and Catalina Sounds are well established wineries, with Te Mata being located in the North Islands Hawkes bay district, and Catalina Sounds located on the South Islands Marlborough area. Both wineries use their own estate grown premium sauvignon blanc fruit to make outstanding wines, that spend about eight months on oak, and have benefited from an extra year of development in the bottle. Both are a delight to drink, there’s texture to them that you don’t expect from SB’s the freshness of fruit is still there, front and centre and never dominated by the oak. Aromatics are still youthful and fresh and are able to take short term cellaring (5years) which allows them to develop interesting aged characteristics.
Ultimately there will always be a place for that easy drinking, uncomplicated style of Sauv Blanc, but eventually as your eye turns from SB onto something with a little more to it, then the oaked Sauvignon Blanc style is definitely one to look at.
Te Mata Cape Crest 2014 – the new 2015 release shouldn’t be too far from hitting the bottleo shelves, however this 2014 release is such a cracker that it’s worth trying to find now. Super smooth and glossy feel to it on the mouth, with lime, passionfruit and grapefruit. Touches of almond and toast with a light chalkiness to it, the finish is long with that toast coming through. Well turned out wine and will work with a variety of dishes including light veal or pork dishes. Around $30
Catalina Sounds Sound of White 2014 – the 2014 vintage has taken a few awards over its time, as have all the Catalina wines for that fact. This is a restrained wine with a great zippy acid backbone through it, citrus flavours dominate with dried herbs and stone fruits playing minor roles in there, traces of flint too. The time in oak has given it a great polished feel in the mouth but the oak never overwhelms the fruit. Great match to seafood but its got enough going on to work with heavier poultry meals. Around $30