In honor of this years International Sauvignon Blanc Day (June 16th) we hosted a fantastic seminar here at K&L to highlight the huge array of styles and regional diversity of New Zealand Savvy. We were delighted to welcome Master of Wine Bob Campbell to the Redwood City store to talk about the wines and NZ wine as a whole. Bob, who is from New Zealand, is perhaps the foremost authority on the country's wines with decades of experience tasting, judging, and writing about them.
The lineup was chosen to represent both the diversity of styles being produced in NZ, as well as the distinct regional and even sub-regional flavor profiles you can find within a category so often unfairly stereotyped as “Gooseberry / grassy / herbal / jalapeno” in character.
The lineup included wines from Matinborough, Marlborough, Central Otago and Waipara. We also included largely unoaked vs barrel fermented styles and even threw in a wine that is blended with 30% Semillon for a true white Bordeaux style expression of the varietal. The tasting really highlighted the quality of wines being produced and the dramatic diversity of flavors, textures and terroir. Here are the wines that we tasted and my notes on the experience:
This wine was beautifully restrained showing lots of minerality from Martinborough’s unique soils. Mostly on the white blossom and citrus spectrum of flavors with a freshness to the acidity and lovely wet stone mineral quality. The wine is mostly aged in stainless steel with just a very small portion seeing some time in neutral wood to enhance lees contact and give mouthfeel to the wine. The wine really benefited from being open for a while and became more expressive as the tasting progressed.
A very classic expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc showing just why this region has become so world renowned for this varietal. It is highly aromatic with a combination of passion fruit and lychee from the warmer Wairau valley component, then snappier lime zest, tomato leaf and subtle capsicum from the Awatere Valley fruit that makes up a good proportion of the wine. Again TWR’s Savvy was largely raised in stainless steel with about 20% seeing some time in neutral puncheon barrels. This wine has a real purity and ethereal texture on the palate, with a superbly long lingering finish.
A fascinating wine showing concentrated ripe, juicy melon flavors with some bitter sweet citrus notes and mouthwatering acidity. Grown in Central Otago, a region more renowned for Pinot Noir, this Savvy makes the argument for more to be produced here! The secret to this wine I believe is the dramatic diurnal swings of temperature that this high elevation, continental climate enjoys. The warm days give powerful ripe fruit characteristic and eliminate many of the varietals characteristic “herbaceous” or “green” notes. However the cool nights preserve a lovely acidity in the wine to keep it fresh and bright on the palate. Schist soils and a wild yeast ferment combine to give this wine lots of energy and drive on the palate.
A very experimental wine from one of the country’s best known winemakers Kevin Judd. Kevin was one of the key figures behind Cloudy Bay’s rise to international notoriety. Greywacke (named after the type or rock found in Marlborough’s alluvial gravel valleys) is his new project. His “wild” Sauvignon Blanc is exactly that! Fermented entirely with wild/native yeast and entirely done in French oak barrels. This wine has a real savory component with fresh cut herbs and fern. Lots of yeast and nutty characters, a hint of matchstick and flint suggest the wines slight inclination toward reduction but never go to a place that negatively effects the wines expression. The finish is again dominated by savory lees and stony minerality.
A real odd ball, but one of the most interesting (and darn delicious) wines in the lineup. Pegasus Bay has some incredible old vines in Waipara, a coastal region on the south island’s east coast. As with all the Pegasus wines, nothing here is about conforming to a preconceived template for wine style. This wine is a unique expression of NZ Savvy. Blended with 30% Semillon this wine is super textural and rich. The wine has that classic lanolin, waxy Semillon component combined with very concentrated Sauvignon Blanc phenolic qualities. Whether it is from extended skin contact or the complete barrel treatment of the Semillon in this wine it has powerful concentration and a rounded, denser texture on the palate. A complex wine with lots of nuance of flavor and just enough funky intrigue to break the NZ Savvy stereotype wide open!
I hope people will check out these wines and that this exploration will help people see the wondrous diversity of this often misunderstood wine.
- Ryan Woodhouse, New Zealand / Australia / South Africa Wine Buyer
Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!