By Rick Riozza
Now that we’re somewhat settled in with the spring-ahead time loss (I haven’t), let’s run with the theme of scintillating spring sippers.
And what’s more scintillating than a zesty, fresh & bracing New Zealand Sauv Blanc? Most of you wine folks love it for that pep-in-your-step quaff that’s naturally high in acidity. The white Kiwi wine is always tart, tangy, nervy, racy (or punchy, if you will), it’s never cloying or sticky-tasting. And, great minerality notes of stones, steel, and slate—in a good way!
As we’ve mentioned many times, the Sauv Blanc may well be the official varietal of our hot & dry desert. For the desert’s foodie crowd that yearns for healthy salads, seafood, cheese, crudités, chicken or any dish lively, light, and satisfying, just bring on one of the most stimulating and invigorating wines around town.
On the other hand, there are those other wine folk who don’t wish to think of the Kiwi wine ever at all: They taste cat urine, jalapeno plants, and suffer a sour stomach; they rather prefer the warm, round, and tropical Sauvignon Blanc from California. But here in the CV we’re all in the wine game and everyone’s free to be you & me without complaints!
We’ll be covering and reviewing Sauv Blancs from around the world this year; but let’s start here with the Kiwi SBs:
Astrolabe, Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marborough, New Zealand, 2019. Right out of the gate, this SB superbly rates! First off—how do you like its name? Of course, it sounds like a wine you’d be enjoying while flying the space shuttle; but better yet, it sounds like something you’d name your dog.
Anyway—this wine tastes as good as an SB can get. Delicious! And here’s the kicker—you California SB fans listen up. This wine is ripe, complex & keeps developing; but its core is tropical and shows orchard fruit. There’s peach, apple, and tropical fruits, after which there is a zesty minerality with fine toasty layered lees and herbs following. ($35)
2018 Greywacke, Wild Sauvignon, Marlborough, New Zealand. The last time we tasted a Greywacke Sauv Blanc was over at the Escena Grill at the beautiful Escena Golf Club, where we enjoyed one of their wine-pairing dinners. I sure hope they start that dinner program again (and looking for an invite!).
Anyway—this wine typically Kiwi in all the best senses: Complex, flinty, mineral, wild and earthy. Aromas and flavors of peach and preserved lemon, tropical flavors, grapefruit, hay, fresh herb and fruit spice. Distinctive texture with a fine leesy notes, brisk acidity and a long mineral mouthfeel and finish—delish! If you wish to impress friends and influence people, serve this at your next luncheon. ($26)
2019 Greystone, Organic Sauvignon Blanc, North Canterbury, Wairarapa, New Zealand. Because New Zealand vintners love their land, they pretty much farm sustainably all the time. But for those who especially desire to experience organic wine, this is the one to try: It owns fresh fruity aromas of gooseberry & pineapple with wild basil and mineral notes showing; the palate continues with pineapple & gooseberry and adds apple and lemon. As you’d expect there is refreshing acidity with a slight saline edge. A well-balanced wine to match lively meals! ($28)
For you nerdy folks, the winery comments, “Fermented in aged barriques with wild yeast for greater complexity, using a mix of Loire and Bordeaux clones, allowed to age on lees and for partial malolactic ferment to lend it creamy texture and richness. No additions made during fermentation, unlike any other Sauvignon from New Zealand.”
For the White Bordeaux lovers in the group—those that yearn for the blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, we have the delicious 2018 Pegasus Bay, Sauvignon-Semillon, North Canterbury, Wairarapa, New Zealand. ($32) Quite honestly, it does taste like a Bordeaux visit from New Zealand with distinctive aromas of fresh peach, waxy lemon, honeysuckle, sweet hay & marmalade that all follow onto the palate; creamy texture with citrus and stone fruit contrasting classic round acidity.
Is anyone’s mouth-watering just about now? . . . Is anyone there?
And just to remind our vino readers that New Zealand is not just a one-horse wine town, that wine region island grows stellar Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Albariño, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, blends, sweet wines, and sparklers. And, again, we’ll get them as well during the year.
A wonderful wine for you Asian cuisine lovers, such as Vietnamese or Thai dishes, check out the 2018 Pegasus Bay, Riesling, North Canterbury, Wairarapa, New Zealand ($29) Ripe, sunny orchard fruit and white flower aromas join with candied lemons and slate minerals on the round palate, balanced by brisk, cleansing acidity. Chilled up this Kiwi Riesling will handle any of the lively spices and heat of the dishes and bump-up the complexities between the food and wine.
And while we’re at it, why not try the 2020 Esk Valley, Albariño, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. ($17) There are a lot of great-value Albariños/Alvarinhos available from Spain and Portugal, but it’s a bit hard to find a New World example. Enter now the Esk Valley Albariño: Don’t be scared; this varietal always shows some salinity, and here it’s matched with sweet citrus fruit and zingy acidity. Cheers!