Funky Savvies

“It’s Sauvignon Jim, but not as we know it”. If Lieutenant Spock had sipped one of my chosen wines after a hard day navigating galaxies that’s what he would have said to Captain Kirk. Both are made from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc grapes but they’re as different from mainstream wines as, well, a Bajoran is to a Klingon. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is normally pungently fruity with super-fresh acidity giving it plenty of bounce and drive. If it were a person it would be high-energy, bouncy and vivacious – a bit like Kylie Minogue.

If neither Kylie Minogue nor pungent Sauvignon Blanc is your cup of tea you should consider trying a more cerebral alternative such as Cloudy Bay Te Koko or Seresin Marama. They’re altogether more serious and complex wines – Sir Geoffrey Palmer with a twinkle in his eye.

They are wines from another planet.

Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2007 – $45

There’s no mention of Sauvignon Blanc on the front label and you’d be forgiven if you thought it was Chardonnay. This is a wine that breaks all the rules and succeeds magnificently. It seems to me to be the product of a fiendishly clever, highly creative and possibly slightly egotistical winemaker who grew tired of making Sauvignon Blanc that tasted exactly like the grapes it was made from. He or she might have desperately wanted to make a wine that carried their signature rather than the signature of the vineyard.

The wine was slowly fermented in barrels by whatever yeasts happened to be in the air at the time – a slightly risky but exciting business. It was then encouraged to go through the sort of malolactic fermentation that Chardonnay usually experiences but Sauvignon Blanc rarely does. Next came an 18-month holiday in barrel with the yeast lees, a technique that’s commonly used to add flavour complexity and a richer texture in Chardonnay. Finally the wine was allowed to rest in bottle for a further 18 months before release. Contrast that with most Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which is rushed onto the market while the flavours are at their freshest best.

Big, mellow, grassy wine with great mouth feel and an array of flavours that are hard to describe but include asparagus, buttered toast, red capsicum and lifted yeasty characters. I love it! – view on

Seresin Marama 2007 – $40

Don’t panic, it’s organic! Seresin were one of the first Marlborough wineries to gain organic certification. In fact the winery practices biodynamic viticulture, an extreme form of organic viticulture that heeds the rhythms of nature.

No expense was spared when this wine was made. The grapes were hand-picked then sorted by hand before being whole-bunch pressed (a Rolls-Royce method of juice extraction aimed at reducing the level of coarse tannins). The juice was fermented in French oak barriques using wild yeasts. After a malolactic fermentation the wine was matured in barrel for fifteen months with regular stirring to emphasise yeast flavour.

You might expect the wine to taste pretty similar to Cloudy Bay Te Koko. They’re from the same vintage and region and follow pretty similar winemaking methods. Marama has a significantly higher alcohol, weighing in at a pretty hefty 14.5%.

My tasting notes read, “Intensely flavoured wine with considerable complexity and a rich, almost chewy texture. Ripe fruit (peach, grapefruit and melon) with added complexity from oak. Not strongly varietal but complex and richly textured.” I love it almost as much as Te Koko. – view on

First published in KiaOra Magazine – Feb 2011.

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