Chilled Sauvignon is a hot choice

My annual Sauvignon Blanc tasting confirmed that the 2012 vintage produced many remarkable wines. If you like this country’s signature wine, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, I suggest you stock up on this excellent vintage.

Marlborough wasn’t the only region to make top Sauvignon Blanc in 2012 but it predictably won the lion’s share of my top awards. Marlborough produces more than 90% of the country’s Sauvignon Blanc.

For a while it looked as though 2012 was going to be a dismal vintage. Summer was a non-event for much of the country with cool conditions and too much rain early in the season. The grapes ripened very slowly and by the end of March many wine producers began to wonder whether they were ever going to get fully ripe.

A long, dry, warm autumn saved the day. The Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc grape crop was able to be harvested without pressure and when the grapes were fully ripe.

Wet weather during flowering and fruit set reduced the size of the Marlborough harvest by 22% from the previous year. Small is good as far as the wine drinker is concerned. The vines seemed to squeeze the same amount of flavour into less grapes resulting in a significant boost to concentration. The long, cool ripening season has produced very aromatic wines, good acidity levels and grassier flavours than usual.

UK wine author, Oz Clarke, described the emergence of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, in his Wine Atlas, “No previous wine had shocked, thrilled, entranced the world before with such brash, unexpected flavours of gooseberries, passionfruit and lime, or crunchy green asparagus spears…an entirely new, brilliantly successful wine style that the rest of the world has been attempting to copy ever since.”

That description just about sums up my impression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from the 2012 vintage. In recent years the Sauvignon style has drifted in pursuit of passion fruit and ripe tree fruit flavours. The latest harvest reflects a return to the punchier styles of earlier vintages.

It’s the perfect wine for crunchy summer salads and sea-fresh seafood dishes.

Three hot savvies

A boutique beaut

Auntsfield 2012 Southern Valleys Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $24

This wine gets a tick in every box. It has concentrated mineral and green capsicum flavours that leap out of the glass and a rich, almost chewy texture that’s very pleasing. Auntsfield is a relatively new Marlborough wine producer with a strong quality focus. Definitely a winery worth watching. – view on

A bargain buy

Villa Maria 2012 Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $20

Villa Maria’s mid-range label delivers top quality at a great price. Look for supermarket discounts to get an even better buy. Pungent, aromatic wine with capsicum, lemon grass and a hint of passion fruit. Deliciously drinkable now this wine captures the very essence of the Marlborough Sauvignon style. – view on

A good rap

Stoneleigh 2012 Rapaura Series Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $29.99

The Stoneleigh label offers three quality levels with Rapaura Series at the top. A reliably good wine every year, this is the best that I can remember tasting. Strong gooseberry, cut grass and subtle passionfruit flavours. Look for discounted prices. – view on

First published in Your Home and Garden Magazine – Jan 2013.

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