Sauvignon with signature

What do I drink after tasting over 100 samples of Sauvignon Blanc from the latest vintage? This year I opted for a glass of 2012 Villa Maria Southern Clays Sauvignon Blanc. My top wine tasted even better with freshly shucked Toi Point oysters garnished with a squeeze of lime.

Normally I’d opt for a beer after sipping my way through so many crisp white wines but I have been totally seduced by the stellar quality of the 2012 vintage.

Every vintage leaves its unique imprint on Sauvignon Blanc. The cool 2012 year extended the ripening period. Tensions rose as a delayed harvest increased the risk of damage by frost or rain. An Indian summer dealt the winemakers a “get out of jail free” card providing winemakers with a very happy ending to a potentially challenging harvest. A small crop of grapes helped boost flavour concentration.

Out of adversity… Marginal climates, marginal soils and marginal vintages seem to produce the best wines. They have an edginess that makes wines grown in easier conditions seem lazy by comparison.

The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc imprint has given most wines more intense flavours, slightly higher acidity levels and a flavour profile that is more pungently grassy than usual. That is particularly true of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc but also applies to the wines of other South Island regions as well as those in the south of the North Island.

I love their exuberant, punchy flavours; their mountain-stream purity and their mouth-tingling dryness. They are great food wines. Every seafood dish will taste even better with chilled glass of 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

Muddy Water Grower’s Series Sauvignon Blanc, Waipara 2012 – $25

90% of this wine was fermented in oak barrels and left in contact with the yeasty sediment to gain extra richness and complexity. Oak and yeast flavours are a subtle seasoning in this fruit-focused wine. Pure stone fruit/nectarine flavours with a core of chalky mineral character dominate. The wine tasted great shortly after it had been bottled. It made me wonder just how good it might be in another year or two. – view on

Villa Maria Southern Clays Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2012 – $28

Intensely flavoured Sauvignon Blanc with strong green capsicum, gooseberry, mineral and sweet cut grass flavours plus a dash of passion fruit. Very Sancerre-like though perhaps not as fiercely dry as many thanks to subtle succulent sweetness that tames the wine’s acidity. It is hard to imagine Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc getting much better than this super-classy wine. – view on

First published in KiaOra Magazine – Jan 2013.

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