Maybe Marlborough’s savvier than most?


There has been a lot of discussion about New Zealand sauvignon blanc taking over the Australian white wine market in recent years. The top selling white wine in Australia is a Marlborough savvy (Oyster Bay – tasting notes), and the top ten includes several others. I was recently asked to comment on this for the Sydney Morning Herald Saturday news pages. 

No matter how hurtfully Australian wine producers may disparage New Zealand sauvignon blanc and lament their loss of market-share to this all-consuming tsunami, it is all fair in wine and war. Marlborough sauvignon blanc sells because people like the way it tastes. End of story. 

We can argue and debate exactly why people enjoy it till the sheep come home, but you cannot dispute the democracy of popular taste. 

Yes, it is unfortunate that so many bottles of wine drunk in this country are Kiwi savvy. I hate anything domineering like that. There are so many wonderful white wines to drink: why not be more adventurous, and occasionally drink a riesling, a chardonnay, a gewürztraminer and a gruner veltliner? It is truly sad that some worthy Australian winestyles have been ignored and left to languish because sauvignon blanc so dominates the market. I love balance in all things, and detest hegemonies. 

Over many a Coopers Green Label in the back of Adelaide Hills wineries at smoko the Aussie winemen and women may agree that clever Kiwi marketing or residual sugar has hoodwinked the public. They may scoff that the herbaceous flavours are the result of unripe grapes and over-cropped vines. But the fact remains that Marlborough sauvignon blanc is just as legit a wine as Clare Valley riesling, and people love it.

They love its pungency, yes, and that tropical, passionfruit, sweaty, grassy pungency is unmistakeable; distinctive; so obvious that it’s hard to mistake it for any other wine. Easy to identify. And people like that about it. 

There is something magical about the intersection of climate, geology and the sauvignon blanc grapevine in Marlborough that’s resulted in a global phenomenon the likes of which the world has never seen before. Love it or hate it, it is real, and it’s here to stay. 

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