I’ve nearly finished tasting 126 samples of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Most (93) are from the 2017 vintage. I have handed out 95+ scores to six wines so far. Only one of those wines was from the 2017 vintage. 2017 was acknowledged by many observers as “a difficult year”. At least 4000 tonnes of grapes were left unharvested this year, according to the Vintage Survey.
Many wines from 2017 are unacceptably green with hard acidity. By contrast, the best wines looked very good indeed.
Four of the six had been barrel-fermented followed by varying degrees of barrel maturation and exposure to yeast lees. The benefit of barrel work is very evident in 2015 Brancott Estate Chosen Rows Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, this country’s most expensive sauvignon blanc that has been a labour of love for winemaker Patrick Materman. It’s a stunning wine with impressive texture, balance and complexity. (NZD $79.99)
Brancott Estate has now released a new label 2016 Brancott Estate Reflection Sauvignon Blanc Sauvignon Gris from Marlborough that is more fruit focused, but like its big brother clearly shows oak and lees work. It is an impressive addition to Brancott’s range. (NZD $60)
The 2016 Astrolabe Taihoa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, also from Marlborough, is another successful flagship wine that has benefited from barrel fermentation using indigenous yeasts, although the wine retains a distinctive chalky fruit character from the limestone-rich soils of the Kekerengu coastal sub-region. (NZD $32)
The Marlborough 2016 Babich Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc stood out in a line-up of mostly 2017 wines. It was a pleasure to taste this lush and very textural wine. (NZD $30)
Two Marlborough wines with little or no oak perceptible influence were the 2016 Astrolabe Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc (NZD $25) offering punchy gooseberry, lime and passion fruit flavours, while the 2017 Villa Maria Southern Clays Sauvignon Blanc (NZD $29.99) is an exceptional, fruit-focused wine from a difficult vintage.