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‘Light’ in the south

05 June 2015


WITH its saints' days, the Church has a long tradition of attaching a label to each day in the calendar. But most of you, I am sure, will have failed to notice that 24 April was #SauvBlanc Day. As the press release says, "The celebration of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has been following the sun, with events beginning in Marlborough and progressing through all of New Zealand wine's major markets to create 43 hours of #Sauvblanc Day."

It appears that Sauvignon Blanc is now the most widely drunk varietal wine in this country, and, for many consumers, it is inseparably linked to New Zealand. The celebrations of this day in London included a tasting, at New Zealand House, of more than 130 examples of that country's offerings on this market.

A year or two ago, there was a glut of NZ Sauvignon Blanc on the market, and, for the first time, producers shipped the wine in bulk to Britain for bottling here. This led many to fear that the country's wines would no longer be able to demand a premium price on this market. These fears were unfulfilled: the average price of a bottle of New Zealand wine is still higher than that of any other of our main supplying countries.

Of all the multiples, Majestic offers the largest range of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, and many of them are on special promotion. There are discounts of up to a third if you buy two bottles. Giesen's Marlborough Ridge can be bought for £6.66 a bottle rather than £9.99. Other offerings include Matua 2014 at £8.24 rather than £10.99. (Interestingly, it is the Spence brothers, who set up this winery, who claim to have first planted Sauvignon Blanc in the country in their vineyard at Henderson, outside Auckland.)

Within Marlborough itself, wines from individual sub-regions are also featured. Thus the Vavasour 2013 (£12.99/£9.74) is more mineral and grassy than, for example, the Jackson Estate "Stich" 2013 (£14.99/£9.99). This winery is a neighbour of the Marlborough grandfather Cloudy Bay, to my mind over-priced at £30/£19.99.

Sauvignon Blanc production in New Zealand may be centred on Marlborough, but it is grown elsewhere, and Majestic have good examples, including Te Muna Road 2013, from Martinborough (£15.99/ £11.99), which again has different flavours: more peaches and white stone fruit. From Hawke's Bay, there is the barrel-fermented Te Mata Cape Crest 2012 (£22/£17), where the Sauvignon Blanc is softened by the addition of a little Sémillon and Sauvignon Gris.

For me, some of the most interesting wines at the tasting in New Zealand House were the "light" wines. In Marlborough, they have developed new techniques in the vineyard to achieve ripeness in the grapes while reducing the sugar (potential alcohol) in them. Of these, my favourite was the Doctor's Sauvignon Blanc 2014, at just nine per cent, which is available at Waitrose Cellars for £8.99.

Summer is the time for refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Currently, Majestic seems the best place to find it.

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