Emma Says: Confession time: Andy and I decided this week should be a New Zealand Sauvignon, since it is pretty much the modern classic example of this grape. But I’m actually not really a fan of this style of Sauvignon.
To me the wines often have a clumsy expression, all upfront, with pungent aromas and tropical flavours; let’s call it a “shouty” style of wine. My preferred version of Sauvignon would come from the cooler climate areas of France in the Loire; with the famous villages Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.
To get around this problem I cheated a little. Back in 2010 I was lucky enough to have three days learning basic winemaking in Marlborough, New Zealand. It was at that time that I learnt the style of Kiwi Sauv I like. They come from particular cooler climate spots in the region Marlborough; my favourite being the Awatere Valley. This area has very brisk valley breezes that keep the grapes nice and chilled even in the warmer months. And for me the style have that bit of elegance as a result.
So I searched the supermarket shelves and found Astrolabe Awatere Valley Sauvignon £19.99. It is actually rare to find a wine 100% from that valley. Often wineries mix a little Awatere with wine from the warmer Wairau Valley to create balance between ripe fruit and the leaner style. Onto the taste of this wine. It didn’t disappoint, the aroma had a beautiful gentle elderflower herbal note, with a hint of more tropical passion fruit adding richness. Plus underlying there was a mineral flinty hit to the nose that gives it that bit of elegance. To the palate it is generous but not oily and fat which can be the case with Kiwi Sauvignon. It had a dense but gentle flavour with mountain herbs, sweet lemon balm and a pithy bite that refreshed the finish. The flavours really lasted too.
I happen to know Sancerre and the Loire in general had a terrible vintage last year so prices are about to go through the roof. So if you love these styles I would say this type of premium Kiwi Sauv is a perfect alternative.
And to end a final few interesting geek facts. The reason the Kiwi Sauv styles are so distinctly bold and lively in style is a mix of climate and winemaking. The climate has high UV rays and sunlight hours, this makes the skins thick and full of flavour and aroma. Then the Kiwis tend to leave the grape to have a bit of “cold maceration” before they crush and ferment that increases the aroma concentration. Finally that bell pepper bright tropical aroma is down to a compound called “thiols” that are high in Sauvignon grapes. In NZ they really favour this and try to enhance their character by using yeasts that are specially designed to bring that out in the fermentation. And “eh viola” you have the Kiwi Sauv style.
Andy says: I’ve been looking forward to Sauvignon week as it’s one of the few wines I can spot, because it usually smells like cat piss. Just Google “Sauvignon Blanc Cat” if you don’t believe me. If you’re a bit posher than me, then you’d say it smells of box hedge or boxwood, and if you’ve ever been near a blackcurrant tree, then that would apply too.
Friday is Sauvignon Blanc day so we’re going with the theme and will be trying a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We expect you’ve had your fair share of “Savvy Bs”, and encourage you to trade up a little and try a premium version. We can then all discuss if it is worth paying that little bit more for a Kiwi Sauvignon. Look out for one from the classic Marlborough region, and potentially an Awatere Valley sub region where the coolest climate styles come from.