Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Not all New Zealand sauvignon blanc tastes the same

By Jessica Yadegaran
Friday, May 14th, 2010 at 4:46 pm in Corkheads.

Kim Crawford 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Recently, I attended a tasting of 25 California sauvignon blancs. A bottle from New Zealand’s Marlborough accidently made it in the bunch. And it stood out immediately: Crisp with intense grapefruit quality and acidity. After all, it just takes a whif to recognize that intense gooseberry, right?

Not always. Have you ever done a sub region comparison of Marlborough sauvignon blancs? They can be different, depending on vintage and sub region. There are four in Marlborough: Upper Wairau, Lower Wairau, Blind River, and Awatere.

I think I’ve mostly stuck with Lower Wairau, a warmer, wetter area with fine alluvial soils and a stony under layer. There, wineries yield more concentrated berries with tropical and gooseberry characteristics. If you’ve had most vintages of the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, particularly the 2009, you know what I mean.

So I tried the 2009 Drylands Sauvignon Blanc, which sources its fruit from the Upper Wairau where the influence of the Wairau River and Cloudy Bay creates a slow and even ripening. Think grassy and full of citrus. Not loads different than the Kim Crawford, but if you’re looking for variations in prominent aromas and flavors, they’re there.

Lastly, I opened up a 2009 Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc. Easily the most sophisticated and complex among the three, the Nobilo includes grapes from all four sub regions. Blind River vineyards are known for their free-draining gravel soils that limit vigor and yields. I got a lot of pineapple and even minerality on this one – to the point that I think it could be aged for a few years.

See, they’re not all the same.

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  • Kris Chislett

    Great post! I agree, I think all NZ SB’s have been labelled as all tasting alike, which sometimes isn’t always so far from the truth (particularly Marlborough)! I would love to participate in a lineup of all the different style of SB to see what New Zealand really has to offer.