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Winophilia on New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs

Seductive New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs from 2013

Steven Tanzer’s Winophilia
October 6, 2014
by Josh Raynolds

Classic non-oaked Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, especially those from Marlborough, are crisp and bracing, with flavors of gooseberry and grapefruit pith complicated by fresh-cut grass, nettles and fresh herbs. When these subtly green components work together harmoniously and are supported by sufficient ripeness of fruit, they make for exhilarating, wonderfully refreshing wines.

The late spring and cold summer of 2012 presented a challenge for many growing areas in New Zealand, as the vines struggled to ripen. The typical subtle green notes of Sauvignon often turned downright peppery and vegetal (canned asparagus, anybody?), giving many 2012 examples a screechy, austere quality and an unyielding texture. While some uncompromising wines from 2012 may thrill Sauvignon  purists, most consumers will prefer the riper 2013s, the products of a nearly ideal growing season. These wines are far more fun to drink and less overtly herbaceous, not to mention easier on the stomach due to their riper acidity. Whatever they may give up in pungency and precision, they make up for in easily accessible soft citrus and tropical fruit elements.

As it’s the 2013s that are currently widely available in the retail marketplace, now is a terrific time to get to know these wines better and to try some new names. The following are some of my favorites from my report on New Zealand in the current issue of the International Wine Cellar. All of them offer superb value…

The outstanding Greywacke 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough) exudes complex scents of pineapple, citrus peel, spices and white pepper.  The wine is sweet, rich and intense on the palate, with enticing, ripe, dusty flavors of pineapple and grapefruit.  A seamless, beautifully balanced fruit bomb, it displays real palate presence and little in the way of greenness.

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