New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is as ubiquitous as Napa Cab. You can find it at any store and on any wine list. Now I love New Zealand Sauv Blanc as much as the next girl, but the style does get a bit homogenous. That “Marlborough Lift” (which I speak about HERE) gives you big aromatics, big green flavors, and big acid. Hey, in the summer, give me a bottle of it with a straw…I’m good! But I usually like something a bit more interesting and not as predictable. Though I discover that New Zealand does have much more than a sea of indistinguishable Sauvignon Blanc.
Last October I had the pleasure of attending a tasting and Masterclass “New Zealand in a Glass: Los Angeles” at The Wine House. The tasting brought together 64 wines from 12 wineries, exploring seven varietals/styles across five regions. In the Masterclass, we tasted anything but “run of the mill” New Zealand Sauv Blanc. We tried interesting whites, including Sauvignon Blancs as well as a smattering of Pinot Noir.
The main theme of the day was: sustainability. 94% of New Zealand vineyard area operates under independently audited sustainability programs. All the wines showcased were produced in accordance with Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.
Masterclass Wines Tasted:
Te Mata Cape Crest 2014, Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($20)
I described this as a “richer” Sauvignon Blanc in my notes. This wine is barrel fermented with some Semillon blended in to add texture. It’s not as herbaceous, nor does it have as much acidity as a typical Sauvignon Blanc. I enjoyed the stone and tropical fruit plus lime zest notes.
Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2013, Marlborough ($24)
This wine is a winner. Super funky, which means it’s not for everyone, but wine geeks will love it. Greywacke is the fundamental bedrock of New Zealand. The wine is fermented in barrel (70% of which is new) with indigenous yeasts for a full year (it’s dormant in winter). ⅔ of the wine goes through malo, which adds weight and texture. Medium acid, medium + body, medium + flavor intensity, and medium + finish. A strong wine. The predominant note is green/vegetal, including asparagus, pea, and tomato leaf.
Astrolabe Taiho 2015, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($23)
100% old barrel fermentation with wild yeasts. This wine is slightly perfumed with citrus notes, plus tropical fruit (lychee), and a green/vegetal note of tomato leaf.
Nautilus The Paper 2016, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($23)
This is a fun one; unusual. It is fermented with a non-wine yeast. A creamy texture yet a strong acid backbone. It has a very unassuming nose, yet the palate is full of bright citrus (grapefruit), plus stone fruit (apricot/nectarine).
Dog Point Chardonnay 2014, Marlborough ($25)
An incredibly interesting nose with a spice character. This wine spent 18 months in barrel with 100% wild yeast fermentation and went through 100% malo. This wine has green fruit (pear plus tart green apples), tropical fruit (pineapple), plus a cream/yogurt note.
Jules Taylor Pinot Gris 2016, Marlborough ($20)
Pinot Gris is a mere 6% of New Zealand wine production. This is a lovely wine that is on the ripe Alsatian spectrum. It’s a bit steely up front. I get citrus (orange peel) that moves into tropical fruit (sweet melon) with a bit of RS (residual sugar) on the finish.
Framingham Old Vine Riesling 2015, Marlborough ($25)
This wine is why people who know about wine LOVE Riesling. Off-dry, incredible purity of fruit, good texture and body. The requisite petrol/smoke note. This is a 100% wild yeast skin fermentation. The vines are 30 years old, which is an anomaly in Marlborough since most all vines were lost in 1990 due to phylloxera.
Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling 2016, Central Otago ($25)
This Riesling is from Central Otago’s vines in a continental climate, which is New Zealand’s only inland wine region. It’s got 63 g/L of residual sugar that is masked quite well with its acidity. A very well-balanced wine.
Martinborough Vineyard Home Block 2014, Marlborough Pinot Noir ($40)
Lovely nose; feminine yet assertive. So many descriptors: floral/potpourri on the nose, including red fruit, pepper, forest floor/wet leaf, and leather both on the nose and palate. Light, yet elegant tannins. A very understandable Pinot Noir. Would be good in a BTG (by the glass) program.
Mahana “Woolleys Corner & Cornelia’s Nine”, 2014 Nelson Pinot Noir ($65)
An earthier and funkier Pinot Noir than the previous one. Old World style fruit plus a chewy texture.
Villa Maria Reserve 2009, Marlborough Pinot Noir ($36)
Sweeter, New World fruit. This is a Pinot to please the people.
Mount Edward 2011, Central Otago Pinot Noir*
An unexpected herbaceousness on the nose: eucalyptus? Red fruit, spice, and earthiness/forest floor.
*I am not listing a price here, as there are multiple Pinot Noir’s in their range and I am not 100% sure which one we sampled that day.