Not to be one always looking back, whenever I start a new year I try and think about all the great times of last year and it helps me get really up for all the challenges and possibilites for 2020.
So whilst most of you are doing Dry January or something equally as healthy to overcome the post-Christmas and New Year booze/chocolate/meat comas, I thought I’d start the year with a quick recap of the wines that meant a lot to me in 2019…
I couldn’t believe my luck as I was kindly invited out to the Sauvignon Blanc conference in Marlborough, New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand has a very “on the fence” reputation right now in the UK, with plenty of wine snobs scoffing at the famous Kiwi style. Fresh, vibrant, iconic wines? How dare they!
Well I still love the stereotypical Kiwi style, but those that think it’s a one trick pony need to think again. Amazing wines are being produced with lees contact, barrel ferments and ageing, reductive winemaking, and many more flicks and tricks. Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko is one of the best on the market, but keep your eyes out for more!
I couldn’t possibly go through the whole of Sauvignon Blanc Day with talking about a trip I recently made out to Greyfriars vineyard in the English county of Surrey. Sauvignon Blanc, thus far, hasn’t exactly been a mainstay of the emerging English Wine scene, with Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier ruling the roost. But owners Mike and Hilary Wagstaff have decided to have a go at something a bit funky.
I’m not normally one for these “grape days”. Every other bloody day it’s something like Barbera Day or Pinot Gris Week or something daft like that. And you only ever hear about it the day it’s happening anyway. What use is that? Well not this week boys and girls!!
Every wine-o out there will no doubt heard of Yealands before. They are a big family wine estate with vineyards stretching all over the famous Marlborough district in New Zealand. I’ve been sent 5 bottles of their different Sauvignon Blancs and been asked to come up with something “arty” to promote them on International Sauvignon Blanc Day, this coming Friday, the 5th May. Arty? Have they met me?
The wines of the New World nailed it during the nineties and noughties on the shelves of the supermarkets in the UK. The French, the Italians, even the Spanish were blasted away by low priced but solid quality wines from the varietals everyone had heard of. Chilean wine was up there in the crow’s nest of this move but, like many others, the move from low margin, high volume wines to showing off the best that country can offer is a tricky one.
Few wines in living memory hit the world as hard and as fast as Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Speaking as someone living the UK I’d guess that most of my mates, whether they’re wine-o’s or just having a few glasses here and there, will have drunk this eponymous white wine. In the late 90s and throughout the 2000’s it became a wine that even if you weren’t paying attention, you’d still kind of recognised it.
Lots of acidity in there, gooseberry, lychee, tropical fruits, and a lovely texture when you were swilling it round your mouth. I still remember heading down to Majestic Wine a few years back to make sure my stocks of Ned were always topped up. But what do they say about too much of a good thing?
Fast forward to these days and Kiwi wine makers are almost apologetic about it as wine drinkers now give it the same attitude as a shit 80s perm. I mean that’s just daft, that classic Kiwi style is still incredible, but I guess we’ve had our fill of it for now maybe? Well from what I tasted at the NZ Wine tasting last week, they’ve come up with a solution, or eight!
They ran a “Sauvignon Blanc” masterclass. There were 8 different glasses on the list (from what I can remember) and all of them tasted completely different. Well, I say different, they were all still the same grape, but you know what I mean. Some oaked, some smokey, some minerally, and rather than try and copy the Marlborough style to get sales volumes up, different regions round the two islands are pioneering their own take on it. Really great to see.
Keep an eye out for the new styles hitting wine lists near you soon!
Chardonnay is a grape that grows somewhere in nearly every wine growing region in the world. Why? Well it’s because it can grow in so many places. It’s a great grape for new wine areas to test themselves. Are there are few newer than New Zealand.
Anyone out there know much about Sauvignon Blanc? It’s a grape that goes well in both the fruity, fresh, drink-it-young style, or in the barrel fermented full style, like you get in Bordeaux. Verdejo is kind of similar to Sauvignon Blanc in that sense. I don’t say that to annoy Verdejo producers, I say it more to Sauvignon Blanc drinkers who might want to try this instead!
A nice week back on the New World style whites. We tried two of the wines off my list, and there was definitely a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc style. The fruity and fresh wines were great with a bit of the Indian Summer we’re having over here in the UK.
This should be a lovely bevvy to have with a late lunch on Saturday or something like that. Keep the wine nice and chilled, keep it refreshing, and I think it’s a case of keeping the food fairly simple.