So much Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tastes as if it’s come out of the same bottomless tank, that it’s a pleasure to come across something that restores your faith in the quality of New Zealand’s most popular wine style. Made by Master of Wine Liam Stevenson, this was picked early (by hand, not machine) and fermented with lots of solids in old French oak barrels. Dry, savoury and complex, it has appealing notes of gunflint and elderflower with subtle oak and a hint of passion fruit. Very smart.
If Michael Brajkovich MW were a Burgundian rather than a New Zealander, he would be among the most celebrated white winemakers in the Côte de Beaune, right up there with the likes of Dominique Lafon, Pierre-Vves Colin Morey and Jean-Marc Roulot. The good news for us is that we can buy his amazing Chardonnays at ludicrously cheap prices. This is only his entry-point wine, but is typically well balanced, refreshing and focused, with just a hint of oak spice, leesy complexity, some struck match undertones and a chiselled, refreshing finish. A Kiwi wine that’s better than many Puligny-Montrachets.
Grüner Veltliner is rare enough in New Zealand, but one with six years of bottle age is unique. But what a brilliant wine this is. Part of Matt Thomson and Sophie Parker-Thomson’s off-the-wall series of small volume Kiwi whites and reds, this wouldn’t look out of place in a line up of top Austrian examples of the grape. Partially barrel fermented in larger French oak barrels, it’s bright, focused and remarkably youthful, with notes of bay leaf and white pepper, crunchy minerality and pear and citrus fruit.
Consistently among New Zealand’s best Chardonnays and a wine that ages extremely well under screwcap, this wild-yeast fermented white hails from the Home and Rosie’s Blocks at Neudorf’s vineyards in Upper Moutere. Fresh, elegant and savoury, it has deftly interwoven (12% new) French oak, flavours of citrus and cinnamon, impressive focus and a tangy, mineral-edged core. A very classy, well-judged white.
Not as well known as the Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc releases, but every bit as good in my opinion, this is frequently among my favourite South Island Chardonnays. Toasty, savoury and enticing, it has citrus and beeswax notes supported by fresh, palate cleasning acidity and a nutty finish. Just starting to develop bottle-aged complexity.
Classic modern, dry Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from two of the masters of the region, James Healy and Ivan Sutherland, showing notes of lemon grass, passion fruit and fresh sweat (more appealing than it sounds, honest). Nettley, zingy acidity, plenty of focus and a long, refreshing finish. My kind of Kiwi white.
A wine that’s consistently a match for all but the very best (and much more expensive) wines of Pessac-Léognan, this deftly oaked Marlborough Sauvignon ages brilliantly too. Leesy, rich yet beautifully balanced, it combines flavours of vanilla spice, gooseberry fool, lanolin and vivid acidity. One of the region’s very best expressions of the grape.
There’s always something of a rush to list and sell the new vintage of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s good to see a winery (and a retailer in the shape of the Wine Society) that takes a more relaxed approach to vintages, selling wines with a bit of bottle age. Tangy, savoury and dry, this is a complex, flinty, well balanced white with no oak, allowing the quince, greengage and gooseberry fruit to shine.
Pinots from the clays of Moutere always remind me of the wines of Pommard in Burgundy. They are rich, bold, even slightly sturdy wines that are textured, a little gruff even, and extremely impressive. Structured and concentrated, this is savouery, spicy and intense, with notes of incense and sweet summer berries, supported by tannins.