Joelle Thomson Writer

Author, journalist, speaker

Category: Sauvignon Blanc (page 2 of 8)

5 top drops… wines I never thought I would love

A dead French novelist once wrote that real discoveries are not about seeing new people, places or things, but seeing the same people, places and things with new eyes.

Apparently, he was quoting someone else but I’ve always liked the idea. And it’s been top of mind in the last three weeks of travel, tasting and writing; here are the 5 most surprising wines that I gave high wine scores to in tastings.

La Marca was first made in 1968  and is now available   in New Zealand.

 

Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco $26 to $28

Joelle’s rating: 17.5/20

Meet La Marca, which is new to New Zealand this month and is a cooperative wine made from grapes grown by over 5000 growers who sell their grapes to 9 cooperative wineries to produce this bubbly. It was first made in 1968 and was awarded a ‘Top 100 wines of the year’ by Wine Spectator magazine in 2007, which is pretty surprising given the light citrus flavours, frizzante style fizziness (i.e., not fully sparkling as a champagne is) and the lack of sweetness (1.7 grams per litre of grape sugar makes this wine bone dry – a big contrast to many Proseccos). Perhaps this is exactly what I like about La Marca – it’s dry, it’s fresh, it’s too easy to drink. Forget cider. I’ll opt for a Prosecco like this one any day.

 

Pinot Gris

2016 Mahana Estates Pinot Gris $25 to $29

Joelle’s rating: 18.5/20

Pinot Gris pales into significance when positioned next to its terpene fuelled kin, such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer, says winemaker Michael Glover, who decided to change his methods in making wine from Pinot Gris by seeing it as a copper coloured grape rather than a white one.

Blood Moon Pinot Gris is the result. He gave the wine four days of pre fermentation skin contact, which has unlocked doors of flavour that might have been closed to Pinot Gris if made along traditional lines, with no skin contact. This is the best Pinot Gris I have ever tried (and there have been dinner parties devoted to Pinot Gris in my honour; to try and turn my head and heart onto the best Gris from around the world). This wine is fresh, dry, medium bodied, smooth and flavoursome with savoury tastes of spice, nuts and ripe orange, with refreshing acidity to carry it to a lingering conclusion. I had to check it out over three days to see if it really was that good – it is. Best Pinot Gris ever.

Buy it here: https://shop.mahana.nz/product/Mahana-Pinot-Gris1

 

Sauvignon blend

2016 Brancott Estate Reflection Sauvignon $60

Joelle’s rating: 18.5/20

Brancott Estate is a big company pumping out vast volumes of white wine, mostly from Marlborough, so it’s hard to see what could be done differently with yet another Sauvignon Blanc from the region that is drowning in the stuff. This wine is deliciously different, thanks to winemaker Patrick Materman’s innovative blend of 52% Sauvignon Blanc and 48% Sauvignon Gris (a natural mutation of Sauvignon Blanc). It was officially released in late October 2017 to coincide with the launch of a new eight metre high iron sculpture, designed by New York based designer Dror Benshetrit, who also designed the label on this bottle. Like the sculpture, the wine makes a big statement; it’s dry, smoky and intense with flavours of lemon grass, grapefruit and oak – only 150 cases were made and it’s also available in a magnum; both bottle sizes are sealed with screw caps. I had to eat my silent words when tasting this wine because I wondered what could work well about blending Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris from Marlborough but this blend works beautifully with the succulence of Sauvignon Blanc being balanced by Gris’ fresh green flavours. Oak fermentation adds weight and depth but the fruit flavours taste stunning in this wine.

Buy it here: https://www.brancottestate.com/en-nz/visit-our-vineyard

 

New look for an old classic

2015 La Vieille Ferme Cote du Ventoux $20 to $25

Joelle’s rating: 17.5/20

It’s one of those cheapies you buy for the first time when budget rules all your buying decisions, but La Vieille Ferme (‘the old farm’) has come along in fruity leaps and savoury bounds since I last tried it about five years back, which was why  importer Mark Young of Vintners New Zealand suggested I take a new look at this old classic.

Today the old farm tastes brand new with a touch of savouriness balanced by fresh red fruit flavours and a smooth, light body. It’s a long way from the dusty austerity that held this wine back in the past and I can’t help but think the screw cap plays a large part in delivering this lovely French red in a fresh-is-best style.

 

Sauvignon from tricky vintage

2017 Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc $27

Joelle’s rating: 18.5/20

The 2017 harvest will be remembered as short, sharp and shocking in many parts of New Zealand. It only lasted 21 days in Marlborough, but challenging times call for innovative solutions and the Dog Point winemaking team chose theirs by spending more time in the vineyard than usual, where they indulged their Sauvignon Blanc vines to early shoot removal and crop thinning so that 2017 was, for them, “a very low harvest” with impressive fruit flavours.

The proof is in the bottle. It’s bone dry, intensely citrusy and fleshy with green fruit and herb flavours underpinned by refreshing but balanced high acidity, finishing with complex nutty flavours.

New steel matrix sculpture lands on NZ’s biggest vineyard

Meet Marlborough’s massive new giant wine rack… The 8 metre high sculpture was officially unveiled yesterday along with two new high priced wines with labels that reflect the design by New York based Dror Benshetrit, who has been working on the project for the past 18 months.

The sculpture was craned onto Brancott Estate Vineyard last week as an interlocking concertina frame, comprised of 52 individual components, which locked into place once the flat matrix was unfolded. It’s welded to the ground and is a permanent fixture on the vast vineyard.

Dror also designed a mini version of the matrix as a wine rack (available from Brancott Estate’s Heritage Centre in Marlborough for purchase for $350) and the wine labels for the new Reflection wines.

Form and function combine in the mini version of the Understanding sculpture; a wine rack, pictured above.

The 8 metre high sculpture is titled Under/standing and the wines are called Reflection; a reference to both the sculpture and the wines, says Pernod Ricard chief winemaker Patrick Materman, who worked with Dror on the logistics of the new artwork – and the labels.

Great wine can be a reflection of the vineyard on which their grapes grew, which was the inspiration for the name and represents what he wants to achieve in these wines.

Reflection… Two new wines with labels which reflect the giant wine rack sculpture by Dror and also reflect the country’s largest wine region’s two major strengths – dry white Sauvignon and full bodied Pinot Noir.

Here are my notes on the new Reflection wines

2016 Brancott Estate Reflection $60

Here it is… and it’s tasty stuff too. This first new Brancott Estate Reflection white is a blend of 52% Sauvignon Blanc and 48% Sauvignon Gris (a natural mutation of Sauvignon Blanc, only grassier in taste). The aim was to make something that had some oak shining through, tastes good with food and can age, which meant the winemaking process was a few-expenses-spared process from hand picking the grapes to raging the wine in 4000 litre oak ‘fuder’ barrels. The result is a dry, full bodied white with flavours of lemon grass, grapefruit and notes of smoky complexity; it’s delicious but restrained rather than out there when it comes to fruit flavour, and its zesty acidity adds a long finish. A stunner.

How much was made? About 100-150 cases.

What does it taste like? Smoky and oaky on the nose but in a pretty restrained style. It tastes of fresh citrusy lemon grass and a touch of green apple and it’s dry, zesty, full bodied

What type of oak was used? Large 4000 litre oak fuder for fermentation and maturation, post ferment. The wine spent the best part of a year in that oak sitting on its lees – the decomposing yeast cells left over after fermentation, which protects wine from oxidation and also adds yeasty complex flavours.

What are the links between the wine and the sculpture? “The steel plates on the sculpture go in two different directions on the sculpture and together they form a structure and strength; the same is true of the two different grapes in the wine, which work together,” says chief winemaker Patrick Materman.

Will it be made again? It’s an ongoing brand which will sell only at the cellar door.

And it’s available… in standard 750ml bottles for $60 and magnums (1500 mls) for $130.

2015 Brancott Reflections Dror Pinot Noir $80

This is a powerful statement of a wine with bold, powerful aromas of cloves, orange peel and dried cherries; it’s 14.5% ABV, so it’s not shy on the alcohol front but this is nicely balanced by intense red cherry, plum and smoky flavours. It’s a blend of the best components of Pinot Noir from hand selected barrels, says Materman.

A new wine glass (flash) for your Sauvignon

What’s the best glass to drink Sauvignon Blanc in?

The answer depends on your budget, if a flash new pair of white wine glasses launched by Riedel are anything to go by.

The new glass is very tall, very fine and very pricey at $129 for a set, which was launched in July this year as part of Riedel’s Veritas range. Six packs of the glasses are also available to the restaurant trade.

A set of the glasses arrived on my desk last week and I’m impressed by the fineness of them – super nice for sipping white wine from – but also slightly intimidated by how on earth to care for these delicate glasses. Needless to say, they won’t be in everyday use because I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that their fragility and my clumsiness might not be a match made you know where. That said, I do drink from Riedel glasses several times a week and as I write, I have two dish drawers full of them after a few wine friends and I tasted and drank from them last night. Not a single breakage. Perhaps it’s the thought rather than the reality. Either way, it’s great to see Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc gain greater international traction with the launch of these new glasses.

Their launch was timed to celebrate and update the 20th anniversary of the first Sauvignon Blanc glass that Riedel ever designed. The new improved (but much finer) version was designed after conversations with 15 Marlborough wineries, including Cloudy Bay, Greywacke (whose winemaker was formerly at Cloudy Bay), Villa Maria, Brancott Estate, Whitehaven, Wairau River and Giesen, among others.

More details are online at: www.riedel.com

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