Tomorrow is International Sauvignon Blanc Day and it’s especially important to New Zealand, the world HQ of Sauvignon Blanc.
The most planted grape in New Zealand and responsible for over 85% of this country’s wine exports, Sauvignon Blanc is made in an increasingly wide range of styles from upfront, fruity and off dry to creamy, complex, new wave fumé styles to dry, flinty wines that bear more than mere passing resemblance to good Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. Enter the new 2020 Hunter’s Home Block Sauvignon Blanc, which is made from this iconic Marlborough winery’s home block vineyard on Rapaura Road. This vineyard is now being set up as a sustainable one with zero herbicides, mechanical under vine weeding and inter row cover crops. The wine made from here is intended to be an expression of this with hand picked picked which were fermented in tank and large French oak puncheons followed by a period of aging in stainless steel on yeast lees. The result is a dry, flinty, fleshy wine with weight and texture. I love the fact it contains 1.02 grams per litre of residual sugar. It stands in stark contrast to the sea of sameness when it comes to mainstream Sauvignon Blanc, as do the great dry whites of Clos Henri, one of which featured on this site here a few weeks back.
Here are the buying details for the new 2020 Hunter’s Home Block Sauvignon Blanc, $29.90, available in limited quantities from www.hunters.co.nz
A very cool, very dry summer with very low rainfall means two things for New Zealand’s biggest wine region this year; low volumes of wine but extremely high quality, if the earliest tastings and reports are anything to go by. Yesterday I was lucky enough to taste wines from one of this country’s best wine producers, Clos Henri in Marlborough. And I use the word best sparingly because it has become so over used. The winery is owned by the French Bourgeois family, who have been making wine for eight generations in Sancerre, in the Loire Valley, France. But they wanted to stretch their wings, to break out of their comfort zone at the end of last century, so they bought a 110 hectares of land in Marlborough in 1999, planting their first vines in 2001. The Trans Alpine fault line dissects their property down the centre and the family built the road down to its cellar door right on top of the fault line. The road now dissects the change in soil type, which highlights the diversity of the wines from the ground to the glass.
The 2021 wines from Clos Henri have yet to be bottled and when they are, volumes will be small, but, as with all of this winery’s great vintages, the quality will be awesome and worth waiting for. In the meantime…
My pick of the wines yesterday is, yet again, the 2016 Clos Henri Stones Sauvignon Blanc but, since that wine was my top pick of the week extremely recently, here is another goodie from a great wine producer. By the way, all Clos Henri wines are 100% certified organic and 100% vegan friendly because they are all bottled unfined and unfiltered. The philosophy is to get the grapes in the best condition possible so that as little as possible needs to be done to them in the winery. A mantra after my own heart.
Here is the wine of the week
2016 Clos Henri Southern Valleys Pinot Noir $40
The 2016 year was a Goldilocks vintage for Clos Henri. The dry farmed grapes loved the 2016 growing season and played ball big time in terms of ripening optimum red and dark fruit flavours, which shine under the complex layers of soft, savoury flavour development, with earthy but clean hints of mushrooms and notes of oak in the background adding a support structure to this delicious Pinot Noir from New Zealand’s biggest wine region.
This year, 2021, marks Pegasus Bay’s 30th vintage since the winery’s humble beginnings in the family garage in Christchurch back in 1991. Ivan and Chris Donaldson planted some of the first vines in Canterbury in 1971 when he was a consultant neurologist who started making wine as a hobby in the garage at home and, surprised by the depth of his family’s interest in wine, he and Chris then purchased land in the Waipara Valley in North Canterbury in 1986. The couple’s four sons are now all involved in running the business with the eldest, Mat, as winemaker; Mike as Canterbury sales manager; Paul as general manager and Ed in charge of marketing.
Ivan says he always knew he would make wine one way or another but could never have predicted the extent of my family’s interest, and the success they have enjoyed together. “Their involvement has been vital and gives Chris and I a great deal of pride.”
It’s a fitting tribute to make one of their new releases my wine of this week, not only as a homage to their success but also because of its sheer high quality and small volumes, due to the challenges thrown up by the large crops in 2018. Here it is.
Wine of the week
2018 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir $52
Deep ruby in colour, deliciously dry and dense in texture. This is a full bodied Pinot Noir which struts the powerful side of the Pinot grape with bold tannins providing a structured framework to the summer berry flavours mid palate. The finish is long and refreshing, leaving lingering impressions of velvety depth, red berry delicacy and decadence. One of New Zealand’s best Pinot Noirs every year – and this vintage is another goodie. Winemaker Mat Donaldson says the team chose to produce significantly less 2018 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir due to large crops, preferring to produce small volumes (about a quarter of the usual production) to retain depth of flavour.