edited by Sue Courtney
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Waipara, New Zealand
New Zealand is most famous for its Sauvignon Blanc and most people from overseas and possibly within New Zealand think Marlborough when they hear that grape variety. But Marlborough only accounts for 80 percent of the country's plantings, which means that 20% is grown elsewhere.
Sauvignon Blanc seems to grows quite happily throughout New Zealand and can be found in vineyards from the north of Auckland to the deep south of Central Otago. However, small quantities from some of these regions means the variety can be almost ignored. But it shouldn't be!
You'll find out why when you taste a wine like the Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2000 made from Waipara-grown grapes. It's a blend of 70% tank fermented sauvignon blanc and 30% semillon fermented and aged in older oak.
There's plenty of initial attraction in this straw-gold coloured wine with its fumé, smoky and grapefruit-skin aromas that burst forth from the glass. Then in the mouth it's a lively, flavoursome wine with upfront passionfruit, pineapple and apricot, a suggestion of straw and a warm leesy influence. Those hot fumé characters appear again along with a subtle hint of musk, while a herbal note creeps in on the finish where the flesh of ripe sugared-frosted grapefruit* lingers alongside it.
Don't expect a classic New Zealand sauvignon blanc in the style of Marlborough. This is a warm toasty leesy full-bodied wine with little gooseberry and no armpit at this stage of its life.
Compare this to the Chateau Loudenne Blanc 1996, a Grave Cru Bourgeois from Bordeaux, France which is available in New Zealand. It's a similar blend made in a similar style to the Pegasus Bay, with 62% sauvignon, 38% semillon, part tank fermented, part barrel fermented. This is a well-balanced wine with ripe, toasty definitive sauvignon fruit, the richness of peach and apricot and a little touch of herbaceousness. The barrel work is very well done giving a pleasing texture to the wine.
Both these wines were wonderful "finds" during the past week, as we do not often see this style of wine available here.
* Talking about those sugar-frosted grapefruit, this is a memory that relates back to my childhood. Every winter we would spend the school holidays at Mt Ruapehu, the North Island's winter playground. There was nothing better for breakfast than grapefruit that had been halved and sprinkled with sugar, then left outside overnight to freeze the sugar on top. Grapefruit are coming into season now. Try it!
The Pegasus Bay Semillon Sauvignon 2000 has a recommended retail of N$22.50 and seems to be quite widely available. I've seen it online in retailers' databases as well as in store, while it's can be purchased directly from the winery. Check this out at the Pegasus Bay website where you'll also find full tasting notes and international distributors.
The Negociants-imported Chateau Loudenne Blanc 1996 sells for about $NZ28.
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