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Wine of the Week for week ending 23 September 2001
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Saint Clair Marlborough Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Marlborough, New Zealand

Saint Clair label Blind tasting brings honesty - honesty to yourself when the wine that knocks the socks off you is based on taste alone and not on sighting the label. Such was the case with the Saint Clair Marlborough Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2001 when tasted in a blind line-up of newly released 2001 Marlborough sauvignon blanc just recently.

This is one wine I want to enjoy more than once over the late Spring and Summer, I thought.

First of all the aromas had a subtle fumé nuance, like the smokiness of freshly cut grass.

Then the ripe rich flavour carried that grassiness through to the palate with gooseberry, passionfruit, melon, peach, citrus, herbs and capsicum. Every time I sipped the wine, there was more and more and it even had that special touch of musky apocrine*. It is classical Marlborough sauvignon blanc, with a rich, slightly oily texture, a whiff of smoke and a touch of basil. It is a powerful wine that is balanced to the hilt and the flavour in the mouth lasts for ages.

I caught up with Neal Ibbitson of Saint Clair Wines at 'Wine New Zealand', the Trade Fair that's on as I write this note, to talk about this special wine and how it was made. I couldn't speak to the talented winemaker, Matt Thompson, as he is currently on flying winemaker duties in Italy.

He told me that Saint Clair sources sauvignon blanc from their own vineyards as well as from contract growers. Each vineyard's components are kept separate in the winery. The tank that held the wine made from second crop grapes grown at the Dillons Point Vineyard on the coastal side of Blenheim township, was considered the best single component of the 15 or so tanks. A portion of this was made into the Reserve wine. Just 400 cases were made.

The remainder of the Dillons Point component went into the Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2001, which is a blend of several of the tanks. I tasted this, which happens to be Neal Ibbitson's personal favourite, at Wine New Zealand and found a crisp, lemony wine with heaps of acidity and an underlying complexity. This more straightforward wine has cases in the thousands and will be easier to source overseas. Saint Clair also has the labels of Explorer and Tuatara Bay specially for the export market.

Saint Clair Marlborough Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2001 has 14% alcohol by volume, 7.9 g/litre acidity, a pH of 3.3 and residual sugar of 3.8 g/litre. It has a recommended retail of NZ$17.95. Just 400 cases were made.

Check the Saint Clair website for more information.

This wine will be a great match for plenty of foods. Neal Ibbitson recommends fish with a powerful sauce. Personally I can't wait for the asparagus to some into the shops. The season has just started.

*Footnote: for a definition of apocrine, click on this link.


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E-mail me: winetaster@clear.net.nz