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Wine of the Week for week ending 23rd February 2003
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Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2002
Marlborough, New Zealand

Sunday 16th February dawned fine and still. The sun rose with its fiery heat joining the humidity that is so prevalent in Auckland in mid-February. It was going to be a hot one. But where was the wind? It was so boisterous yesterday and supporters of Team New Zealand in its defence of the Americas Cup were devastated when the black boat started to break up in the rough conditions. So it was good that the wind had subsided, but it had subsided a bit too much. The boats went out anyway, as they do. The racing boats and about 2900 spectator craft. Well what do you know. They've picked the yellow course. This is the closest one to the shore. There they all were, like a floating city. This was going to be so good. We loaded up the MG with TV set (you need this for the live telecast and to see the tactics at the start), binoculars and refreshments and found a prime park on the foreshore at Mairangi Bay. We could just about reach out and touch the boats.

The sky was blue, the sea was blue and the water shimmered like diamonds under the blaze of the hot sun. Bronzed bodies of all shapes and sizes dotted the golden sand. Fortunately the wind came up enough for the boats to start and although almost 3 hours late, the racing got underway.

Could there be a better beachside wine than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc? Probably not. And on a day like this it has to be chilled. I chose my current favourite, the Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2002. It has always been in my top handful from the vintage, but in a blind tasting earlier in the week it really wowed. It's 6 months after release, it's just gaining that little extra complexity and right now it is just sooooooo good.

It has lots of flavour, lots of length, it is elegant in a way but it fits in anywhere.

It is one of those wines that you can smell as soon as it is poured. The unmistakable aromas of fresh New Zealand sauvignon blanc that stand out in a crowd - if fact in the blind tasting this wine and one other had just the most amazing and alluring aromas that make you want to quickly taste it to see if that is just as good. And with this wine I didn't have an anti-climatic experience. The bottle was sealed with a screwcap and the flavour was as pure as it was when it left the winemaking tank.

Right now I've misplaced the piece of paper with the rest of my tasting notes on so I'll have a hunt for that now.

Meanwhile, seek out the Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2002. Unfortunately in most places in NZ you will find it closed with a cork. Winemaker Brent Marris is expecting a shipment of screwcap closures but the ship has been delayed. It is now expected about the third week of March so expect to see the wine in screwcap shortly thereafter. However, the cork-closed wine is widely available in restaurants, fine wine stores, supermarkets and the corner store. And its well-priced too if you shop around. Expect to pay from about $17 to $19 a bottle.

Wither Hills are widely available in New Zealand and internationally. Find out more from the Wither Hills website.

Unfortunately for supporters of Team New Zealand the black boat lost again - it trailed at the start but got the lead in the second leg and stayed in front for most of the way only to be overtaken on the last downhill slide and pipped at the post by a mere 7 seconds. Liked a corked wine this was so anticlimatic.

© Sue Courtney
16 February 2003

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