It seems hard to believe that 2006 vintage Sauvignon Blancs are already being released, after all it is only May and just three months ago the grapes were hanging on the vine.
Allan Scott Early Release Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 was first to make the headlines at the end of April. It was made as a tribute wine by Josh Scott to honour his father's 30 years of Marlborough wine and is a limited release, available only from the winery's cellar door.
Coopers Creek Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 went on sale on the 1st May. When I tried this wine the bracing acidity just about made my hair stand on end. If Sauvignon Blanc was rated on an aggressiveness scale from one to 10, this would rate a 12.
Te Mata Woodthorpe Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 has also been released, which would explain why the 2005 vintage wine was being sold off in one of the supermarket chains the week before for just $9.95 a bottle.
Another to hit the stores is the Lake Chalice Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006, the marketing spiel talking about freshly squeezed juice.
But New Zealand is not the only country with 2006 savvies on the market as South Africa, Australia and Chile also produce results for "Sauvignon Blanc 2006" in Google searches.
But should we write off the 2005's now that the 2006's are hitting the shelves? The answer, I feel, is definitely no. Some are tiring, yes, especially the early release wines from 2005 which undoubtably had a good dollop of sugar to soften their youthful bracing acidity. But many still show exuberant freshness, especially where the wines are sealed with screwcap, which are about 99% of them. In fact a 2004 screwcap sealed wine tasted during the week, the Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004, even fooled some people, including me, of its relatively old age.
But back to the 2005's and this week's Wine of the Week, the Montana Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005, which is a fantastic example of last year's wine. It is straw gold in colour with a star bright, lustrous hue. On the nose it's fresh, grassy and herbaceous; no doubt as to what the variety is here. Add to that a touch of 'sweat', which sounds offensive but in context of Sauvignon Blanc, is a desirable feature.
When first sipped it takes a moment for the power and pungency to reveal itself then it hits you with all the force that it can muster. It's a delicious mouthful of melon and tropical fruit underpinned by grapefruit-like citrus with a gooseberry richness throughout. Add to that the expressive flavours of summer herbs like coriander and fennel together with their crushed seeds, while a tropical fruit sweetness carries the crisp, long-lasting finish with a hint of a toastiness as it lingers. You canít hide the fact that you've been drinking either, as the powerful Sauvignon Blanc flavours stay on your breath for ages.
Montana have been producing Sauvignon Blanc longer than anyone else in Marlborough and the grapes for this wine come mostly from that original vineyard site in the Brancott Valley. Not that these are from the original non-grafted vines, as the site has been replanted more than once for various reasons. This year, for the first time, there is also a small amount of grapes from the more southerly Awatere Valley.
Four percent of the grapes were fermented in a combination of new and older oak with time on the yeast lees after fermentation was complete. However the oaky flavours are not detectable as such on the palate although they add palate weight and probably contribute to the spiciness, which sets this wine apart from others. It caries 14% alcohol by volume and has 7.45 grams per litre of acidity.
Montana regards this wine as their finest expression of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and after tasting through a number of their other productions, there is no doubt that this statement is true. I wonder how it would stack up against the
Montana Terroir Festival Block Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005, which is all Brancott Valley and was a favourite wine in October last year.
Montana Brancott Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005 is part of the letter series, and is emblazoned with a golden 'B' on the dark coloured bottle. It is also sealed with one of the new Steluxe (Stelvin Lux) screwcaps, which doesnít actually show the screw indentations. It looks very smart indeed. At $28.95 a bottle, it needs to be.
© Sue Courtney
29 May 2006