So it was Harry’s choice to start just about as far away as we could get geographically.
I guess it makes sense to start in New Zealand as they are the furthest of our wine Tasting countries ahead of us on the world time clock.
As to his choice of Sauvignon Blanc, well I guess he wanted to grab our attention with some vibrant and racy mineral wines to get our tasting juices flowing.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has risen to its standing as a major wine name from pretty much nowhere historically. Sauvignon Blanc was first planted in the South Island (which includes the famous Marlborough region) in the early 70’s.
At its worst a poor NZ Sauvignon Banc has been described (by me) as being slapped in the face by a large Halibut, possibly thinking of the fish slapping sketch from Monty Python. Anyway, the idea is that it is a shocking, unpleasant, mouth puckering, tart, acidic wine that makes you need something else to drink… a bit like mouth wash!
However at its best NZ Sauvignon Blanc can have a stunning herbaceous and floral aroma (think Fresh-cut grass, lemongrass, sweet pepper, jalapeno, Tomato leaf/stem) and a juicy vibrant citrus zesty mouth zing, the acidity will still be mouth puckeringly high but yet the balance will be complimentary rather than isolated. The main fruit flavours you will find are exotic, from the traditional French Lime and Gooseberry but with Grapefruit, Pineapple, Guava, Mango and Passion Fruit.
Most of the wines we are tasting come from Marlborough as this is the largest and most famous (but also the benchmark style) area in New Zealand for Sauvignon Blanc.
Our first tasting is a little odd really, as I suspect many will be, but in different ways and for different reasons.
Whereas we might have thought to try 5 or 6 different producers and/or different areas we got a little caught up in something interesting.
Rapaura Springs one of our own wineries and a ‘winery of the year’ in NZ has a range of very interesting classic, reserve, area specific and single vineyard offerings which recently have been extremely well received. Their Classic Sauvignon Blanc 2020 has made it into the Wine Spectator top 100 wines of year (#41s out of 12,500 tasted). The Rohe area wines are rated as some of the very best produced in New Zealand.
So we decided to make that the core of our tasting albeit bookended with the most famous Cloudy Bay (vintage 2018) and then some barrel aged Craggy Range and Cloudy Bay offerings to finish us off.
I can promise this is unusual in having so many Red Bottle wines in the tasting as most of our tastings will have few to none. Each tasting though is just as unique and hopefully an interesting spotlight on something or somewhere that excites us and right now Rapaura does.
This evenings tasting was conducted by myself and Harry, with able (or not) assistance lent by Kim, Jen and Luke.
So to the wines…
1st up is…
Cloudy Bay 2018
A classic wine from a classic winery, the one that put NZ Sauvignon Blanc on the world map back in the 80’s. Years ago I bought cases of this wine each year and they were fantastic. Eventually the rise in the wineries around them coupled with some of their vineyards (owned by others) setting out on their own and various changes in wine maker and eventual ownership of Cloudy Bay (now owned fully by LVMH) the wines perhaps suffered a little for a while but recently a string of fine vintages has seen them regain their glory and as such are a fantastic benchmark for fantastic NZ Sauvignon Blanc
Nose: Pale Straw colour at first view. Gooseberries, Lemon, Pineapple, Lychee and Green Bell Pepper were the standout hints at first. Slowly moving on to basically an exotic fruit salad. Guava, passionfruit, limes etc.
Palate: In the mouth, the key drivers were pineapple, lychee and citrus. Wide open on the fruit front, nothing closed or distant. Very bold and powerful. Body was medium, moderate acidity with a moderate-full finish. A gorgeous wine to start the evening off with. Roughly £20 a bottle!
A relative newcomer to international world of wine, one of the larger family wineries (two families in fact) In 1999 they established a grapevine nursery, then built their vineyards from the ground up. Originally growing grapes for other wineries they launched Rapaura Springs in 2007. In 2015 they won the IWSC Sauvignon Blanc Trophy.
Today we are tasting their top wines
Rohe Blind River 2021
Nose: Pale Straw colour at first view. Green bell peppers, freshly cut grass and (surprisingly) Kiwi’s! all very clear on the immediate nose. Moving through to citrus and a slight hint of jalapenos towards the end.
Palate: In the mouth the freshly cut grass and kiwi subsides a bit and you are focused on Green bell peppers, lychee and mangoes. My father actually suggested that Key Lime Pie was the perfect analogy for what he was getting… I was less enthusiastic on that front, but agreed that limes were indeed present. Light-medium body with moderate acidity and a quick finish. Roughly £17 a bottle.
Dillons Point 2021
Nose: Pale Straw colour at first view. As herbaceous as you could ever get… everyone around the table agreed this was something very different to the previous two already tasted. Green bell peppers and freshly cut grass were definitely present as well, however the herbaceous smell was just so powerful it was all you wanted to smell.
Palate: Extremely different in the mouth however, Exotic fruit salad once more. Guava, pineapple, lychee, mango… the list continues. Citrus coming through as well with slight hints of what we had on the nose previously but fruits really on a roll here. Medium body, low acidity and a moderate finish. All in all a top wine in our opinion. £18 a bottle!
Bull Paddock (A single vineyard from within Dillons Point) 2021
Nose: Pale Straw colour at first view. As one would think, not too dissimilar to the previous wine. Considering this is from the same area as the above it was not too surprising to us. However I would note that there were hints of smoke and gooseberries with this wine, including everything that you read above. Almost as if this was slightly closed… very interesting anyway!
Palate: Again slightly closed perhaps… Green bell peppers, lychee and mangoes on the forefront with a lovely medium body to round it out. Low acidity which was surprising as Dad and I definitely felt there was more to this wine. A medium length finish which was appreciated as it can assist with ageing slightly. £20 a bottle.
Is a family owned winery established in 1998. Located in Hawke’s Bay their wines come from multiple regions including Te Muna in Martinborough. The family set up a 1000 year trust to ensure the vineyard can never be sold and will be handed down for generations.
Te Muna 2020 is a barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc
Nose: Pale Straw colour at first view. Vanilla and apricot jam on the forefront… it was delicious. The smell was absolutely gorgeous, lychee and marzipan were also very present as was Battenburg cake according to Jen! You get the point I think. It was fascinating.
Palate: All aromas on the nose were ever present on the palate. Vanilla, stone fruits from the jam and citrus were all complementing each other and with both body and acidity being moderate with a full finish we genuinely thought this was the finished article. It was perfectly balanced, it had fantastic fruit forward flavours with the oak ageing bringing the exact amount of oompf needed. £20 a bottle!
The Te Koko 2019 wine is a wild ferment, barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc
Nose: Butter, Vanilla and all the mangoes you could imagine cramming into a bottle of wine. This really was the bomb. Hints of lychee and pineapple as well but realistically it was all about the oaky flavours mixing in with mangoes. Absolutely fantastic.
Palate: On the palate all aromas were very proud and pleasant. Sometimes with a wine of this quality you can get certain hints on the nose and then the palate can be completely different, not this time. A beautiful melange of exotic fruits with vanilla and butter just made this absolutely sublime. It was like walking into a sweet shop but not sickly at all. The perfect performance out of the two wines that were oak aged. We could not fault it. A full body with moderate – full acidity and a long finish. Stunning but £40 a bottle so a notable step up from everything else. I will be really interested to see how this develops over the years
Remembering that this is not a competition but a tasting of some ideally wonderful expressions of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, there is still a question of which wines lived up to expectations and which would you prefer to buy next week… so on to some scores.
Cloudy Bay 2018 : 87 points
Rapaura Blind River 2021: 83 points
Rapaura Springs Dillons Point 2021: 91 points
Rapaura Springs Bull Paddock 2021: 90 (Dad really liked this and he wanted me to share that!)
Craggy Range Te Muna 2020: 91 points
Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2019: 93 points
And finally… it would appear out of the unoaked wines that Dillons Point has taken top spot. This really was a tremendous wine and Rapaura should be congratulated on creating such a gorgeous wine. Slightly cheaper than the Cloudy Bay we would definitely suggest that this is your go to unoaked wine for this area.
However, Te Koko really was a beast. This wine is absolutely stunning and Cloudy Bay should be immensely proud of their flagship wine. The Craggy Range Te Muna is honestly not too far away from Te Koko so if you wanted to save yourself £20 I would suggest to try it first and see if you appreciate it. If you already know your palate and know this area well then Te Koko is the wine to go with to impress your friends around the dinner table. Here ends our first report!
Hope you enjoyed reading!
Harry & David