A few years ago, I helped a friend, a superb amateur chef and wine connoisseur, prepare a gourmet charity dinner for ten. He chose the Dog Point Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2007 to complement his signature dish of roasted garlic prawns with a slow roasted giant gourmet cherry tomato.

Last Friday night, different friends also chose a New Zealand sauvignon blanc to complement another wonderful roasted prawn dish. This time the wine of choice was the Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2004 and it was served with roasted prawns in a delicious chilli and sauvignon blanc sauce – a dish inspired by our friends’ recent travels in Spain.

I was absolutely mesmerised by the Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc. So different from any other sauvignon blanc I had ever tried. Full bodied with beautifully balanced and integrated oak, I wasn’t even sure at first that I was drinking sauvignon blanc!

Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc is one of a number of high quality New Zealand wines that exemplify an alternative style of sauvignon blanc. If you’re bored with the immensely popular fruity style of sauvignon blanc or even prefer chardonnay, then a wine like Te Koko with its complex, creamy palate of delicate citrus fruits and nutty, savoury overtones will very likely change your opinion of the variety.

The name Te Koko is the original Maori name for Cloudy Bay, and it seems particularly apt given that in 1991 Te Koko was the winery’s first experiment with the use of indigenous yeasts.

Today, the wine is not released until three years after the initial fermentation to allow time for all of the components to be fully integrated. After a slow ‘natural’ (wild yeasts) barrel fermentation (only 10 per cent new French oak), a spontaneous malolactic fermentation is allowed to take place. The wine then stays in the barrel on lees for another 10 months or so. After being racked and lightly fined for clarity,  it is bottled aged for over a year before being released.

Dog Point also makes a sauvignon blanc that is barrel fermented in older French oak with wild yeasts. The Dog Point Vineyard Section 94 2007 was singled out by Tyson Stelzer of Wine100 magazine as one of the top wines of 2009: “One vintage after another, the consistency of this wine is carving itself a niche among the greatest Sauvignons on this side of the equator. An utterly complex interplay of  ripe gooseberries, lime, blackcurrant, lantana and kumquat melt with well-controlled oak. It’s multilayered, distinctive and defined.” (Top Wines of the Year 2009, Wine100, January 2010)

Dog Point Vineyard’s is owned by James and Wendy Healy and Ivan and Margaret Sutherland. James (winemaker) and Ivan (viticulturist) are both former Cloudy Bay employees, who were determined to take Marlborough sauvignon blanc in a new direction by creating a wine that had more body and weight. Only six years old, the winery has already won wide acclaim for its interesting styles of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir.

Wine critic Huon Hooke chose the Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2009, as one of his top sauvignon blanc picks for 2010. (Top 50 summer wines – sauvignon blanc by Huon Hooke, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 November 2010) The wine is made from hand-picked certified organic fruit from the winery’s three vineyards. Five percent of semillon is added to the blend, and approximately eighty percent of the final blend was fermented using wild yeast for added complexity and texture. The Semillon and approximately ten percent of the Sauvignon were fermented in aged French barriques. Hooke offered the following glowing review: “A powerful sauvignon blanc that’s a far cry from your typical Marlborough offering, with 14 per cent alcohol and rich, mouth-filling flavours. It has satisfying depth and complexity of character. Subtle barrel influence adds dimension. More please! 93/100”

If you’re looking for something special to serve during the holiday season, New Zealand’s new take on a popular ‘old’ variety will certainly impress your friends!