Category Archives: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Nov 11 2011

Can you tell if a wine is any good just by tasting it? Impressions from a Craggy Range Tasting

Posted on November 11, 2011 | By

Have you ever been unimpressed with a wine on first taste, but then fallen in love with it over the course of a meal?

Well, according to a very interesting article by Decanter’s Andrew Jefford “digestibility is as much a hallmark of truly fine wine as is sensorial intricacy and harmony.” Jefford goes on to explain:

Twenty-five years of reading wine assessments, as well as providing assessments of my own, have convinced me that tasting without drinking is, in fact, a monstrous (if inevitable) flaw in all wine criticism. I’d like to see wine critics append a ‘D’ or a ‘*’ to any numeric score or tasting note for a wine which has been drunk rather than merely assessed by tasting. Any critic who claims that they have never had to adjust, after drinking, an initial assessment based on tasting alone is lying. (Jefford on Monday: Thinking about Tasting by Andrew Jefford, Decanter, 7 November 2011)

Jefford’s comments resonated with me when I attended a tasting last night of the Craggy Range lineup hosted by NZ Wine Online. The event was held at the Roof Top Bar of Coast, but the sun hadn’t set so I was hot and thirsty. Not the best state to be in when tasting wines! Fortunately the weather cooled and big plates of antipasto arrived in time to whet our appetites.

All the wines on show were excellent, but the Craggy Range Old Renwick Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (26.95) was definitely an example of a wine that opened up with food. I was initially perplexed by its unusually dry, stoney and mineral character, but over time its delicious lime and grapefruit flavours also shone through.

Initially struck by the dark rich purple red colour of the Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009 (37.95), … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Greystone Wines Sauvignon Blanc: A Waipara Valley Alternative to Marlborough

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By

Another region featured at the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class was Waipara Valley in Canterbury, just north of Christchurch and south of Marlborough. Waipara used to be famous for its Canterbury lamb, but in last 30 years it has become home to around 80 vineyards, and is now the fastest growing wine region in New Zealand.

The Waipara offering was the Greystone Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2010. Greystone Wines is better known for the pure flavours of its riesling and pinot noir, and its sauvignon blanc had more floral aromas and minerality than the other wines we sampled.  A blend of two hand-harvested blocks, the first portion, Block 2, was whole bunch pressed and entirely barrel fermented in seasoned French oak barrels. The later picked Block 3 was settled and fermented in tank. The 2010 vintage won a Gold Medal at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.


Greystone takes its name from the grey, fossil rich limestone, which is  a prominent feature of this hill slope vineyard. The northwest facing slopes are known locally as “the golden mile”, as Waipara is one of the few regions in New Zealand that offers genuine limestone sub-soils. Free draining limestone sub-soil is, of course, one of the prized features of the famed Burgundy terroir.

Like Burgundy, the climate of Waipara is also ideal for the growing of two of the world’s most difficult grapes: pinot noir and riesling. The Greystone vineyard soils, which range from free draining limestone to Glasnevin clay, provide a series of micro-terroirs imparting a unique character to the range of varieties grown. Warm sunny days give way to cool nights and autumn is typically dry and warm. The Teviotdale hills provide protection from cool easterly winds off the Pacific ocean but are open to warming from … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

Giesen August Sauvignon Blanc: ‘Pushing the Boundaries for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By

In yesterday’s post, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class,  I mentioned how New Zealand winemakers were experimenting with exciting new ways to make the country’s standard bearer sauvignon blanc.

One of the highlights of the evening was the inaugural vintage of the Giesen August Sauvignon Blanc 2009. This handmade wine had a richness and complexity of aromas and flavours that set it apart from the other wines we tasted on the evening. It reminded many of us of the exciting new style of sauvignon blanc exemplified by the sublime Cloudy Bay Te Koko and the acclaimed Dog Point Section 94 .

A look at the Giesen website shows that much thought, experimentation and care went into the making of this limited production wine. A product of the three Giesen brothers (Theo, Alex and Marcel) and their winemaking team, the idea behind this new wine was to “push the boundaries for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.”

Like the Cloudy Bay Te Koko and the Dog Point Section 94, the winemakers used wild yeast and barrel fermentation. The grapes were hand-harvested from low yielding vines grown in seven different areas of the Giesen’s Wairau Valley vineyards. Here the soil ranges from shallow and stony to deep sandy loams – each imparting their own distinct aromas and flavours to the wine.

Three days prior to harvesting each block, a bucket of grapes was picked and crushed to make a wild yeast starter. It was left in the warmth of the pump shed to get the temperature up, and after a couple of days of fermentation more grapes were added. When the vineyard was harvested these yeast starters, indigenous to the different blocks of the vineyard, were brought into the winery, drained off and added to the juice from their respective blocks.

After … Read the rest

Mar 03 2011

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Master Class

Posted on March 03, 2011 | By

Last Friday NZ Wine Online hosted a Sauvignon Blanc Master Class at the Royal Automobile Club in Sydney. I always enjoy evenings when the winemakers are on hand to discuss the wine, so I listened with great interest to winemakers John Hancock from Trinity Hill of the North Island’s Hawkes Bay region and Glenn Thomas from Tupari Wines, which is situated in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough in the north of the South Island.

Of the nine wines we tasted that evening most were from the Marlborough region. Understandable, given that Marlborough is the one region of the world that seems to have taken the noble grape of the Loire and Bordeaux and made it its own. In her book Educating Peter, The Wall Street Journal’s wine writer Lettie Teague argues that Marlborough sauvignon blanc and in particular the iconic Cloudy Bay expression of the style “actually changed the way people thought about Sauvignon Blanc and the way winemakers approached the grape too…From California to South Africa, even in the Loire Valley, the home of Sauvignon Blanc, I’ve seen wine lists that feature ‘New Zealand-style’ Sancerres.”

Interestingly, the Hawkes Bay offering, the Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010, is made more in the understated or restrained style of Sancerre, with citrus, melon and stone fruit flavours accented with Sancerre-like mineral notes. The wine spent extended time on lees to give it more body or texture, and the warmer climate of the Hawkes Bay region creates a wine that is slighly lower in both acidity and alcohol than its typical Marlborough peers.

Both Hancock and Thomas talked about the innovations taking place in New Zealand sauvignon blanc. While many of the wines displayed the familiar characteristics of bright fruity aromatics with zesty citrus and tropical fruit flavours … Read the rest

Dec 12 2010

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Top Producers Create an Exciting Alternative Style!

Posted on December 12, 2010 | By

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 … Read the rest