New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is something I used to find irresistible. Then I got traumatized by countless examples reminiscent of canned green beans. Most unpleasant.
So I turned my back on it.
It got to the point where, as a wine buyer, one of my sales reps was hesitant to present NZ Sauv Blanc. And, ok, not to pick on one grape from one country, because a colleague of hers had a nickname for me: Dr. No. It was a moniker bestowed as a commentary on my, shall we say, particular opinions of wines that salespeople wanted me to buy. (BTW, I bought a lot of wine from this duo.)
But fast-forward to this year. I recently revisited the world of New Zealand Sauv Blanc thanks to a couple fine folks from Broadbent Selections. I was their dinner guest at a local restaurant (Single Shot, love) and they sent me home with a few sample bottles from Spy Valley.
I steeled myself and dug in to the 2014 Sauv Blanc and was pleased to find it not a ghost of wines past come back to the present day. But I had forgotten how zesty these white wines from New Zealand’s Marlborough region can be. Tasting one provides the kind of wine experience akin to waking up to your alarm and immediately gulping some grapefruit juice. A bit of a shock to the system, but ultimately invigorating. (Though first thing in the morning I do prefer a leisurely cup of coffee.) Food-wise go salads, fresh goat cheeses, and/or shellfish cooked with a generous glug of said wine.
And while my penchant for racy white wines is well-documented, Sauvignon Blanc is sometimes a grape that I prefer much more on the mellow side. Especially when it comes to examples from New Zealand. I just don’t want them that aggressive.
It’s along the lines of how my taste in music has changed. When it came to Led Zeppelin, I used to be much more of a “Communication Breakdown” kind of guy. Now I chill out to “That’s The Way”.
So is there a fermented grape equivalent to this shift from Led Zeppelin I to III? Can New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc shed its “Communication Breakdown” ways?
Enter the oak barrel. Which I experienced via Spy Valley’s 2013 Envoy Sauvignon Blanc. It has all the youthful zip you’d expect from a grape known for exuberance, tamed a bit by the influence of oak. It’s not something you detect flavor-wise; no toasty notes. Just enough presence to turn sharp edges into smooth corners, with a bonus touch of richness. A very nice wine. With tangerine notes. Like Led Zeppelin III:
Top photo via Spy Valley.