Thursday, April 14, 2016


I love former West End actor Oz Clarke's description of New Zealand's brash, pungent Sauvignon Blanc, an iconic style created by Cloudy Bay winemaker Kevin Judd. He calls it a“cloudburst, thrilling, shocking, lime zest, capsicum, love me or leave me” style of Sauvignon Blanc.

Kevin Judd, who produced the winery's first 25 vintages and who now has his own winery, Greywacke, had no idea this blend of green and tropical flavors would take the world by storm. He had the idea of blending in the green, tart early picked wine his crew loved so much to with fruit picked just ripe as well as some that was overripe and tropical.

Now some winemakers are dialing back on these opulent flavors, both the thiols, tropical passion fruit and pineapple, and methoxypyrazines, Sauvignon Blancs's signature zesty green and herbaceous notes. These days quality conscious producers are focusing on textural elements they can manipulate using winemaking techniques such as stirring the lees/yeast sediment, and ageing in barrel. Most of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the market never sees an oak barrel. Pyrazines and oak are very antagonistic - the oak elevates the pungent greenness to a point where flavors clash. They are looking to barrel age wines with good fruit weight - for example Giesen's The Fuder series named in honor of the German beer barrel and from selected single vineyard sites (see our reviews here: ).

Single vineyard sites along with specific soil types and clones are being more closely explored as well. A new Bordeaux clone that ripens earlier, allowing for full flavor development at lower alcohol level is on the rise. Winemakers are also picking early in warmer vintages such as 2015 because they don't want acid to blow out. Concern for the environment is growing. But the most surprising trend was showcased in San Francisco last month, an exploration of the ageability of their Sauvignon Blancs.

The result results were mixed. Read our reviews here:
The clear winner was the oldest in the flight, the Staete Landt. I hope you enjoy the ever shifting landscape of beautiful New Zealand wines.

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