This is a collaboration between well-known Marlborough identities Belinda Jackson, wine consultant and Jan Bilton, food writer. It goes fearlessly where few would dare tread, and does so successfully as it does not appear overly fervent with a message that needs to be said, and is bright and colourful with an easy and general appeal that invites one to enjoy and indeed celebrate.
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is this country’s most important grape variety and the key to the wine industry’s survival and success. It put us on the world wine map in the 1980s and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is seen as a classic style and the finest expression of the variety. Improper management has threatened our world wine standing, a lesson that may not yet be learnt fully. One of the reasons is the lack of respect the wine has among sophisticated and ‘informed’ drinkers. Sauvignon Blanc just doesn’t age as well as other varieties nor develops the same degree of interest or complexity, and the flavours can be ‘just plain boring’. A degree of snobbism operates with Sauvignon Blanc and it seems fashionable to degrade it. To write a book about it may be perilous!
Jackson and Bilton’s book provides a welcome antidote to this attitude and action of demeaning the variety and the wines made from it. Jackson quickly tells Sauvignon Blanc’s story of how it became the preeminent variety planted in the country and its unrivalled suitability to the Marlborough region, how it is grown and made, and how to enjoy it. Her major contribution consists of the concise profiles of over 40 Sauvignon Blanc producers and tasting notes of nearly 60 different wines. The profiles capture the essence of each of the makers, covering history, people and their approaches to making their wines. Many of the producers, such as Cloudy Bay and Hunters are known world-wide, but there are relative unknowns, making the book one that even a serious wine buff would want to peruse. The tasting notes show the huge variation possible with the variety, and together with the producer profiles, paint a picture of interesting diversity.
Bilton has 30 recipes, each with a full page colour photo devoted to it, with a wine match selected. The recipes range from exceedingly simple to requiring a degree of culinary skill and nous to make truly successful, but all look accessible and manageable to reach a level that will make satisfying and interesting dining. They clearly look as they are suited to the wines. The colour, imagined flavours and textures of the food, and photography of the dishes is the true appealing feature of the book, as they tie the wine and food together and bring it all to life. Bright, colourful and breezy, a little like Marlborough on a good day, is what this book is all about.
It has been released in time for the warmer spring, summer and autumn months, when Sauvignon Blanc and the recipes will be ideal. And with Christmas nearly here, it will be an affordable stocking filler or inexpensive gift to get the palate juices running. We’ll certainly be celebrating Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc over the next few months and try some of the recipes in our household. You should too.