Cuisine’s results from their Sauvignon Blanc tasting reflect the incredible growth and expansion of labels flooding the market. Many of the wines being released are new labels from new operators, others are new and different tiers introduced by existing players, often created to increase existing market share, sometimes in an attempt to bolster flagging sales from labels and brands that may be getting tired. No matter whatever the reason, the consumer is being bombarded with new releases that have no history or presence, making the choices for the consumer increasingly difficult. Of course, that is exactly what Cuisine magazine is trying to resolve with the publication of the results in the January 2011 edition, Issue 144. The results draw attention to these new labels, endorsing their quality.
Nine of the Top Ten Sauvignon Blancs were awarded 5 stars, and nine were from the 2010 Marlborough vintage, now seen as the best since 2007. Having noted that, the judges were a little underwhelmed, as the wines as a group were generally up-front, without the finish of the best. The best wines were “well made and classy” however, reported panel leader John Belsham.
The top wine was The Ned Marlborough Sauvignon 2010, a result that is consistent with the success that Bent Marris has enjoyed with the Oyster Bay and Wither Hills labels that he drove. Cuisine writer John Saker described it as “crisp and fresh with attractive citrus flavours and keen green notes”, saying “this classy Sauvignon would be the perfect foil for creamy, fleshy Clevedon oysters”.
Following, in order were Summerhouse, Volcanic Hills and Pebble Row, all new or at least relatively new labels. In fifth and sixth were Stoneleigh and Invivo, labels that are well-known and distributed. Trout Valley from Nelson was in seventh place, and the widely available Wither Hills and Villa Maria ‘Private Bin’ wines came next. Filling out the top ten came Moncellier, the label for Bill Spence, ex-Matua Valley, incidentally who was behind this country’s first Sauvignon Blanc wine! The rest of the wines in the 4 star category were made up of popular and well-recognised labels, but also the following less-seen wines – Squealing Pig, Bird ‘Old Schoolhouse Vineyard’, Redwood Pass and Whalebone Bay.
The concerns of the growth of these new wine and brands is clear. Their proliferation means there will inevitably be winners and losers. Strong and clever marketing allied to top quality is essential for survival in these tough economic times.
Rosé and Dessert Wines
This issue of Cuisine also looked at rosé and dessert wines, and the panel was also underwhelmed with these wines, John Belsham asserting “Far too many winemakers are producing these styles simply because the opportunity presents itself, rather than from a burning desire to make an outstanding wine…..and it shows.” For the record two rosé wine were awarded 4 stars – Akarua Pinot Rosé 2010 and Tatty Bogler Pinot Noir Rosé 2010, both from Central Otago. And two dessert wines were highlighted – Forrest Marlborough Botrytised Riesling 2009, with 5 stars, and Craggy Range ‘Fletcher Vineyard’ Marlborough Noble Riesling 2008, with 4 stars.