My first 2014 Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc
Wine has become New Zealand’s eighth largest export earner, growing in value by NZ$1 billion over the past 10 years and volumes are expected to rise 30 million litres to 220m litres next year, according to a report from the country’s Ministry for Primary Industries.
You won’t be surprised to hear that Sauvignon Blanc dominates exports – the variety represents more than eight out of every 10 bottles exported. Such is the demand that one of the country’s largest producers, Villa Maria, can only keep the shelves stocked by producing an “early release” wine from the latest vintage.
It’s the first 2014 Sauvignon Blanc I’ve tasted, so they are quick out of the blocks.
Nick Picone, senior winemaker at Villa Maria explained: “We generally run out of the previous vintage,” which is a nice problem to have. But six to eight weeks of no wine means lost listings in the major grocery chains, which ain’t such a nice problem when there are plenty of other Savvy makers itching to take your slot.
“We made 9 million litres of Sauvignon Blanc this year for the private bin label so the early release bridges the gap between the 2013 and 2014 vintage.”
The majority of the grape harvest in Marlborough generally takes place in March and early April, so it’s only been a couple of months for the grapes to get to the glass. So how do they do it?
“We have to pick the early ripening blocks so it’s a tighter range of parcels and the ferments that go dry sooner.”
Earlier ripening vineyards from the Marlborough sub-region of the Wairau Valley, rather than the later-ripening Awatere Valley, are generally used for this early release.
Fruit from the Awatere Valley ripens later, due to cooler and windier weather than the Wairau Valley. The Awatere tends to bring greener characters to your Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – fresh pea, tomato leaf and capsicum – so I was expecting more restraint in this early release example.
Indeed, the wine doesn’t bop you on the nose with lots of aromatics. Unsurprisingly, there’s a leaner profile to this wine – expect lemon, green apple and beeswax aromas. It’s lively, light bodied and taut with pretty firm acidity. Don’t expect texture in the mouth either – there’s hardly time for lees stirring with this bottling. It’s a middle of the road effort that makes a more interesting story than glass of wine. For those Villa Maria brand loyalists out there, I’d suggest buying up the 2013 vintage before the local store runs out and waiting it out.
*Note: Fellow Kiwi winery Moana Park released a 2014 Sauvignon Blanc on April 1 – and it was no April Fool – but this Villa Maria SB is my first taste of the 2014 vintage.