Wines of the year 2015: 5 Sauvignons to get your mitts on
With 2015 drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect on a year’s drinking.
Thankfully, I’ve enjoyed a lot of bloody good wine this year thanks to three cracking vintages on the trot: the growing conditions in 2013, 2014 and 2015 made it much easier to make good – and great – wine in New Zealand; if wineries messed up in these vintages, they probably should consider calling it a day. However, there is still plenty of lolly water being churned out by larger producers to keep undiscerning palates wet. Much of this landed on my doorstep, sending my tastebuds screaming for cover.
For starters, I’ve looked back over my tasting notes from the past 12 months to find my favourite Sauvignon Blancs and this is what turned up….Disclaimer: I haven’t tasted every Sauvignon in New Zealand. Christ, I’d need daily trips to the dentist and a packet of Gaviscon every day, if I did. But, I have done my best.
- Churton Best End Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough
At the risk of sounding like a pretentious wine wanker, if there was ever a Sauvignon Blanc that reminded me of white Burgundy, this is it. Yes, I am aware that Sauvignon Blanc isn’t grown in Burgundy (apart from the appellation of St Bris but I’m more about the rule than exception here) but this has the dart-like precision, lemony linear acidity and oak-derived hazelnut-like French oak that is reminiscent of a Puligny-Montrachet style. It’s light bodied with plenty of finesse. If I were being super critical, I’d like a little more length, as I have to have another sip quickly to remind me of those tasty flavours.
- Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough
A Marlborough Sauvignon that’s restrained and refined, which is a dangerous thing – you could drink a lot of this! Fermented in stainless steel with a neutral Champagne yeast to allow its pure varietal gooseberry, grass and elderflower aromas to shine through. Light bodied and delicate yet there’s a high level of concentration on the mid-palate.
- Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Hawke’s Bay
Hawke’s Bay doing Sauvignon Blanc? Yes indeedy. This is a great food wine with a rich mid palate and lovely line. It has an attractive perfume, reminiscent of blackcurrant and grass, and some nutty nuances from barrel fermentation (25% new oak). High level of fruit concentration suggestive of low yields. Zesty acidity leaves a crisp finish.
- Domain Road Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Central Otago
Pleasing to see another non-Marlborough entrant in the list. This is impeccably balanced Sauvignon Blanc, which offers restraint and texture. Subtle grassy, asparagus and citrus flavours meld perfectly together in this pared-back style. Appetising fine-grained texture on the finish and fine acidity create dart-like precision.
- Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough
A whiff of struck match and onion on first sniff, but give it a swirl and some air and it gives way to classic gooseberry and passionfruit flavours. Elegant, refined and floaty light in the mouth yet high level of fruit density. Firm acidity leaves a taut, driven finish. Another highly successful Sauvignon from Dog Point.
- Greywacke Wild Sauvignon 2013, Marlborough
Yes, I know I said I’d only do five but I couldn’t leave this wine out. It’s another Sauvignon from Greywacke and, no, I’m not on its payroll – it just makes bloody good wine. This barrel-fermented Sauvignon is produced from riper parcels of Sauvignon. The winemaker leaves the wine to do it’s own thing, which means fermentation can take up to a week to kick off and it can take a looooong time to finish fermenting – some barrels are still happily fermenting away a year after the grapes are picked so this is certainly not one of these quick release Sauvignons. The result is a full-bodied, food-friendly Sauvignon Blanc. It shows struck match characters, herbal, nettle and blackcurrant aromas but this is one Savvy that’s not just about the aromas: there is a really interesting textural component. It is weighty, has a lovely, creamy lick and a fine grain on the finish. There’s no doubting the complexity nor the quality of this wine but the style may not appeal to all.
Next up, my Chardonnays of the year…