Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Luvian’s St Andrews' Archie McDiarmid blogs from Sauvignon Blanc Celebration in Marlborough

Published:  12 February, 2019

The major focus of the final day of Sauvignon 2019 was ‘Pursuit’ – both of new customers and of new styles – as New Zealand looks to broaden the appeal of its hero grape without losing the affection of the millions of customers worldwide who have super-charged the country’s remarkable growth as a winegrowing power.

As a result, many of the speakers were understandably regionally focused, looking at major markets like Hong Kong, Mainland China, the USA and others. Emphasising the importance of the UK market to New Zealand, two of the eight speakers focussed their attentions here.

Dirceu Vianna Junior MW looked at consumer preferences in the UK market based on his research with Lallemand. The results were surprising, highlighting that although consumer and wine writer tastes in Sauvignon Blanc differ, it is far less that you might expect. When tasted blind, the wines with classic tropical notes associated with Marlborough didn’t come out on top. Instead, more citrus-led wines were favoured.

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, meanwhile, looked at the challenges faced by Kiwi producers in the UK market. New Zealand is the eighth biggest wine category, but enjoys the second highest average bottle price, at £7.20 per bottle, and this without the benefit of ‘super premium’ wines, which drive up the average of the number one nation, France.

With bulk from New Zealand now outstripping bottled Kiwi wine in the UK and 68% of all wines sold on promotion, Howard-Sneyd sounded a warning from history – Muscadet. Once the darling of the UK market, it lost distinctiveness, quality and consistency as it tried to expand into unsuitable growing regions and, as a result, has spent the last 20 years wandering in the wine desert trying to find its way back.

Only by focussing on storytelling, sustainability, innovation and transparency can New Zealand keep driving its unmatched success story.

Sarah Heller MW, meanwhile, gave some excellent insight into the Asian market and generated the loudest burst of laughter of the week with her line, “there is something deeply Freudian about how much consumers love a deep punt”.

Alternative styles

As well-executed as the morning’s talks and discussions were, the most fascinating element of the day was the afternoon’s tasting of alternative styles of Sauvignon.

This covered an incredible amount of ground, from Pet-Nat and orange wines, single vineyard sites, wild yeast and barrel-aged on lees through to old vintages going back a decade, plus late harvest stickies. The Clos Henri Single Vineyard Clay and Stones wines tasted great, retaining fabulous minerality and offered a tremendous contrast between the two terroirs.

It doesn’t take any great insight to say that Greywacke Wild Sauvignon is a world class wine, but to see the 2016 vintage side by side with the 2010 demonstrated sheer ageability of the wine, with the older vintage still pin bright, but softer on the palate, with greater length and flecks of honeysuckle coming through to hint at its age.

It was also wonderful to see an old dog demonstrating that it had absolutely mastered new tricks with Hunter’s (along with Cloudy Bay, one of the foundation stones on which Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is was built) showing their delicious Offshoot Pet-Nat; exactly the kind of wine that can’t help but draw in lambic loving and new wave cider-appreciating millenials into the world of wine.

And the Orange Sauvignon Blanc from Loveblock - the new project from Kim & Erica Crawford - was a revelation, swapping sulphur use for powdered green tea as its only preserving agent. The result was delicious and with a delicate tannic quality that was a million miles from the clean, fresh, classic Marlborough with which it made its name.

Finally I should mention the wines from Framingham, Dog Point and Clos Marguerite, which showed consistently excellently across every day of tasting, and to Marguerite Dubois herself who can cut up a dance-floor like nobody’s business as she so deftly demonstrated at the gala dinner.