Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs blind tastings by (PB)

Every once in a while, the stars align just right and you fall into an amazing opportunity that you know you just don’t deserve.

Visiting (NW) in Boston this past weekend, we were invited to some friends’ house for an extraordinary dinner and a blind tasting of 9 N.Z. Sauvignon Blancs.

All nine were bagged and numbered 1-9. We tasted them in three flights of three. Again, once thing that was emphasized through the experience is that tasting wines side by side is the only way to really taste a wine and appreciate the nuanced differences between them.

Our hosts spent some time in New Zealand before coming back to the U.S. bringing with them an understanding of New Zealand’s forte in to the production of this varietal.

Below are my notes from the tasting.
(Because of low light conditions, we ignored that attribute of the wines. Suffice it to say they were all pale yellow with a hint of green to one degree or another.)

#1 Spy Valley 2004 $11 (WS score of 88 pts)
Big guava nose with plenty of grass with a citrusy palate, subtle flavors that are tight and minerally notes with tart grapefruit. Some complexity.

#2 Dashwood 2005 $14
(WS score of 89 pts)
Subtle guava, grass and pear notes with a touch of mandarin orange. More grapefruit on the palate with a touch of bitter and lighter bodied than #1.

#3 Tohu 2004 $14 (WS score of 90 pts.)
Still more subtle notes of guava and grass with citrusy palate and grapfruit with a rear palate of floral notes–wow!

#4 Cloudy Bay 2004 $21 (WS score of 86 pts)
Guava/grass nose with new asparagus notes. Good mouth feel though slightly tart with solid acid and stoney finish with some complexity.

#5 Selaks Premium Selection 2005 $16 (WS score of 90 pts)
Lighter nose of guava and big vanilla aromas with creamy notes and creme brulee. In the mouth it is a tad weak on acid but adequate. Simple finish.

#6 Kim Crawford 2005 $12 (WS score of 90 pts)
Bouquet of vanilla cream, lychee. Grass, sweet spice–nice! Citrus on the palate with S. Blanc character all the way. Nice grassy finish. A great example of the grape.

#7 Matua Valley “Paretai” 2004 $17 (WS score of 93 pts)
Guava and grass and lychee fill the bouquet with great mouth feel that has a “zip” to it and full of flavors with grapefruit, and citrusy complexity. Best of tasting!

#8 Grove Mill 2002–(the wine was “corked”) or possibly shot due to its age! These wines are meant to be drunk young!

#9 Oyster Bay 2005 $8 (WS score of 89 pts.)
More grapefruit than grass in the mouth; this wine has nice structure and is well made. (Best value of the tasting)

Again I stress that while wine tasting is subjective as far as what one likes, there are objective elements that go into making a great wine! The fact that I picked the Matua Valley Paretai as the best of the tasting which happens to correspond to the Wine Spectator’s rating as the highest of the wines presented, is not coincidental!

Still the importance of wine "pairing" cannot be over stated. I found myself going back again and again to the Dashwood with the different foods we had that night which included a shrimp lasagne, mushroom and gruyere fondue, Arugula with fried Gorgonzola balls.

Special thanks to our hosts for a wonderful dinner and a special time. We raised many glasses that night. Here’s to the next time around!


g58 said...

Last week I tasted a West Brook 2005 for around $18 -- I wanted to do exactly like you had, just to put the signature style into better perspective. More than any other, New Zealand SBs seem to demand that, don't they?

They are like little lemmings marching along until you sit a bunch of down for a closer comparative look.

PB said...

You nailed it! (NW) and I both said, that had we not tasted them side by side, our reviews would have read nearly identical. But how revealing it is to take those little lemmings hostage one by one and make them talk!