Two weeks ago, our very good friends hosted a blind tasting of nine New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines. After making several trips to the Kiwi nation, they fell in love with these wines and always seemed to have more bottles hanging around than they could possibly drink. So the idea of a tasting night was born, and nine wines were selected.
I really enjoyed this set-up because it made it possible to detect subtle differences between wines that would be difficult to taste otherwise. My tasting notes are as follows (prices are approximate):#1- Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($13)
Explosive nose of lychee, grapefruit, and minerals
Fairly rich palate, but with backbone
Smooth, lingering finish of citrus and grass, with tartness and complexity
(good quality wine)#2- Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($14)
Nice nose of citrus, lychee, and sweet melon
Smooth on palate with sweet notes of apple and pear
Smooth finish balances sweet and grassy notes
(a little sweeter than others, but retains its backbone)#3- Tohu Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($14)
Somewhat muted nose of citrus, opens with air to reveal fresh cut grass
Simple on palate, almost a touch flabby for this varietal
Simple finish, but tapers well, some floral notes
( a little bit soft and simple)#4- Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($22)
Nice nose of grapefruit, lychee, and minerals
Minerals on the palate, nice texture
Elegant finish is balanced, with an added fragrant, floral note
(3rd best of tasting- flavorful, elegant, and balanced)#5- Selaks Premium Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($16)
Nose of citrus with sweet touches of pear and apple
Flabbly on the palate, not enough acid
Soft finish, pleasant but not complex
(soft and flabby for varietal)#6- Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($16)
Grapefruit nose with lively grassy notes
Rich, mouth-filling palate
Elegant finish, layers taper nicely with citrus and floral
(best of tasting- lively, rich, and elegant all rolled into one)#7- Mutua Valley "Paratei" Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($18)
Nice nose of citrus, minerals, and grassy notes
Rich, balanced texture on the palate
Good finish, tapers well with layers of citrus
(2nd best of tasting- tastes very balanced and well made)#8- Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc 2002 ($14)
Off nose, faint citrus and herbal notes- corked?
Flat, sour finish
(terrible- a corked wine! and too old)#9- Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005 ($11)
Nose of grapefruit and melon
Soft core of fruit on the palate
Simple finish with sweet fruit and a citrus note
(slightly below average relative to peers, but not offensive)
I ranked the wines in the following order after the blind tasting: 6, 7, 4, 1, 2, 3, 9, 5, 8. I chose #6 as my favorite, the Kim Crawford, because it had all the flavor, it was lively, and had an added elegance. It seemed really well made and well balanced.
The Grove Mill (#9) was clearly the worst. In fact, it was corked! Yes, there are some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc's that have cork closures. At first, I couldn't believe what I was tasting because I assumed all the bottles were screw top. Of course, the vast majority are.
After the formal tasting, we made all the wines available for food pairing. Several of us kept going back to the Dashwood for just the right pairing with the seafood lasagna. My 5th ranked wine was number one with that dish! You just never know what might make a good food pairing.
This blind tasting was a terrific chance to examine the subtle nuances of the varietal. Thanks again to the hosts, who opened their cellar for a fantastic evening. Raise a glass!