Sauvignon Blanc

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Sauvignon Blanc

“The rise to international stardom of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc was remarkably swift. Government Viticulturist Romeo Bragato imported the first Sauvignon Blanc vines from Italy in 1906, but it was not until 1974 that Matua Valley marketed New Zealand’s first varietal Sauvignon Blanc, grown in West Auckland. Montana first planted Sauvignon Blanc vines in Marlborough in 1975; its first bottling of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc flowed in 1979. In 2014, 85.5 per cent by volume of all New Zealand’s wine exports were based on Sauvignon Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc is by far New Zealand’s most extensively planted grape variety, in 2015 comprising nearly 57 per cent of the bearing national vineyard. Almost 90 per cent of all the vines are concentrated in Marlborough, with further significant plantings in Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, Canterbury and Wairarapa. Between 2005 and 2015, the area of bearing Sauvignon Blanc vines surged from 7277 hectares to 20,159 hectares.
The flavour of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc varies according to fruit ripeness. At the herbaceous, under-ripe end of the spectrum, vegetal and fresh-cut grass aromas hold sway; riper wines show capsicum, gooseberry and melon-like characters; very ripe fruit displays tropical-fruit flavours.
Intensely herbaceous Sauvignon Blancs are not hard to make in the viticulturally cool climate of the South Island and the lower North Island (Wairarapa). ‘The challenge faced by New Zealand winemakers is to keep those herbaceous characters in check,’ says Kevin Judd, of Greywacke Vineyards, formerly chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay. ‘It would be foolish to suggest that these herbaceous notes detract from the wines; in fact I am sure that this fresh edge and intense varietal aroma are the reason for its recent international popularity. The better of these wines have these herbaceous characters in context and in balance with the more tropical-fruit characters associated with riper fruit.’

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