The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - The Telegraph Magazine
When only Marlborough sauvignon blanc will do…
Fifty years ago, the first commercial sauvignon blanc was planted in a sheep-farming area on the tip of New Zealand’s South Island. It didn’t take long for Marlborough sauvignon blanc, more luminous and vibrant than this tangy grape had ever smelt or tasted before, to become a modern classic.
Half a century on, the world still can’t get enough of the aromatic wine. I mean that literally. While the French government recently announced a €160 m fund to help Gallic growers deal with a wine oversupply, in Marlborough they still have no problem selling as much sauvignon blanc as they can grow. Just when you think every inch of viable dirt in the region has been planted, in go more vines. ‘The limits are really being pushed, [but] with technology like frost fans to protect their crop, people are investing in those outer pockets,’ says Jamie Marfell, chief winemaker for Pernod Ricard, owner of the Brancott Estate brand. Because for some wine drinkers (hello, Mum), a chilled white that isn’t Marlborough savvy B is always slightly disappointing. So which one will you pick?
Best big brand: Villa Maria Private Bin 2022, Marlborough, New Zealand (13.5%, widely available, around £10). You’ll often find big brands like Villa Maria on offer, but they’re still decent value at full price. Villa Maria is sleek and juicy, like a passion fruit and white-peach daiquiri. It’s fruitier than the herbal Brancott Estate, more generous than The Ned and more confident than the slightly querulous, citrussy Oyster Bay (all widely available, around £10 each).
Best supermarket own-label: Morrisons The Best Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (12.5%, £9). I’ve loved the Waitrose No. 1 own-label in the past but the current 2021 vintage is looking a bit tired, whereas this bold, tomatoleaf-scented sauvignon is bursting with energy. Like many supermarket ownlabels, you can often catch it on offer.
Best step-up selection: Blind River Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Marlborough (13.5%, Waitrose, £12.99). This glows like lemon sorbet with lemongrass, passion fruit and a lick of chalky minerality. A portion of this wine has been aged in old wood but fear not, you’re not going to taste any oak, it just brings a different, more open texture. For what it’s worth (and she is a super-fan), this is my mum’s new favourite Marlborough sauvignon. I also love the elegance Saint Clair Origin Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Marlborough (12.5%, winebuyers.com, £15.95) which is streamlined with notes of blackcurrant leaf and a saline freshness.
Best foodie option: Dog Point Section 94 2020, Marlborough (14%, Berry Bros & Rudd, £28.95). Named after the vineyard block from which all its grapes are picked, Section 94 takes inspiration from the dry whites of Pessac Léognan in Bordeaux and it does it well. Fermented and aged in French oak, it’s rich and full with notes of struck match, baked grapefruit and cooked lemon. Drink it with salmon fillets, hollandaise and new potatoes.
And for something a little different: Greywa ck eS auvign on Blanc 2022, Marlborough (13.5%, the whisky exchange. com, £18.95) Kevin Judd is a hugely respected winemaker and this immensely detailed wine amply demonstrates his very particular skill with the sauvignon blanc grape. See wines of the week for other unusual bottles to try.