Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

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Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Thu Jun 28, 2007 2:42 am

Sitting down tonight with the NYT and a glass of ’06 Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc I came across Asimov’s Wines of the Times column. Coincidentally, he described a panel tasting of NZ Sauvignon Blancs. The conclusion was none too happy though. Rather than the “Bright, vibrant wine that had made New Zealand a worldwide force”, there were ”Too many wines that seemed aimed at being commercially inoffensive.”

This struck a chord. I had a sense upon first tasting the ’06 Saint Clair several months ago that it wasn’t as good as the ’05. Not at all bad, but not as good. The tastes seemed not as distinctive nor as long. This was my feeling again tonight too, although I’m very suggestible.

The panel’s winners tended to be upscale versions of standard offerings. A 2006 Villa Maria Marlborough Cellar Selection ($17) came in first. Next was ‘06 Saint Clair Marlborough Pioneer Blocks 3 ($25).

Nobilo too now offers a better version of its Sauvignon Blanc. Is there a pattern here? Has NZ moved away from quality at lower price points in favor of higher end offerings?
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Joe Cz » Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:50 am

Dan,

I think the trend is just towards greater stratification. Nobilo (part of Constellation Brands) has Icon, but they are also behind the Monkey Bay label (US retail abot $10) and another, less expensive label, whose name I am forgetting. St. Clair has their Vicar's Choice at the bottom of their heirarchy, then the regular, the reserve and the single-block wines.

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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby David M. Bueker » Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:57 am

Hi Joe!!
There behind the glass lies a real blade of grass. Be careful as you pass. Move along. Move along.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Robin Garr » Thu Jun 28, 2007 11:11 am

Joe Cz wrote:Joe


Hey, guy ... good to see you!
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby michael dietrich » Thu Jun 28, 2007 11:36 am

I sell wine and I love NZ Sauv Blancs. I personally like the St. Clair 2006 better than the 2005. I also think the Marlborough is more intense than their Vicars Choice. I really like the more agressive style. I have noticed numerous brands coming into our market that I feel are just trying to capitalize on the Marlborough success. Monkey Bay is one example that tastes like it has at least 1% RS. I tasted a new one called New Haven that was OK but priced like the better ones. It was more of a wannabe. In general I have like the 2006 vintage the best of all the previous vintages I have had. My one exception was the Matua Paretai. I like 2005 better than 2006, which is still very good. My new benchmark for best is St. Clair 2006 Wairau Reserve.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Hoke » Thu Jun 28, 2007 11:48 am

I think Joe Cz is spot on (but then, he usually is) in his comments.

To which I could add that there's been vast expansion of planting after the initial successes of NZ in the global market, which means lots of new wines from lots of new vines from lots of new winemakers going into lots of new brands at lots of different price levels.

Bound to be some changes. Add in also that there's fairly significant vintage variation, especially in the South Island, and lots of terroir variation as well. Happens when you get to a somewhat marginal growing region (in the sense that it is often so cold down there, I mean, and thus variable).

Add to that the normal arc of folks trying to cash in on the phenom and not caring about quality or style nearly as much as they care about profit. :)
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Randy Buckner » Thu Jun 28, 2007 12:15 pm

I personally like the St. Clair 2006 better than the 2005. I also think the Marlborough is more intense than their Vicars Choice. I really like the more agressive style.


I agree with you 100 percent, Michael. If people think NZ SB is dumbed down, then all they need to do is taste 2006 versions of Astrolabe, Cloudy Bay, Eradus, Forrest Estate James Randall, Goldwater, Kim Crawford, Lawson's Dry Hills, Matua Valley Paretai, Omaka Springs, etc., etc.

Sure, you'll also find cheap commercial versions like Monkey Bay, Lindemans, etc., just like you'll find in any other wine-producing country. To make a sweeping denunciation of NZ SB is just nonsense IMO.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Sue Courtney » Thu Jun 28, 2007 3:49 pm

Joe Cz wrote:Dan,

I think the trend is just towards greater stratification. Nobilo (part of Constellation Brands) has Icon, but they are also behind the Monkey Bay label (US retail abot $10) and another, less expensive label, whose name I am forgetting.
Joe


The Jibe, possibly.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Joe Cz » Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:19 pm

The Jibe, possibly.


Actually, I had forgotten about that one. That's positioned above Monkey Bay. Fern Leaf--I looked it up--is the brand below.

So the Constellation Brands lineup looks something like this:

Fern Leaf $10
Monkey Bay $11
House of Nobilo Regional Collection $12
The Jibe $15
Kim Crawford $17
House of Nobilo Icon $20

Kim Crawford may have its own production facility, but I think the rest are done through Nobilo.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Sue Courtney » Thu Jun 28, 2007 5:14 pm

Joe Cz wrote:
The Jibe, possibly.


Actually, I had forgotten about that one. That's positioned above Monkey Bay. Fern Leaf--I looked it up--is the brand below.

So the Constellation Brands lineup looks something like this:

Fern Leaf $10
Monkey Bay $11
House of Nobilo Regional Collection $12
The Jibe $15
Kim Crawford $17
House of Nobilo Icon $20

Kim Crawford may have its own production facility, but I think the rest are done through Nobilo.


Kim Crawford is still separate at this stage.
Do you get any of the Selaks brands in the US? They are also produced at the Nobilo wineries plus there are other brands which you may not see in the US, e.g. The Favourite, Bach 22 (bach is pronounced batch).
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Joe Cz » Thu Jun 28, 2007 5:39 pm

Re: Selaks

Yes, we get that one too. I forgot about them because they use an independent importer rather than being imported by one of Constellation's various entities. Much lower profile. Should be US$15-16 retail.

A lot of the prices I give in this thread are subject to discounting depending on quantities purchased and vintage closeouts. I've seen Monkey Bay for as little as $7.99 I think.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Mark Lipton » Thu Jun 28, 2007 5:41 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:Kim Crawford is still separate at this stage.
Do you get any of the Selaks brands in the US? They are also produced at the Nobilo wineries plus there are other brands which you may not see in the US, e.g. The Favourite, Bach 22 (bach is pronounced batch).


Sue, I recall Selaks from visit to the House of Nobilo in '01, but have never seen it over here. Wine-searcher shows at least one US retailer carrying the '06 Selaks SB, so it must be imported. My recollection was that it was (more or less) Nobilo's second label. Has that status changed with their acquisition by Constellation?

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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Sue Courtney » Thu Jun 28, 2007 6:00 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:
Sue Courtney wrote:Kim Crawford is still separate at this stage.
Do you get any of the Selaks brands in the US? They are also produced at the Nobilo wineries plus there are other brands which you may not see in the US, e.g. The Favourite, Bach 22 (bach is pronounced batch).


Sue, I recall Selaks from visit to the House of Nobilo in '01, but have never seen it over here. Wine-searcher shows at least one US retailer carrying the '06 Selaks SB, so it must be imported. My recollection was that it was (more or less) Nobilo's second label. Has that status changed with their acquisition by Constellation?

Mark Lipton

Mark, I see Selaks Founders Reserve just as iconic as Nobilos Icon - but there can only be just one 'wine brand' at the top. Since Nobilo took over Selaks (before Hardy's and later Constellation came along), the integrity of each of the brands' top labels has been maintained in my opinion. From memory, the Selaks Founders Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is made in a different style, with some oak - and may not be exported to the US.
Indicentally the wines in each brand are line priced in NZ and Selaks Founders Reserve costs more than the Nobilo Icon - if that means anything.
There is also the Selaks Drylands - but they call it just 'Drylands' now. I've just looked at a bottle I've got here and Selaks is no longer mentioned at all on the label - but it is still on the Founders Reserve.

I also found a bottle of Rose Tree Cottage, which is another brand of the group.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:39 pm

I am a big NZ SB fan, and we had a termendous Open Mike recently. Sure there are some wines out there that do not make the"top grade" but so what. I can spend $13 on low-end Monkey Bay etc and for ten more can buy Drylands, Shingle Peak and Staedt Landt. All amazing wines!!
I agree that it is tough to keep track of everyone with all the take-overs etc.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Bob Henrick » Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:09 pm

Joe, you have been away for a long long time. Welcome back, if you are indeed back.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:40 pm

Joe, a friend of Bob H is a friend of mine!!! Great to hear from you on SB.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Joe Cz » Thu Jun 28, 2007 11:29 pm

Thanks to everyone for the kind welcome backs. I haven't really been gone, just too busy to do much more than give any of the various Internet fora the occasional lurk. And I'm off to Oz on Saturday, so consider this a cameo for now.

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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Fri Jun 29, 2007 6:06 am

Looking over the comments, the only imaginable case for the consensus and Asimov's panel being in agreement would be if the panel over-sampled from the lower stratification. One would hope not but we don't know.

It seems to me too that stratification in itself doesn't address the question of whether quality in the products that originally got a foot in the door is lower now (e.g., plain old Saint Clair without any block number). It wouldn't be the first time.

Michael Dietrich thinks the '06 St. Clair is even better than the '05. I defer to him, but wish now that I'd saved some of the '05 for a side by side comparison.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Joe Cz » Fri Jun 29, 2007 7:30 am

Dan,

FWIW, I rated the '06 St. Clair higher than the '05 (88 vs 84), but found both those vintages of Wairau Reserve excellent (90).

There may be some validity to your suggestion, but as Hoke pointed out, there could be other factors at play in addition, such as vintage quality and rapid vineyard expansion.

Personally, I find the genre can be rather repetitive and not always that interesting--especially when sitting down to taste through a large number at one sitting as the folks at the NY Times did. That could account for some of Asimov and his panel's negativity.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Sue Courtney » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:26 am

Dan Smothergill wrote:Looking over the comments, the only imaginable case for the consensus and Asimov's panel being in agreement would be if the panel over-sampled from the lower stratification. One would hope not but we don't know.

It seems to me too that stratification in itself doesn't address the question of whether quality in the products that originally got a foot in the door is lower now (e.g., plain old Saint Clair without any block number). It wouldn't be the first time.

Michael Dietrich thinks the '06 St. Clair is even better than the '05. I defer to him, but wish now that I'd saved some of the '05 for a side by side comparison.



Saint Clair (they don't like the abbreviation St.) and Kim Crawford have, in my opinion, produced the best Sauvignon Blancs across the board in the 2006 vintage, given how many wines they actually produce under their brands. Saint Clair doesn't compromise their name but putting swill into their premium Saint Clair brand - they use other labels or sell it off.

FWIW - I rate the Saint Clair 2006 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (the blue label wine without any block numbers) the best commerically available wine of the vintage, but if you really want to taste quality the Pioneer Block 3 is excellent but the Pioneer Block 6 and the Saint Clair Wairau Reserve are even better. I love the texture of the Saint Clair Wairau Reserve, while the explosive tropical fruit flavours of the Block 6 make it my wine of the 2006 vintage.

There's a new brand of Kim Crawford available here in New Zealand - called Crawford Farm. Not sure if it is exported, but it's a mighty fine drop at just above entry level price.

I guess you guys are finding out what we already know - there is sauvignon blanc and then there is sauvignon blanc. Some are definitely better than others. I applaud labels like Saint Clair that can pick up gold medals from the Vicars Choice to the top of the range Wairau Reserve. Others have their top tier wines but cannot get the quality at lower levels that they need to produce to fulfil demand. Unfortunately sometimes fulfilling demand may compromise quality.

It would be interesting to get a list of what was tasted.

Joe Cz wrote:Dan,

FWIW, I rated the '06 St. Clair higher than the '05 (88 vs 84), but found both those vintages of Wairau Reserve excellent (90).

There may be some validity to your suggestion, but as Hoke pointed out, there could be other factors at play in addition, such as vintage quality and rapid vineyard expansion.

Personally, I find the genre can be rather repetitive and not always that interesting--especially when sitting down to taste through a large number at one sitting as the folks at the NY Times did. That could account for some of Asimov and his panel's negativity.


Very good points.

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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri Jun 29, 2007 10:35 am

..............looks like a good time to bring back that Open MIke we started!
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Glenn Mackles » Fri Jun 29, 2007 12:57 pm

NZ Sauvignon Blanc is often my weekday glass of wine on the deck after work in the Summer. There are lots of them, and easily obtainable in my local supermarket in the $10-15 range. Mostly I get wines by Noblio, Babich, and Kim Crawford. To be honest, there are differences between them but they are much more similar than different. Some have a bit more acid bite and some are a bit more fruity but open any of them, pour yourself a glass and they are all instantly recognizable as NZ SB. Sometimes they go on sale to about $8 a bottle and I stock up. I find them to be reliable and great to drink. Based on my totally unscientific sample, I really haven't detected any significant differences in the last few years.

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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:01 pm

Let's set aside Saint Clair, which yours truly was unwise to put center stage. It's a red herring with respect to the question of whether the stratification of NZ Sauvignon Blanc, in general, has been accompanied by a sacrifice in quality at the low end.

Sue, my guru for NZ Sauvignon Blanc, wrote:
I applaud labels like Saint Clair that can pick up gold medals from the Vicars Choice to the top of the range Wairau Reserve. Others have their top tier wines but cannot get the quality at lower levels that they need to produce to fulfil demand. Unfortunately sometimes fulfilling demand may compromise quality.


That seems to me more like a yes than a no.
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Re: Change in NZ Sauvignon Blanc?

Postby michael dietrich » Sat Jun 30, 2007 11:46 am

I think that there are many producers like Saint Clair that always seem to deliver the quality. Because of the popularity of them we are seeing many other virtual wineries jump into the category. Another great bargain I have found is called Redcliffe. It is the second label of Grove Mill. In NZ it is called Sanctuary. We also get it in 1.5 ltr. bottles that we sell for $13. I would love to see some good SB in 3 liter boxes. It would be a great convenience and would probably be an even better value. No, I do not want Monkey Bay in 3 ltr.
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