New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is certainly not the only wine grape that grows successfully in New Zealand. I have enjoyed wonderful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the beautiful nation that the Maori called "Land of the Long White Cloud," and have even sampled such relative oddities from Kiwi country as Pinotage and Gamay.
But say "New Zealand" to most wine lovers, and "Sauvignon Blanc" comes back as naturally as an "enter password" challenge.
Kiwi wine makers have made Sauvignon Blanc their own in modern times, taking what was initially a climate challenge - the herbal, vegetative character that Sauvignon shows when it grows under cool, cloudy conditions - and turning it into a national trademark, gently nurturing these qualities into ripe, in-your-face wines that glory in bright green-chile-pepper, herbal and gooseberry aromas and flavors built on snappy limey acidity.
First the Cloudy Bay winery gained international attention for its Sauvignon Blanc, which remains highly sought-after though increasingly pricey. But now dozens, even scores of New Zealand producers offer their Sauvignon Blanc around the world, and most of them remain attractively priced at $10 to $15, at least mid-range if not actually cheap.
The 2002 Sauvignon Blancs are now starting to show up in numbers in the Northern Hemisphere, and I have several lined up for tasting. Following is my report on two good, fairly priced examples, one from the familiar Marlborough region and the other from Hawkes Bay, a region of growing interest on the Pacific (east) side of the North Island.
WEB LINK: My friend Sue Courtney, who publishes the leading New Zealand wine-consumer Website, Wine of the Week, has an extended tasting report on a range of 2002 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs at
Sue also contributes articles about New Zealand wine to WineLoversPage.com. You'll find her most recent report, "A Pinot Noir Master Class," online at
Sacred Hill 2002 Whitecliff Estate Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($11.39)
This brass-color wine is clear and rather pale, with light, slightly floral aromas that seem a bit shy at first; but show pleasant white fruit with a bit of swirling and sniffing. It's much more forward in the flavor department, citric and bright, snappy lime and tart, cleansing acidity in perfect balance. U.S. importer: Halby Marketing Inc., Sonoma, Calif. (Feb. 2, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with fresh asparagus with bits of ham in a light saffron cheese sauce over farfalle pasta.
VALUE: Fine value at less than half the asking price of New Zealand's sought-after Cloudy Bay.
WHEN TO DRINK: I like Sauvignon Blanc best in its first year after release, but many wine enthusiasts swear by the complexity that develops with a few years' cellar time.
WEB LINK: I was unable to find a Website for the winery or the importer.
Giesen 2002 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($10.99)
Light straw color with a glint of gold, this wine is exceptionally aromatic. Ripe peaches come up first, followed by juicy lemon-lime and a whiff of the "green chile pepper" scent that's often found in Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Ripe and full, juicy fruit flavors are so intense that the wine almost seems sweet; but a snappy citric tang brings it into balance, clean and lingering. U.S. importer: Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., NYC. (Feb. 2, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: The wine's "in-your-face" flavors make it a challenging food match, but asparagus - here in a farfalle pasta dish with ham and a saffron-tinted cheese sauce - stands up to the herbaceous chile-pepper flavors in the wine.
VALUE: A price tag in the $10 range puts this one on the bargain side of the median for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
WHEN TO DRINK: I recommend drinking it this year, while the fruit remains full and bright, but it could develop more elegance and complexity if properly cellared for a year or two.
WEB LINK: You'll find the winery Website at
Brentwood Wine Company:
Compare rates and service
Are you planning to sell wine? Here's the time it takes to get paid from delivery:
Christie's: 2-3 months
Since 1998 Brentwood Wine Company has been offering rare wine at auction every week, for less. For wine collectors, Brentwood has been the source for fair prices and prompt payment on well-stored fine wine; find out for yourself by faxing your list to (503) 638-6737 or sending it via email to email@example.com.
Brentwood Wine Company has great prices on Riedel glassware too!
Brentwood Wine Company: The Lowest Premiums. The Best Hours (24/7). The Finest Wines.
Hotel Vintage Court:
Choose your holiday in San Francisco
What better place to spend a relaxing evening or two, or three, than at the only wine-themed hotel in the City by the Bay. The occasion doesn't matter ... you can even make one up!
To book your reservation today, please call (800) 654-1100 or (415) 392-4666 and ask for the promotional rate of "CYH." Visit Hotel Vintage Court online at
Wine Tasting 101: Chianti
Learn to taste wine analytically in a friendly, supportive environment where there are no wrong answers. This month we study Chianti. Four "benchmark" wines are offered, including Gabbiano 2000 Chianti Classico (pictured) and Chiantis from Cecchi, Ruffino and Castello d'Albola.
For details about how to participate in this free, interactive wine-education project, click to Wine Tasting 101,
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is currently distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Dessert wine: How cold? (Jan. 31)
A friendly bet penalized (Jan. 29)
Muscat Ramble (Jan. 27)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Cheese crackers (Jan. 30)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
To subscribe or unsubscribe from The 30 Second Wine Advisor, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.
We do not use our E-mail list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail address to anyone. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. To contact me, please send E-mail to email@example.com
All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Monday, Feb. 3, 2003