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Tannic Panic! Issue #3: What's Gooseberries?
Cool as, 2022 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc
What’s gooseberries, ya dirty winos? Today we’re blessing your scanty little spam folder with reviews of one of our favorite everyday drinking-whites: Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. Last week we tasted 10 bottles of the latest vintage (2022) and have been violently shaking in our kiwi green jumpsuits in anticipation of revealing our top picks. With their typically low price points (often ranging from $10-$15 in grocery stores) you’ve got a pretty good shot at finding value in any bottle you crack.
Of all of the countries I (Isaac) have ever visited, New Zealand is unquestionably one of the most beautiful. Coastlines carved with dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, rolling green hills, lush forests, snow capped mountains, inland glaciers, bioluminescent caves, and beaches with crystal clear water. Between the populated areas, you can travel for hours without seeing another car on the road – alone with the scenery (and your dirty little mind).
During my travels in New Zealand I found myself on Waiheke island off the coast of Auckland. While I was there I spent an afternoon touring local wineries on a hop-on-hop-off bus, which led me to some awesome people and amazing wines (don’t panic, we’ll do a feature on Waiheke in a future release).
But my experience at the end of the road — when the bus was on its final stop of the tasting circuit and dropping off the last of the stragglers — is a perfect illustration of the culturally engrained friendliness and generosity of Kiwis that I found to be common across the country: I had no idea how to get back to my B&B, and I was blissfully unaware that there were no alternative methods of public transport available when I asked the bus driver if he had suggestions for the best way home. Realizing then that I was stranded on the far end of the island, without a beat of hesitation he offered to drive me all the way back across the island himself. All of this is to say: much like the people of New Zealand, I’d be hard pressed to find a New Zealand wine I did not like.
The variable landscapes result in microclimates that make numerous regions perfect for growing a range of grapes — most notably Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir. The Marlborough region, situated at the top of New Zealand’s South Island, is the unrivaled king of Sauvignon Blanc production.
With vibrant acidity and vivid flavors that dance on the palate, it’s the sort of wine that doesn't just wake up your taste buds, it throws them a full-scale Mardi Gras.
Crack open a bottle and suddenly you're swimming in a sea of passionfruit, stone fruit and green pepper with a zesty citrus life jacket. One sip and you're posted in your togs and jandals under a palm tree on a tropical island — even if you're actually in your bathrobe in the living room screaming, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”
Sweet as, bro, let’s dive in.
2022 Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc [$9 / 91 Points] (STEAL ALERT!!)
You say Brancott, we hear BARGAIN — value so good we’re simply SQUEALING with delight just writing about it. You can get this bottle for just $9 at Total Wine & More (and many local grocery stores).
Crack that screw cap and take a whiff – immediately you’ll perceive its pronounced, chalky minerality – think crushed stones and sea shells sifted over a medley of sliced melon, grapefruit, green pepper and ripe passion fruit.
A beautifully balanced bottle with high acid and a long finish — and it truly stands out from the bunch for the prominence of its minerality.
Pair with spaghetti aglio e olio.
We’re scoring this one 91 points.
2022 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc [$13 / 89 Points]
Wind up your mangy little meat hooks and take a swing at a bottle of the 2022 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, which you can find at pretty much any grocery store with a wine section for about $13.
Immediately your new pal Kimmy will swing back with a citrusy tangle of grapefruit rind, crushed shells, and a twang of a rubbery-asparagus character that may take you by surprise. But no need to jump out of your gym shorts, everything is going to be okay. That rubbery character softens as the wine opens up, like your angry grandpa who you promise is a teddy bear once you get to know him.
Have yourself a sip and you’ll find the palate is nicely balanced and mineral, with high acid, good length and complexity. If you're a Sancerre fan, this puppy might be more your play. Pair with grilled lemon asparagus. 89 points.
2022 Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc [$14 / 92 Points]
When we spell out Grove Mill, G is for GUAVA (don’t quiz me on the rest of the letters). An intoxicating swirl of lush tropical fruit, followed by orange blossom, crushed rocks and a gentle breeze over a grassy field. The aromatic profile is so nice you won’t want to take your nose out of the glass — but please do.
The fruit carries beautifully into every sip. Medium bodied, ripe and delicious, with fresh acidity and flavors that linger like the howl of a deranged yodeler echoing across the Marlborough sounds (THE GOOD KIND).
Isaac found this bad boy for just $14 at the local H.E.B. (located all over Texas), but if you’re in another state, you should be able to find it near you with a little elbow grease and good attitude — and if you can’t figure out what grocers in the area carry it, check wine-searcher for merchants near you. You won’t regret it.
Pairs beautifully with creamy garlic polenta & kidney beans.
2022 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc [$15 / 90 Points]
Squint into your coke-bottle monocles and read close: 2022 Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc — widely available in grocery & wine stores, $15.
The moment you unscrew its squeaky little screw cap, you're greeted by a fanfare of soft, welcoming aromas. Like a basket of juicy citrus fruits and a dewy wet stone had a baby – THAT’S WHAT WE’RE DEALING WITH HERE. If you haven't sniffed a wet stone recently (or ever), trust me – it's the good kind. Passionfruit, melon, lemon zest and a whisper of freshly cut grass humbly join the party.
It's medium in body with bright acidity and flavors that just keep chugging along like the little engine that could, delivering a finale of lingering, unpretentious kumquat flavor.
Pair with a grilled romaine & roasted beet salad.
We’re 90 on this.
Marlborough's serendipitous combination of climatic conditions and well-drained stony soils delivers the perfect environment for the Sauvignon Blanc grape to thrive. The cooling sea breezes and the diurnal temperature shifts - warm sunny days followed by chilly nights - create a wine growing environment that’s as dramatic as the landscape itself, slowing down the ripening process, allowing the grapes to develop a beautiful balance of sugars, acids, and aromatic compounds. The result is Sauvignon Blanc with an unmistakable intensity and complexity.
The moral of the story today — whether you are a seasoned Kiwi Sauv Blanc guzzler, or just dipping your gnarled little toes into the swimming pool, it’s hard to go wrong. But the next time you’re at the store and you’re tempted to reach for that bottle of Matua you know and love (no shade to Matua, still delivering value at the $10 price point), we encourage you to pause for a moment and consider one of our suggestions — or something else new — because the variability in the expression of the grape between bottles merits a foray into the unknown.
Isaac & Zach
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