New Zealand winemakers take a victory lap

Kim Crawford and Cloudy Bay Vineyards (Supplied)

Kim Crawford and Cloudy Bay Vineyards (Supplied)

Christopher Waters, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:26 PM ET

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the 2013 vintage in New Zealand, which boasted sunny and dry conditions and saw yields and production volumes rebound after the challenging 2012 harvest.

Thankfully, the overall message is that quality improved as much as quantity. The newly released 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from brand champion Cloudy Bay is an excellent case in point. The watery white liquid in the glass in no way prepares you for its intense aromas and flavours.

Back in the 1980s, Cloudy Bay cemented the international reputation for Sauvignon Blanc from the Malborough region, which enjoys the longest hours of sunshine of any place in New Zealand. That sunshine helps to create an assertive style of Sauvignon Blanc that’s much more pungent and powerfully fruity than versions crafted in the Loire Valley region of France, which is spiritual homeland for the distinctive white grape.

Another big cheerleader for the quality of the 2013 vintage is Kim Crawford winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst, who is calling 2013, the “Vintage of a Lifetime” and proclaiming the newly released wine as the best Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc they’ve produced since the winery opened. Optimal growing conditions in Marlborough and throughout New Zealand ensured the best-quality fruit was harvested, which is tantamount to the success of Sauvignon Blanc. After all, this is a wine where winemakers strive to get the flavours of the grapes into the finished wine without too much interference.

Whereas great Chardonnay tends to rely on performance enhancing oak barrels or other tricks of the trade to gain nuances of flavour and aroma, top-quality Sauvignon Blanc is all about vibrant aromatics, layers of fruit flavours and fine structure that all come from the raw ingredient — the grapes.

“In reality, we only got serious about growing Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough 30 to 40 years ago, so that’s as far back as we can go in comparing vintages,” said Walkenhorst, who joined the Kim Crawford wines team in 2005. “But the 2013 vintage will easily be among the best, or the best of the past 20 to 30 years.”

Wines of the Week:

****1/2

Cloudy Bay Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand BC $31.50 (304469) | AB $29 | MB $29.64 (304469) |ON $29.95 (304469)

Bright citrus (especially ruby grapefruit and lime zest) and lemongrass aromas set the stage for a flavourful yet harmonious style of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Not too tart or acidic, there’s a grace note to this vintage, which is leaner and more focused than the 2012 vintage that’s still available in some markets.

****

Kim Crawford Wines 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand BC $19.99 (100594) | AB $23 | MB $19.99 (011048) | ON $18.95 (035386)

This model of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc goes to 11 in This Is Spinal Tap sense. It’s bursting with tropical fruit aromas and flavours, with some grassy/herbal notes in the background. The rich, concentrated texture is almost oily, with the suggestion of some residual sweetness that adds to the mass appeal. For fans of this style of assertive white, there’s even more to love.

 


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