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edited by Sue Courtney
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Wine of the Week for week ending 13 June 2004
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Isabel Estate Noble Sauvage 2002
Marlborough, New Zealand

I went to an event to highlight the gorgeous Isabel Estate Pinot Noirs from Marlborough but at the end of the tasting a glass of the Isabel Estate Noble Sauvage 2002, a sweet Marlborough wine made from botrytised Sauvignon Blanc grapes, stole the show.

I'd had this wine before and found it a rich concentrated and powerful sweetie, utterly sensational and a magnificent treat for the end of our Christmas Day meal last year. The review hidden on my sweet wine page tells the story ….

"A beautifully rich and fruity, wonderfully viscous nectar, thick and sweet, apricots, peach and passionfruit, a little oak on the back palate, made to sip and savour at the end of a long day. Simply divine with fluffy pavlova and fresh summer fruits. Yummo!"

At Isabel Pinot Noir tasting the excellent pinots were completely overshadowed by the Noble Sauvage as the delicious flavours of this sweet sauvignon blanc lingered for the journey home.

The tasting was organised by the agents, Bennett and Deller, who like to show their wines with and without food, which I think is an absolutely terrific idea. The venue was Sails restaurant overlooking the yacht marina and Jason Blackie the chef made a trio of tastes to match to the wine. A dessert platter, such as this, is a great solution for any restaurant that has only one or two dessert wines on their menu but have several desserts, because while a chosen dessert wine may match one dish, it may not match too well to another.

On this occasion the three desserts were –

  • a Semolina and Apricot Cake infused with cardamon and served surrounded by an apricot puree,

  • a few pieces of pink grapefruit that were infused with syrup,

  • and a marmalade ice cream served on a white chocolate biscuit.

I just loved the wine with the marmalade ice cream and that biscuit, which had caramelised in the oven, tasted like an old fashioned Hokey Pokey Biscuit from the Edmonds cookbook.

I decided to repeat the exercise at home and made my own platter of desserts –

  • my own version of marmalade icecream , which was as simple as softening some vanilla icecream and blending some marmalade into it, then refreezing again in espresso cups for individual servings,

  • a self-saucing chocolate pudding,

  • a bread and butter pudding with an apricot infusion (click here for recipes).

So how did the golden hued wine taste this time? My former review hasn’t really changed at all. But if anything the wine has more toffee characters creeping in, it's a little smoky on the nose, there is an earthy sauvignon bite first up, there is definitely some fruit salad and cream and there is good acidity throughout, though softened by the oak. Perhaps that is what makes it so good with dessert because I thought only the grapefruit in syrup missed the mark somewhat.

The acidity clocks in at 10 grams per litre while other vital statistics are 12% alcohol and 170 grams per litre of residual sugar. The grapes were harvested over the first four days of June 2002 – a wonderful season for shrivel and clean botrytis - and the wine was racked to a combination of old and new French oak for fermentation in barrel. There it stayed for 12 months and the wine was bottled in September 2003.

One thing has definitely changed since my tasting in December 2003 and that is the price. Then it was $50 a bottle in retail, and for a 375ml bottle that is just too far over the top. Bennett and Deller think so too and they have persuaded Mike Tiller of Isabel Estate to drop the price. So now it clocks in at $35a bottle, which is a little more affordable.

Despite the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc made in New Zealand, there are not too many sweet Sauvignon Blanc wines at all. The Isabel Estate Noble Sauvage is a bit of a rarity in that respect.

The story goes that the name Sauvignon is derived from Sauvage meaning wild, as the vines grew wild like weeds, hence this French name on the Isabel Estate Noble wine.

Find out more from the Isabel Estate website.

© Sue Courtney
6 June 2004


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