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Wine of the Week for week ending 16 January 2005
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Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Marlborough, New Zealand

The taste in my mouth was strong. Sweet pungent gooseberry, melon and peach with surges of passionfruit, the delicious sweetness balanced by strong acidity characterised mostly by lemon, lime and definitely lots of apple, all laced with vibrant summer herbs. There was a spicy zestiness and was that a tingling of ginger and pepper along the sides and on the tip of my tongue? I licked my lips and got the saliva working. I couldn't believe what I was tasting. It was like I had just drunk a glass of Sauvignon Blanc only minutes ago. But I was lying in bed, woken by the heavy humidity hovering in the room and the need to toss a blanket off immediately. I opened one eye and looked at the clock. The red illuminated numbers indicated it was 3.30am. Oh my gosh.

The evening before I had tasted 37 sauvignon blancs in three almost equal sized flights, a tasting that took about 3 hours as I tried to write some sensible notes. Then my best scored wines came back for a relook together in a fourth flight. All the wines were tasted blind and I spat the wines into a bucket rather than swallow, as is necessary when tasting wine like this. Only when the recalls came back did I take a wee sip of each. Perhaps less than half a glass in total. Needless to say it was late when I finished and after the glasses were washed and the bottles tidied away for a second look alongside food the following day, it wasn't long before bedtime.

Some aftertaste and so varietally true. Would a sip of water take it away? Only momentarily.

I was amazed how strong the aftertaste was after such a length of time but I canít think of any other wine that does it in such a nice way. Not like that Cyprus white I once tried. That was made in the 'Retsina' style and the unpleasant pine resin aftertaste lasted three days. But the Sauvignon Blanc aftertaste is actually quite nice. Perhaps the flavour should be infused into toothpaste.

The tasting, which was mostly 2004 NZ sauvignon blancs but included a trio of Aussies and some older Kiwi wines, showed just how diverse the styles are. From rich, full rounded styles that show sauvignon blanc as its classic Kiwi best to the more flinty styles, there was diversity in a nice way. But there were some poor performing wines and the wines in cork, especially the older wines, did not show well. They lacked the freshness and vibrancy that one should rightly expect with this grape and unfortunately one very highly rated producer's wine was corked. I'd tasted this at his release tasting though, so will not get a replacement.

My top wine in the tasting was the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc 2004. This water pale wine is pungently herbaceous on the nose with a hint of pea and a hint of that musky character that is often likened to sweat. Grass, capsicum, herbs, gooseberry and musky flavours fill the palate while a little oak adds complexity to the whole. A wine with depth and flavour and a lengthy full finish where tropical fruit twirls the beautifully balanced acidity in a zesty dance across the palate. 'Undoubtably Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc", I wrote. And I was right.

Second in the tasting was the Villa Maria Reserve Clifford Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004, such a different style to the Taylors Pass wine, a little more elegant and subtle in its power. Fruity tropical, melon and gooseberry aromas make this quite a classical style on the nose while it is a zingy wine in the palate with lots of citrus, lemon grass and other summer herbs, a chalky grainy texture and a dry finish. A flinty style of SB with delicate tropical fruit and melons lingering with summer herbs.

In third place the Palliser Estate Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004, right there at the top again where it usually is and its inclusion in the top 4 split the Villa Maria reserve wines with Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Sauvignon Blanc 2004 taking 4th place.

Interestingly I placed three Martinborough wines in the Top 10 of this tasting - as well asthe Palliser I like the Pencarrow Sauvignon Blanc 2004 and the Martinborough Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2004.

Last October I held my first big Sauvignon Blanc tasting and then I chose the Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004 as my top wine and consequently 'Wine of the Week'. At that time it narrowly pipped its sibling wine, the Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2004 into second place. But I had the opportunity to I taste the Saint Clair Wairau Reserve at the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday tasting earlier in the week and I have to say this wine has absolutely blossomed into one of the top wines of the vintage. It was a bit slow out of the starting blocks but it is absolutely ahead by more than a nose, now.

Sauvignon Blanc lovers have lots of exciting wines to choose from and those that have the reputation are the wines that seem to deliver from year to year. At least for my palate.

All wines tasted have been updated to my sauvignon blanc review page and are dated 6Jan2005 - click here.

© Sue Courtney
9 January 2005

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