A drive out to Matua Valley's Waimauku vineyard in Auckland north-west - just 20 minutes drive from my home - 20 minutes with no traffic that is - is always a treat. It is one of the country's most beautiful vineyards at any time of the year but especially in the early stages of winter on a calm, blue sky day. Last week the vines had their final flourish of colour, a patchwork of red and yellow, the leaves hanging tenaciously to the vines before they fell to join the dry, brittle pile of fallen leaves already on the ground.
I was surprised to find that not one, but two 2005 Sauvignon Blancs had already been released. They are the Matua Valley Shingle Peak Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005 and the Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005.
What a pair of wines, young, fresh and youthful, terrific to try in a mini blind tasting side by side. And so easy to spot the Marlborough wine. Shingle Peak threw stones out of the glass, forcing my attention from the other side of the room. The crisp, fresh, green gooseberry, apple and passionfruit aromas filled the air. Then its taste grabbed me by the back of the tongue and made me shiver at its fresh exuberance, its lively acidity, its green herbaceousness and its juicy fruitiness. Oily textured, slippery, no trouble in finding its way down, and amazingly smooth for such a youngy.
There's a minty character as it lingers, fresh mint, along with basil, coriander, and fennel - definitely fennel with its delicious aniseed flavour - lingering on the finish. A full, rich wine, mouthfilling and satisfying with more deliciousness as passionfruit emerges on the pungent aftertaste.
Matua Valley Shingle Peak Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2005 is a wine to chase away the winter blues. Because when I taste it and close my eyes I imagine I'm lying on the beach with the surf breaking just off shore - the brilliance of the day, the blue sky and the white sand toned down by the UV glare-resistant sunglasses. I imagine I am 16years old again. Fresh. Youthful. Virginal.
Beautifully balanced, with room for growth, this wine is delicious now but could be even more stunning in a couple of months time. Time will tell.
As for the Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005 - fantastic packaging with the vibrancy of the green in the label reflecting the fresh, racy, lime-citrus flavours in the wine. Add to that the gooseberry and melon aromas with a nuance of tobacco and the sweet-fruited flavours with plenty of youthful pineapple-like acidity, a grainy texture and a smoky character - like the smokiness of freshly cut grass - that lingers on the finish. But just a little more subdued overall, as you would expect when comparing Marlborough and Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
Matua Valley Shingle Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2005 has 13.5% alcohol by volume while Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2005 is 11.5% alcohol by volume.
Both wines have screwcap closures and are now available from Matua Valley Wines for about $14.95 a bottle. They are sure to be in a store near you soon.
© Sue Courtney
19 June 2005