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Wine of the Week for week ending 24 December 2006
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Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Marlborough, New Zealand

Lunch was planned with friends. Fay was booking the restaurant. "Find a BYO and I'll bring the wine, " I said.

I remembered my offer at the last minute and thought, "now what can I take that everyone will like". These were not 'vino' buddies after all. I knew that Carol was an ABC'er as she had once expressed a dislike for oaky chardonnay. She once said she liked sauvignon blanc. But would the others? I hoped so for this was, after all, the varietal that made me fall in love with wine all those years ago.

As I rummaged through the sauvignon blanc box I came across the multiple gold and the multiple trophy winning Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from Marlborough. 'This will make for a good social experiment,' I thought. After all there's been so much bad publicity about wine shows lately as well as mutterings from some non-show competitors about certain producers who make wines only for the 'show circuit' - whatever that means. Do the non-show competitors who say this, think that if wines are made solely for shows to win awards they are not made for consumers? Well, Saint Clair is one of the country's most successful wine show award winners and as well as rating their wines highly in blind tastings, I love their wines to drink. So what would my friends think of this highly lauded show wine?

I like sauvignon blanc best when its lightly chilled but there was no time to put the Block 6 in the fridge, so I wrapped it a flexible partitioned ice pack and put the bottle within its icy cocoon into the wine cooler carry bag. I guess by the time I arrived at the restaurant (having gone to the wrong one first) it had been in the bag about an hour. But it was chilled to just the right temperature for the day.

The restaurant was busy, busy, busy. The waitperson gave us glasses on request and left us to pour our own wine. Lucky it had a screwcap.

As I poured the wine the aromas leapt out of the glass, as they do in the best sauv blancs. I smiled.

"Cheers," we said, with the ritual clink of glasses, then I raised my glass to my nose and inhaled the fragrance.

"Wow, this smells good," said Katie, saying exactly what I was thinking.

It smelt fresh and inviting and in the noisy restaurant it conjured images of summer - of lying on the beach with just a breath of a cooling breeze and the swoosh of waves breaking in the background; of lying in the long grass under the cool shade of a pohutukawa tree as a lawn mower droned somewhere in the distance. It smelt of citrus and gooseberries and summer herbs and fresh cut grass.

The taste too, was delicious. The mouthwatering flavours were full of limes, gooseberries, pineapple and passionfruit over a grassy, herbaceous backbone. Scintilliating acidity provided the perfect balance to the ripe fruit. The texture was smooth and silky. The wine slipped down easily and the pungent flavour that remained in the mouth was rich and long.

It was a success.

"I suppose you ordered something to match the wine," said Katie.

I had, of course, choosing a tomato-based chicken pasta dish because tomatoes have proved time and time again to be a star match with this years crop of sauvignon blanc.

Now I'm heading off to the wine shop to buy some more. It's not a supermarket product, although you can find the wonderfully versatile Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 in this kind of store. So look in your fine wine stores for Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006, where it should be on sale for around $25 a bottle. I want to serve this wine to accompany crispy skinned snapper with a basil, balsamic and tomato sauce, which I've been perfecting this spring - check out the recipe in my food files.

Pioneer Block is the name given by Saint Clair to small parcels of outstanding fruit from distinct vineyard sites. So far they have nine pioneer blocks.

Block 6 is from O'Dwyer Road (off Rapaura Road), approximately 4 kilometres north of the town of Blenheim. The finished wine carries 13% alcohol by volume, just under 4 grams of residual sugar and 7.7 grams of total acidity.

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© Sue Courtney
17 Dec 2006

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