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Wine of the Week for week ending 27 May 2007
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Mahi Ward Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Marlborough, New Zealand

There are already sauvignon blancs from the 2007 vintage being released, but I'm still relishing the flavours of the 2006's - and will be for some time to come, at least until the mainstream savvies start to be released around July. A trio of savvies from Mahi, tasted this week, show there is a ton and life and vigour left in the vintage, and so there should be, for the 2006 vintage was one of the best.

Mahi is the label of Brian Bicknell, who made his name in New Zealand as winemaker for Seresin Wines. As reported in my blog of January 19th 2007, Brian left Seresin in July last year to concentrate on making and marketing Mahi. Now he has his own cellar door in Terrace Road at the Renwick end of Marlborough's Wairau Valley. This was the former cellar door of Cellier Le Brun. It was reported in that Jan 19th blog that Brian would continue to produce the Le Brun bubblies but since that blog entry there have more developments. The Terrace Road label has been discontinued and the Le Brun label sold to Lion Nathan, who will also distribute the Mahi wines. So with all the Terrace Road and Le Brun wines gone, Brian is now totally devoted to his Mahi label and is busy 'Mahifying' his new cellar door. As well as the Mahi wines, there will be photos and information on the various vineyards so that visitors get a real education on Marlborough when they visit. Deb Goulter, who worked with Brian at Seresin, is in charge. She has great experience and a wealth of knowledge on the wines and the region. The opening hours are 10am to 4.30pm daily throughout the year.

The three Mahi sauvignon blancs are all single vineyard wines, all made to show off the individual characteristics of the vineyards they come from, but there was one that stood out over the others to me. It is a deliciously exciting wine made from first crop fruit from a new wine area of Marlborough. It is from Ward, heading towards the southern boundary of the Marlborough region, approx. 40 km's south of Blenheim. Just north of Ward township, on the top of the hill, vineyards have been planted on either side of the road. I noticed these vineyards - and lots of other new plantings in the region, on my South Island trip last year. Mahi's Ward vineyard is the hillside vineyard on the seaward side and has cooler nights than the vineyards in the Wairau Valley.

Mahi Ward Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Vibrantly aromatic, grassy and vivacious, this is crammed with mouthwatering flavours of citrus, lemongrass, gooseberry and exotic fruit like tropical guavas and feijoa with plenty of Marlborough greens (capsicum and green pea) adding to the full-on attack of flavours. There's a mealy richness, a slightly grainy texture and a toastiness to the finish. Deliciously exciting and deliciously moreish, it has 14% alcohol and is unoaked.

Mahi Francis Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2006
In one way this is similar to the Ward Vineyard wine, with gooseberry and capsicum on the nose but is overall much softer with oak toning down the vivacious grassy, gooseberry flavours. It's smooth, soft, rich and rounded with baked apple and a smidgen of honey on the toasty finish and some of that funky wild yeast character rippling into the mix every now and then. A complex wine with a long, long finish, this rich style of savvie definitely has its place. It's from a vineyard in Thomson's Ford Road, between Grovetown and Rapaura in the Wairau Valley. The grapes were fermented in both tank and French barriques, with the latter going through natural ferment with wild yeasts to add extra layers of flavour. The finished wine has 13.5% alcohol.

Mahi Byrne Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2006
The most restrained of the three, this is more of a leaner style with again a softer texture from partial oak treatment but imparts an underlying richness and power. With its citrus zest, pear and apple fruit characters, it's the Pinot Gris of the three Sauvignon Blancs, in that it's quite neutral for the variety. From the Conders Bend area of the Wairau Valley, this too was fermented in both tank and oak, with the oak portion undergoing wild ferment. It has 13% alcohol by volume.

All three wines are priced about $21 and are sealed with screwcaps.

Food Match

It would be fun to match the Mahi wines to Mahi Mahi, but this particular fish is only found in New Zealand waters in the north in summer. As it's autumn, Mahi Mahi and Mahi was off the menu. So I matched the wines to my newfound favourite creation, Carrot and Fennel Soup.

I thought fennel was out of season but my greengrocer is getting in lovely bulbous fennel bulbs from somewhere. It adds the aromatic panache to the soup. It's delicious for autumn because it has the sweet taste of summer with a little bit of warmth. I have a motto, the better the stock, the better the soup, so I like to make my own. For this recipe I prefer chicken stock, which is really easy to make it from bones left over from roast chicken from the night before. Boil up the bones with herbs from the garden, a little garlic, a whole onion and a carrot plus salt and pepper seasoning. Strain, leave to cool and skim off any fat.

Now for this easy soup recipe. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan. Add a teaspoon of fennel seeds that have been lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle. Add 2 cups of grated carrot, stir to coat with the butter and saute. If it seems like all the butter has been consumed and the carrots are drying up, then add a dash of water. Let them sweat a couple of minutes then add one sliced and diced fennel bulb, the zest and juice of an orange, 3 cups of chicken stock and 2 tablespoons of rice. Cook for 20 minutes and serve garnished with fennel fern and accompanied with toasted ciabatta bread.

This thick, sweet soup, is delicious for an autumn lunch or early evening appetiser and believe me, it's totally delicious with the Mahi Ward Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2006.

The Mahi Wines website is being developed, but the contact details are there. Check it out at

© Sue Courtney
20 May 2007

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