While the 2008 vintage is Marlborough is bringing delight or dismay (or both to the larger producers), it will definitely be a vintage to remember.
The summer of 2007-2008 was one of the longest and hottest ever and, as I reported in my last newsletter, some growers, remembering what had happened in the 1998 drought, decided to pick their sauvignon blanc grapes early. Some even picked the savvy before pinot noir, which is totally left field in the normal scheme of picking patterns. Those growers will be rubbing their hands in glee because they picked pristine fruit and they picked their grapes before the heavens opened. Yes, the drought broke, right in the midst of harvest.
Over half, to two thirds, of the region's sauvignon blanc was already picked when the rain came. As for the rest, everyone wanted the grapes off the vines as quickly as possible. But the infrastructure in Marlborough is not set up for a such a compressed avalanche (or sauvalanche, as it's now called) of grapes and some of the larger processing facilities said, "No more". It may have been okay if the sun had appeared on cue together with wind to dry out the grapes, but continuous misty drizzle and warm weather encouraged botrytis in the grapes still hanging and some didn't even make it to the wineries in the end.
2008 in Marlborough is going to be a vintage of stories - stories of magnificent grapes that were harvested and stories of what could have been, if only the grapes had been harvested before the rain.
Fast track back to 2007 - a harvest of potential excellence right across the board. Cool at flowering, which meant the vines were not over burdened with fruit and slightly more rain than normal during the early growing season to keep the vines nurtured, then an exceptionally dry autumn with warm days and warmer than normal nights. Winemakers were quite rightly excited about the fruit quality.
Now one year after the 2007 vintage, some of those sauvignons are simply blossoming and this week's Wine of the Week is one of them.
It is William Thomas Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 with fruit harvested from the famous Brancott Valley. The result is a warm, rich, rounded wine with passionfruit and apricot aromas and flavours that are bright and scintillatingly fresh with a zesty citrussy seam to the juicy tropical fruit, and an undercurrent of summer herbs.
The aroma becomes more and more intense in the glass with passionfruit the dominant character while the tropical fruit flavours have a hint of pineapple brightness.
Not at all aggressive, it is fatter and richer in style probably because a small portion has been fermented and matured in oak.
If there is something about small producers, it is the passion and the dedication to produce the best - and it's obvious in this sauvignon blanc made by brothers Will (William) and Tom (Thomas) Hoare. This is a wine that simply sings and zings. It is drinking beautifully now and will do so for at least two more years.
It's simply delicious on its own as a pre dinner aperitif, or match it, like we did, to beautifully moist honey and soy-basted roast chicken pieces served warm with a tomato salad.
William Thomas Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 has 13% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a screwcap. It costs about NZ$21 a bottle and is available in Australia as well as New Zealand.
It's also available in the sky on Air New Zealand Business Class from March through August 2008.
Find out more from www.williamthomaswines.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
28 Apr 2008