The tide of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc continues to drift out and as the producers who came in to take advantage of the easy money have moved on, meanwhile the producers who were there early and will still be there for decades to come continue
to work on finding the best way to express the fruit they grow from across the region. Unfortunately, the good and bad are tarnished with the same brush when we talk about ‘Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’ as a generic term.
Marlborough is not a homogenous region though (as no region is), it is made up of several sub-regions that produce slightly different expressions of Sauvignon Blanc. It may not have been a consideration for you in the past as the biggest brands tend to be farming for volume across hundreds of hectares and have little time for finding the nuances between sites, they can end up being very lean and herbaceous without sufficient fruit or they can look like big glasses of sweet tropical fruit without enough freshness to balance the wine. If you have had mixed feelings about the wines you have had from Marlborough then, putting aside the absolute rubbish wines, you may have just picked up a bottle that had more fruit from a sub region that displays characters you don’t find appealing. It is worthwhile briefly covering the three sub-regions, their styles and a producer that is making the best use of different areas to create a balanced, complete wine.
The Wairau Valley sits in the northern most area of Marlborough. It is made up of quite rocky/ gravelly soils derived from an old river bed. The result is soils that drain quickly and easily. The result being wines that are quite light on their feet and aromatic.
Moving South, we find the Southern Valleys which is a little cooler again in the higher altitude site, while the lower lying areas are protected by the hills from cool breezes and see slightly higher temperatures. The soils here are heavier with more clay as well as gravel. The wines have a little more weight and richness than Wairau.
Finally we get to the Awatare Valley, where the altitude tends to be a little higher and thus there is less protection from the winds and cool winds.
This is where you are most likely to find the grassy/ leafy styles of Sauvignon Blanc.
From here, the decision made by growers and winemakers can, and does, impact the final wine. But the threads will should still be clearly seen across each sub-region.
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – $28
Dog point have been at the centre of quality Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc since the beginning. The owners were previously involved in establishing and building the Cloudy Bay brand before deciding to launch Dog Point. Their focus from day dot has been complex, balanced wines of finesse rather than high impact. While it is commonplace now, it wasn’t always so, that they focused on sustainable vineyard practices and organic certification as part of that process. It’s clear to see the impact of this philosophy in the wine, winemaking is as ‘simple’ as can be – whole bunch pressing into stainless steel for a cool ferment and then left to settle down for a few months before bottling. The resulting wine is focused around citrus and orchard fruits rather than overt tropical flavours. There is some subtle passionfruit there and grassy notes adding complexity while the overall feel is that of purity and restraint. A wonderful release.