Backlash probably from Beatles haters

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 08:17 05/03/2013
Wine
Fairfax NZ
 

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Just a couple of weeks ago I devoted a column to the various characters - offensive and otherwise - of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

This time I want to deal with some offensive characters from Australia, one of whom has labelled our biggest seller "the McDonald's of wine", others who scoff at the sweat and the cat's pee nature of the Marlborough model that put us on the world wine map.

Why?

Because our savvy now accounts for 39 per cent of all white wine sold across the Tasman, with 17 of the 20 most popular labels from New Zealand.

In terms of cold, hard cash: Of the extra $415 million spent on wine in Australia in the past five years, $270 million has gone on New Zealand imports - most of it on sauvignon blanc.

It should come as no surprise then that the Australians throwing most of the insults are winemakers and that they ply their trade in the Hunter Valley, famous for its chardonnay, its semillon and also for its attempts to compete with a blend of semillon and of sauvignon blanc grown mostly in other regions of Australia.

Funny thing about it is that Bruce Tyrrell, who is offended by the body odour, the cat's pee and the noxious weed lantana that he detected in a bottle of Oyster Bay, the biggest-selling Kiwi savvy across the ditch, is the boss of a company (Tyrrell's Wines) that actually markets two sauvignon blancs, one from Marlborough, the other from Nelson.

Tyrrell's also makes at least three of its own.

Likewise Brokenwood, whose chief winemaker and part owner, Ian Riggs, reckons he can't abide "the green vegetable acid" that is New Zealand sauvignon blanc. In the same breath he admits sales of Brokenwood's popular Cricket Pitch White, a blend of sauvignon and semillon, dropped by 30 per cent as a result of the Kiwi invasion which started with the savvy glut in 2009.

As for Audrey Wilkinson Wines and James Agnew, who calls our savvy "the McDonald's of wines" . . . Wilkinson produces only a semillon sauvignon but also chardonnay, verdelho and semillon as varietal whites.

Others who joined the anti-New Zealand sauvignon rant, aided and abetted by Rick Fenely of the Sydney Morning Herald, vented their spleens thus:

Stuart Knox, of the Fix St James wine bar in Sydney's CBD: "They all taste the same."

Andrew Wigan, chief winemaker at Peter Lehmann Wines: "One-dimensional."

Christina Tulloch, of Tulloch Wines: "It's become homogenised, obvious, generic."

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Stuart Gregor, a one-time PR merchant for Montana: "A one-trick pony."

All also worried that locals were missing out on some of the best whites ever produced in Australia.

Which, having tasted some fantastic Hunter Valley semillons and some very smart chardonnays in my day, is one of the few things in Mr Fenely's provocative piece with which I can agree.

But he is to be complimented for allowing Peter Hubscher, former Montana boss and as such one of the pioneers of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, to say he is not concerned with what the "wine intelligentsia" might think about it: "They probably didn't like the Beatles, either."

Good one Peter.

Meantime our Australian friends might like to try these:

Seresin 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $28
Sophisticated stuff this distinctly non-herbaceous variation on the usual Marlborough theme. Contains a small proportion of semillon and part of the blend is fermented and aged on oak. Rich and fleshy, tropical fruited. An interesting alternative to the archetypal NZ sauvignon.

Clos Henri 2011 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $29
One of at least three sauvignons produced by the Bourgeoise family as they are at home in France, where the emphasis is on elegance and style. Aged on yeast lees for 8-10 months, including small barrel-fermented portion. Gooseberries, stonefuit and citrus. Soft but crisp.

Framingham 2012 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, $22
Wine show judges here and in Australia love this vibrant, no-nonsense Marlborough model, which contains just a sliver (7 per cent) of barrel-ferment to enhance texture. The focus is on grapefruit and lemon, with gooseberries and passionfruit also in the mix.

- The Southland Times

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