Marlborough sauvignon blanc reaches new heights

Brothers Ben and Luc Cowley, Auntsfield Estate's viticulturist and winemaker, with a bottle of their 'exceptional' ...
SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

Brothers Ben and Luc Cowley, Auntsfield Estate's viticulturist and winemaker, with a bottle of their 'exceptional' sauvignon blanc.

No sauvignon blanc from anywhere in the world has ever been rated 'exceptional' by the prestigious United Kingdom drinks magazine Decanter.

But that all changed last month when not one, but two sauvignon blancs from Marlborough scored 98 out of 100 in one of its influential wine tasting panels.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens heralded the result as a game-changer for brand Marlborough and the global reputation of sauvignon blanc.

"Rightly or wrongly, sauvignon blanc is often overlooked in terms of nobility," he said.

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"These results show Marlborough can proudly stand alongside the very best wine producing regions in the world."

The two wines that broke new territory for the variety were the Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and Auntsfield's Single Vineyard Southern Valleys Sauvignon Blanc 2016.

Getting anywhere near 100 in a Decanter panel tasting is notoriously difficult - in the magazine's 'Top 20 Wines of 2016' the highest score given to any wine was 97.

The July panel tasting where the two Marlborough wines were ranked 'exceptional', a score of 98 through to 100, was dedicated to New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

The last time sauvignons from New Zealand had been the subject of a Decanter tasting panel was four years ago, when the highest score was a 95.

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Auntsfield Estate winemaker Luc Cowley said the results, released in the August issue of the magazine, confirmed the pedigree of Marlborough sauvignon blanc.

"It shows that quality Marlborough sauvignon blanc delivers exceptional wines with a strong sense of place and those rare characteristics of minerality, complexity and structure," he said.

"They deserve to be placed alongside some of the best wines in the world."

Tinpot Hut winemaker Fiona Turner agreed, adding it was amazing that so many entries from Marlborough were awarded 90-plus scores by the three-strong tasting panel.

"2016 was a difficult vintage in Marlborough for many reasons and the fact that we have so many wines gaining such good scores from that year is really heartening," she said.

In total the panel tasted 93 wines, 63 of which were from Marlborough. Judge Mel Brown said, regardless of the numbers, it outshone every other region.

"'It was exciting to see the quality is still there, which is ultimately what a lot of people question: whether Marlborough can retain that strength and reputation," she said.

Marlborough sauvignon blanc has often been described as the "engine room" driving the success of New Zealand wine exports.

The variety accounted for about 85 per cent of the entire vineyard estate in Marlborough, which last year totalled 24,020 hectares.

 - The Marlborough Express

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