This is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but not as we know it. WineFolio had a fascinating opportunity this week to take a look at our most important style of wine – but through a quite different lens.
Nick Goldschmidt is an international winemaker; living in Healdsburg, California and has a lauded career spanning Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Australia and Chile firstly as a corporate winemaker and more recently on his own. Most of what he does locally in the USA (now since 1990) is Alexander Valley and Oakville Napa Valley Cabernets with a touch of Chardonnay from the Russian River. But he is a Kiwi (an Aucklander actually) – having made wine with the likes of Maté Brajkovich, Coopers Creek and Babich as assistant winemaker in the late 80’s.
In his corporate life he has consulted with Cloudy Bay with LVMH, and Brancott when he was at Allied Domecq as the USA group winemaker. They own two vineyards in Marlborough – the Forefathers Wax Eye since 1998, and the Boulder Bank Fitzroy vineyard since 2000. With neighbours of the likes of Allan Scott and Dog Point, these are sites of some pedigree, and made into individual single vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to match.
These are not wines, however, aimed at consumption in New Zealand; and therefore, are created in a manner that Nick considers more suited to the palette of the USA consumer. Perhaps shown most in a dialling-down of the acidity; and crafting a Sav with more stonefruit flavours and texture than is our usual experience – whilst still being identifiably Marlborough.
Our first wine is the Boulder Bank 2019, from the Fitzroy Vineyard on Rapaura Road. On the nose is a volley of tropical fruit – guava and passionfruit, spiced with a grassy, chamomile herbaciousness. Lively and vital – a crisp palette of lemongrass, white-fleshed peach and greengage stonefruits, but also a nudge of super-ripe rockmelon. The backbone of acidity is, as promised, toned down and becomes a counterpoint to the mouthwatering fruit. Good weight and texture, with a drying, minerally finish.
The other wine comes from the Wax Eye vineyard – the Forefathers Sauvignon Blanc 2019. Whilst still distinctively a light pale straw coloured Marlborough Sav, this has far less cut-grass on the nose – rather a citrus melange of grapefruit and lemon zest aromas merge with that classic passionfruit lift. Plump with fruit – nectarine, yellow peach and a hint of pineapple on the palette. Textural again, and the acidity is knocked back, and offset with a crisp saline edge. Quite complex, and has a bright juicy finish.
Having visited Marlborough this year, and being well-versed in what the excellent 2019 Sauvignon Blanc vintage offered to the New Zealand consumer, I would hesitate to describe these versions, aimed at the USA market, a new conversation. Served blind to a NZ audience, I don’t think there would be too much consternation at the style at hand. Rather, I imagine it would be assumed that here was a producer who was aiming higher than the mass-market appeal of carefree quaffing. I’d have picked a serious player like Dog Point or Auntsfield for the Boulder Bank, and maybe a Saint Clair version, or Hunters for the Forefathers?
I’ve just tried a new label as well – Deep Down Wines, made by ex-Seresin guru Clive Dougall, which tread a path of balance, harmony and purity in their wines – including a Marlborough Sav.
This is wine to be taken a little more carefully – made with an audience in mind and a clarity of thinking that, I think, shows in the wine in the glass. Nick asked me for a perspective on his wines, from a NZ viewpoint – and I’m happy to report that I think his version of ‘our national wine’ would find a niche here very happily – in good company with those who are taking our most familiar variety down a different path.