SATURDAY 4th August 2018
There is a gap between what we understand there to be and what there is. We are, of course, talking about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The hugely popular style of Marlborough SB – outrageously high acidity, green grassy flavours and passionfruit overtones – has become ubiquitous. Two thirds of New Zealand’s vineyards area is planted with this one variety; it comprises 85% of New Zealand’s wine exports, and its second biggest market is the UK.
Happily for NZ winegrowers, Sauvignon vines are quick to mature (you can even crop in the second year, rather than the customary year four), prodigiously yielding (a lot of grapes per vine) and cheap to make. Larger producers in Marlborough (Yealands, Oyster Bay) have enormous flat vineyards, with rows sometimes over 1km long, which are easy to mechanise, reducing vineyard labour (and jobs). There’s no need to buy expensive oak barrels or cork stoppers. And if the grapes are slightly under-ripe, it is in keeping with the green, acidic style. This all makes Sauvignon a hugely lucrative cash crop. So why change?
Well, perhaps we’re a little bit… bored. And though many NZ winegrowers at smaller vineyards decide not to make Sauvignon Blanc and get drawn into the commodity game, some are making inventive expressions of the variety. The Supernatural Wine Company’s eight hectare vineyard in Te Awanga, Hawke’s Bay, enjoys a maritime climate, ideal for making a fresh style of Sauvignon Blanc. And they don’t come much fresher than their Pet Nat.
This traditional style of sparkling wine has enjoyed a counter-culture revival in the past decade. The lees of the wine (the spent yeast cells post fermentation) stay in contact with the wine, adding toasty, yeasty character. Unlike Champagnes, Pet Nats are not usually disgorged, meaning they are unfined and unfiltered, making a very natural wine. We will also try one of their still Sauvignons – made with skin contact, which lends texture, and nutty, biscuity breadth to the wine. These are Sauvignon Blancs, but not as you know them. Even the one from Marlbrough is very unusual – a gutsy, weighty wine, part fermented in barrel using natural yeasts. Rather than the ticking timebombs of most Marlborough NZ, this is the product of patient, ambitious winemaking, and will age gracefully for a few years.
The same producer, Clyde Sowman of Walnut Block, sets the benchmark even higher with his Pinot Noir. Tremendously savoury, with lots of texture on the mid palate, this is another bold wine, from a climate where reds were initially thought unlikely to succeed. The same, of course, can be said for England, and as a comparison we will show Will Davenport’s 2015 Pinot Noir, from the far cooler climes of East Sussex.
And for something entirely different…a Blanc de Noir from Richmond Plains in Nelson, New Zealand. The redcurrant and strawberry character of Pinot Noir – in a white wine. A curious tasting sensation – and good summer drinking.
We will also run an abbreviated version of this tasting at lunchtime, between noon and 1pm (ish) on the same day. This session of Lunchtime Tippling with Tom will feature four wines for £12, with lunch available to buy in the cafe afterwards, these sessions are ideal for those who struggle for affordable transport home in the evenings. They are intimate and dialogic affairs, and allow you to taste wine when your palate is cleaner. Email or pop in to reserve a place.
The Evening’s Wines:
The Super Nat, Pétillant Naturel Sauvignon Blanc. Supernatural Wine Company 2017.
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. 11.5% abv. £19.95
Green Glow, skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc, Supernatural Wine Company 2015..
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. 13.5% abv. £19.95
Nutcracker Sauvignon Blanc, Walnut Block 2015. Marlborough, New Zealand. 13% abv. £14.50
Sauvignon Blancs served with heritage tomato and basil salad, toasted sunflower seeds and Biona goat’s cheese.
Blanc de Noir, Richmond Plains 2016.
Nelson, New Zealand. 12.5%.£15.50
Diamond Fields Pinot Noir, Davenport Vineyards, 2015. Kent / Sussex, England. 12%. £19.95
Nutcracker Pinot Noir, Walnut Block 2016.
Marlborough, New Zealand. 14.5%. £23.
Pinot Noirs served with roasted peppers and baba ganoush (puréed spiced aubergine dip)
All food organic
Sourced from Folland Organics, row A Norwich Market, & the Greenhouse shop. Bread from Timberhill Bakery.
Menu may vary depending on seasonal availability. Vegan alternatives available – PLEASE advise when booking.
Feedback from our last wine tasting:
‘Great – relaxed, informal but informative’
‘Remarkable variety of wines’
‘I liked them so much I can barely write’