2013 Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon

Denominación de Origen Penedès

The Catalan Penedes region of Spain

Mas La Plana

I read with interest that the Mas la Planta Cabernet Sauvignon by Familia Torres was the most searched Cabernet Sauvignon on the renowned web site Wine-Searcher.com generating 226 million searches for this wine in 2019.

Having a bottle of the 2013 in the cellar I had to try it!
I found black currants and blackberries. It was vibrant and lively on the palate. Medium to full body, firm and very silky,  long length. A  yummy wine. 96/100 A$85.00

In this small (29 ha.) vineyard only the most select Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown. These are used to make strictly limited quantities of Torres’ most prestigious red wine, now known to connoisseurs all over the world.

In the Paris Wine Olympiad, the 1970 vintage triumphed over some of the most famous wines in the world, including some of the best from Bordeaux. This success has been repeated on several other occasions, with Gran Coronas Mas La Plana notching up numerous other international awards.

Ever since it became the first area in Spain to use stainless steel and cold fermentation equipment, the vine growers of the Penedès have been making excellent modern wines from a mix of native and French grape varieties. This has been possible because of the variety of altitudes, lands and micro-climates found in the Penedès which foster the ideal growth of the different grape types.

Well recommended. A great wine to have in the cellar.

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35 wine movies to watch during lock down

Now that coronavirus has you sheltering at home, its time to catch up on all those wine movies you have missed. Of course you can’t visit wineries or go to restaurants so subscribe to pay TV and relax – with a glass in your hand of course!

Films recommended

Big Night
(Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube)
This is one of those movies that, has some unhappy plot twists. Two Italian brothers are running a failing restaurant called ‘Paradise on the Jersey Shore’ in the 1950s. Primo, played by Tony Shalhoub, is the exacting chef, unwilling to bend his cuisine to American tastes. Secondo, played by Stanley Tucci, who co-directed, is the manager. Their main competitor is Pascal, who has found success by pandering to local preferences. Pascal has offered the brothers jobs and they have an offer back in Italy too, but they’re not ready to give up on the American dream and their principles. Pascal offers to get singer Louis Prima to come to their restaurant. In planning the big night they go all in, leveraging everything against Prima’s visit. What follows is a rapturous meal delivered by Primo, followed by … well, I can’t tell you that. I will say that the final scene, played in silence à la the ending of The Third Man, is fantastically beautiful and moving. Two bonuses: It features the second-best omelet-cooking scene on film (see Tampopo below) and Latino pop singer Marc Anthony, who was then on the cusp of his crossover. 

Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), holding up wine bottles, and Stephen Spurrier (Alan Rickman) at the TWA checkin counter

At the airport, Bo Barrett (Chris Pine) and Stephen Spurrier (Alan Rickman) run into trouble trying to get the bottles of Napa wine to France for the blind tasting.

Bottle Shock 2008
(Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube)
Any serious wine lover will go into this movie already knowing the fate of Napa Valley’s Chateau Montelena in the famous 1976 “Judgment of Paris” wine competition. But this heartwarming, fictionalised story nonetheless keeps you on the edge of your seat, with winery owner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) struggling to bring his wayward son, Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), in line while making a success of his little-known winery in a region that had not yet gained fame. This whip-smart film is the (almost) true story of how California wine became the burgeoning industry it is today. In it, a father-and-son team fight to beat French competitors in an international tasting contest in the 1970s, and turn the wine world on its ear.

(Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube)
Directed by and starring Jon Favreau as chef Carl Casper, the movie follows the life of a high-end chef as he quits his job at a prominent L.A. restaurant, starts a food truck and goes on a journey that reignites his passion for cooking and his relationship with his son. The movie features mouthwatering images of food—from a grilled-cheese sandwich to creatively plated dishes worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant to Casper’s signature Cuban sandwich—and rock-star shots of the chef showing off his knife skills. Throw in a star-studded cast of supporting actors, along with a vibrant jazz and blues soundtrack, and you have a movie that is a joy to kick back with a glass of Central Otago Two Degrees pinot noir to relax with. 

A Good Year
(Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, Vudu and YouTube)
What’s not to like? Scene upon scene of stunning Provençal vistas and vineyard shots, the gorgeous Marion Cotillard, the fabulous Albert Finney and a buttoned-up Russell Crowe. In this enjoyable Ridley Scott–directed romantic comedy, based on the novel by Peter Mayle, a hardcore British banker finds himself, love and a new outlook on life in Provence while dealing with the inheritance of a wine estate of questionable quality.

Our Blood Is Wine
(Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube)
This documentary will take you back to the cradle of wine, the Republic of Georgia. Director Emily Railsback and sommelier Jeremy Quinn explore the former Soviet republic, meeting mostly artisanal, family winegrowers who are keeping alive the 8,000-year-old tradition of making wine in qvevri, large clay vessels buried in the ground. Railsback and Quinn get personal with the culture that is entwined with wine and make you feel like you are falling in love with wine for the first time. 

Remy the rat adds herbs to a pot of soup as the astonished dishwasher Linguini looks on

Remy the rat and a hapless dishwasher named Linguini team up to create inspired restaurant cuisine in ‘Ratatouille’ available on Amazon Prime, Disney +, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube.

(Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and YouTube)
This 1980s art-house hit came out of nowhere when Japanese food was still novel outside of major cities. The main story is about a widow running a ramen shop. Two truck drivers visit, find the food wanting and decide to mentor her. It’s a movie-geek bonanza, with references to spaghetti Westerns (noodles, get it?), sensei themes and more. It also has unrelated vignettes interspersed, including a gangster and his companion exploring the sensual side of food, a young man upstaging his superiors at a business lunch through his knowledge of French food and the best omelet-cooking scene on film. Plus, it’s very funny: It’s like an old screwball comedy, but about food and wine, and set in Japan.

Tu Seras Mon Fils (You Will Be My Son)
(Amazon Prime and Vudu)
Wine movies are a limited genre, with mixed success, but Tu Seras Mon Fils is a must-see. Set in Bordeaux, it depicts a tyrannical father dealing with the problems of passing his château on to his seemingly hapless son. Despite a slightly wonky plot twist at the end, the dramatization of a stern Gallic patriarch is as sharp as the top of a just-sabred Champagne bottle.

Sour Grapes (2016)
You can’t con an honest man and you can’t sell fake vintage wine to billionaires? This highly entertaining documentary tells the strange story of Rudy Kurniawan, a young man from Indonesia who in the early 2000s electrified the sedate world of US wine investment by paying colossal sums at auction for rare bottles. He wooed the top players in wine and dazzled them with his apparent wealth. Everyone wanted to be Rudy’s friend. Then, riding the crest of his self-created bull-market wave, he began selling his stock at a vast profit.

But French wine producer Laurent Ponsot noticed something iffy about some of the bottles, and the expensively dressed young emperor of wine was in deep trouble. And because the market in wine, like that of contemporary art, depends on the bubble of reputation, it is always vulnerable. An interesting film to put alongside Jonathan Nossiter’s wine documentaries Mondovino (2004) and Natural Resistance (2014) about the industrialisation of wine production, and how it makes everything taste the same. Snapshot of those two movies are below.

Decanted (2016)
What does it take to make it in Napa Valley?” This feature length documentary follows the development of a brand new winery, Italics Winegrowers, seen through the eyes of elite Napa Valley winemakers. Like a vine extending itself far underground seeking nourishment, the story digs deep to analyse what kind of person it takes to enter this highly competitive wine business. Explore what it takes to succeed at building a brand, staking a claim, and realizing a lifelong dream.

Uncorked (2020)
Elijah, a man working two jobs in Memphis: serving at his family’s popular BBQ shop and selling at a local wine store. His father intends for him to take over the business but Elijah’s growing interest in wine has given him other ideas and with the cautious support of his mother  he embarks on a quest to become a master sommelier, even if it means problems at home.

Snap shots on other wine oriented movies

Wine Country (2019)
A 2019 American comedy produced and directed by Amy Poehler. The plot follows a group of middle-aged women who go on a wine tasting tour of California.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)
In 1943, the German army occupies the Italian hillside town of Santa Vittoria. The troops want to confiscate the region’s prized wine, but the wily, oft-inebriated mayor (Anthony Quinn) and townspeople hide one million bottles in a cave. The film features fantastic shots of the sunny Italian countryside that will have you wishing the coronavirus pandemic ends soon so you can book your plane tickets..

Year of the Comet (1992)
Instead of vineyards, the setting is the Scottish Highlands for this caper, in which a prim young woman uncovers the most expensive bottle of wine in the world. Can she and her boorish bodyguard fend off thieves and the temptations of unlikely love?

A Walk in the Clouds (1995)
“My family has a vineyard in Napa,” a beautiful, unmarried—and pregnant—woman tells a soldier (Keanu Reeves) returning home from World War II. He offers to pose as her husband, but soon falls in love with her, except her tyrannical father blocks their happiness.

Sideways (2004)
“Its flavors… they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet.” That’s how Miles (Paul Giamatti) describes Pinot Noir in this on-the-road ode to life, friendship and uncorking the perfect bottle, filmed in Santa Barbara County. An instant classic that earned lots of Oscar buzz, this comedy tells the tale of two friends touring the vineyards of Santa Barbara, and the misadventures, romances, and bonding that ensue. The film essentially defined wine tourism in the 2000s. I followed the footsteps of the movie a couple of years ago and the bar tender who appears in the movie was still working behind the bar and was up for a good chat.

A Heavenly Vintage (2009)
This is a tale of a 19th-century French peasant who longs to make great wine. In his quest, he’s inspired by his beautiful wife and a proud baroness, as well as Xas, a male angel who tempts with tantalizing secrets. A great journey into magical realism, this tale follows the quest of a French peasant attempting to become a master winemaker in the 1800s.

You Will Be My Son (2011)
A despotic vineyard owner in Saint-Émilion scorns his unassuming son, doubting his ability to take over the business. Instead, he favors his son’s charismatic childhood friend, and family tensions build (French with English subtitles).

Somm (2012)
During nearly 40 years, only 220 professionals worldwide have passed the Master Sommelier exam, which is considered one of the crowning achievements of wine knowledge. This documentary follows four candidates as they swirl, sip and study for the test.

Somm: Into the Bottle (2015)
An untraditional sequel to Somm is more of a spiritual continuation than a direct follow-up. This documentary provides viewers with intimate access with some of the most acclaimed sommeliers around the globe.

Red Obsession (2013)
Demand hugely exceeds supply for the Premiers Crus of Bordeaux. This lavish documentary looks at how China’s relentless pursuit of prestige bottlings affects these chateaus and could easily change the face of the industry.

sommWine for the Confused
Light-hearted and hilarious, this documentary (hosted by British comedian and Monty Python alumnus John Cleese) doubles as a brilliant introduction to the world of wine for beginners.


Natural Resisitance (2014)
Jonathan Nossiter’s documentary Mondovino  in 2004  (see below) introduced many to an ongoing debate in the world of viticulture. He talks to passionate independent winegrowers in Italy, low-tech revolutionaries who are working outside the system; their wines don’t conform, sometimes priced radically low. All this revives the debate about identity and terroir from Mondovino. One producer complains that the certification system is creating a world in which everything is Macdonaldizzato – homogenised, like burgers. An interesting take which will get you thinking.

Mondovino (2004)
Running two and a quarter hours, it may be too long  for you. Even so, it is an engaging and ambitious documentary about globalisation.  The mighty producers of France are finding their unquestioned primacy is being questioned  where the American critic Robert Parker wields staggering influence. Parker is cruelly shown up in this film to be the world’s smuggest egotist, incidentally, breathtakingly talking about himself in the third person: “The legacy of Robert Parker will be … ” etc, etc. It is to producer Jonathan Rossiter’s credit that lets you see that the cranky old aristos and haughty peasants of Old World wine sometimes have some very reactionary views. Aside from Parker, one of the biggest players is a “consultant” called Michel Rolland, a man of grinning conceit and sub-Pavarotti dimensions who cruises around in his chauffeur-driven car. Say no more.

Cement Suitcase
This funny and slightly bizarre tale revolves around a wine salesman who finds out his wife is cheating on him. He strikes up a friendship with the other man, and goes on a giddy cross-country adventure.
a-tale-of-autumnA Tale of Autumn
This film is a poignant drama about a French vineyard owner and widow who finds love again, both for wine, and for life.

This Earth is Mine
An intrigue-packed melodrama set in the early days of California wine culture, this movie is recommended for its fascinating look at how the American wine industry survived Prohibition in the early 20th century.red-obsessionBlood into Wine
Maynard James Keenan of the band ‘Tool’ leads a double life: this film tracks his appreciation of music, and of his other passion: winemaking.

Blood and Wine
A neo-noir thriller about a philandering husband and wine merchant (played by Jack Nicholson), Blood and Wine details the protagonist’s plan to steal a valuable diamond necklace from one of his clients.

A Year in Burgundy
The winemaking process is chronicled throughout a whole year in this documentary, which examines the work of several winemakers in the celebrated French wine region of Burgundy.

Merlot, once deemed unsophisticated by the wine elite, has come to prominence over the past decade. This doc is a great guide to the difference between wine varieties, and gives an insightful look into the inner workings of the industry.


A Year in Champagne 2015
Netflix, Amazon, Prime
Part of a documentary trilogy by the director David Kennard (that also includes A Year in Burgundy (above) and A Year in Port), this film documents how the world’s favourite bubbly beverage, Champagne, is created through a year.boom-varietalBoom Varietal
The explosive popularity of Argentine Malbec, this film also spells out how the wine has become a force in South American pop culture.

Langhe Doc
This true story follows three Italian winemakers and chefs who are attempting to stop the industrialisation of their beloved hometown of Langhe.

The Kids are Alright
While this quirky love story about a lesbian couple attempting to track down their adopted child’s biological father doesn’t directly center on wine, the alcoholic beverage features prominently in a supporting role, and many excellent bottles are explicitly mentioned in the script.

French Kiss
Kevin Kline plays the charismatic son of French winemakers in this ‘90s classic. A love story revolving around the ever-charming Meg Ryan, wine and the romance of Paris blend into popcorn bliss.

From hard-hitting movies and documentaries to tender romances, the story of wine is as complex as a good glass of wine. There’s no reason to just drink it: now you can watch all about it too.

Note: You may have to Google to locate some of these movies but you will be well rewarded.

Let me know your favourite wine movie.


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Australian wineries assess fire damage

As the Coronavirus rolls on it is time to reflect on the damage done to Australian wineries as a result of the bush fires. While most wine regions were unharmed, scorched vines and smoke taint hit some areas hard.

After the Fires, Australian Wineries Assess the Damage
Scorched land in Australia south of Canberra. Some vineyards were burned and vintners will need to see if they survive until next spring.  

While the flames are out now, the impact on the Australian wine industry is still being assessed. There are no official figures on the exact acreage of vineyards that have been lost—nor the value to the industry—because vintners must see how vines recover both from the fires and the searing heat over the next year.

What is clear is that most wine regions were largely spared, but there were a few notable exceptions. And the biggest impact of all may be smoke taint. While many winemakers are not sure if their grapes and wine were affected by the smoke, several report that they expect to sell no wines from the 2020 vintage.

Wine Australia, says that less than 1 percent of Australia’s total vineyard footprint of roughly 361,000 acres was burned in the fires. While nothing should diminish the dreadful devastation that has taken place, many wine regions, such as the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Margaret River and Yarra Valley, as well as Tasmania, have not been impacted by fire or smoke taint. Yields are down across the board, however, due to an ongoing drought in many areas as well as difficult weather conditions during flowering.

Just three of the country’s 65 wine regions—Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island in South Australia and the Tumbarumba region of New South Wales—suffered burned vineyards. Some may have to be replanted, while others may recover.

In the cool-climate Adelaide Hills region, known for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc, about 14 percent of the vineyard acreage fell within the fire zone. Of 64 burned vineyards, the Lenswood vineyard of Eden Valley winery Henschke was the most high-profile vineyard to be scorched.

Viticulturist Prue Henschke says “Yet nine weeks later, it feels like recovery, not loss. After some rain, the vines (most of which are on their own rootstocks) have burst into life. We’re going to be able to chop off the burnt bits and recover about 90 percent of the vineyard.”

Kangaroo Island’s Islander Estate was completely destroyed. They are still in the cleanup process but have been given a lot of help.

Smoke taint definitely a concern

It’s also too early to evaluate the total impact of smoke taint, since harvest is still in process in many regions. Wine Australia estimates that less than 4 percent of the total average crush will be affected.

Recovering vine

Just a few weeks after the fires, this Chardonnay vine in Henschke’s Archers Vineyard in Adelaide Hills still has burned, brown shoots and leaves, but also has new green shoots springing to life.

Smoke taint has been felt most severely in the Hunter Valley. The bushfires were raging near there right up to harvest, while the Canberra District was also surrounded by smoke for a long period. Tumbarumba and Mudgee in New South Wales as well as King Valley, Beechworth and Gippsland in Victoria may also have smoke taint issues.

Australia is a world leader in smoke taint research because of the country’s long history with bushfires. For the past 15 years, the Australian Wine Research Institute has been studying the impact of fires and smoke on wine grapes and wine.

It is already known that smoke affects the grapes, not the vines, and there is no carryover between seasons. When smoke is present, the risk is more serious the closer the vineyard is to the fire as well as when the smoke is “fresh.” The greatest problems occur during ripening, just before harvest. The characteristics of smoke in wine can change over time, making it hard to detect.

“We’re going to learn an awful lot more about smoke taint as a result of these fires,” says Martin Shaw, winemaker at Shaw and Smith in the Adelaide Hills.  “You can’t really test for it until grapes are about 8 baume. so there’s only a small window between testing and harvest-time.” says a Tolpuddle vineyard in the Coal River area of Tasmania.  spokesperson. In 2019, there were fires 43 miles from the Tolpuddle Vineyard. “After doing tests, we thought we were safe. But nine months later, when our Pinot Noir was in barrel, we started to see the influence of smoke taint, so we did not release it.”

Tyrrell’s Wines, Bruce Tyrrell estimates that 75 percent of Hunter Valley’s premium wines, which include Sémillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz, won’t be bottled because of smoke taint, since the region was surrounded by bushfires for more than three months.

“We’ve learned that grapes grown on ridge tops close to fresh smoke are more impacted than grapes grown at the bottom of gullies where old smoke collects,” said Tyrrell. “Our Shiraz grapes were closest to the bushfires on the mountain so were most impacted, while the whites were farther away and less affected.”

Still, they’ve made only a fraction of their Chardonnay and Sémillon. Tyrrell’s has offered to make wines experimentally to help the Australian Wine Research Institute refine its research.

Canberra District winemaker Tim Kirk of Clonakilla recently decided not to produce any wines from New South Wales in 2020 due to the intensity of smoke in the region for more than two months. “We’ve certainly had bushfires before but we’ve never experienced smoke like this,” he said. “There was no way we could go ahead with the vintage.”

Brokenwood winemaker Stuart Horden, also in the Hunter Valley, confirms that yields were down not just due to smoke taint but also because of the longstanding drought. But while the 2020 growing season may not be remembered fondly, he predicts the industry will bounce back.  “The 2021 vintage is not too far away. And besides, Australia is so large and so diverse, there’ll always be some great wines from 2020.”

That being said I urge you all to support particularly those vineyards affected by the bush fires.

Thanks to Sue Henley, Wine Australia and Wine News.
Posted in Features, Uncategorized, Wine News | Leave a comment

Penfolds Collection, the real review

Already the Treasury Wine Estates marketing machine has been busy wooing and seducing wine writers with the glossy brochures, flash in store point of sale displays on top of wooden boxes and free sample bottles. There will be more publicity to come to0.

I was invited to the 2019 Penfolds Collection new releases and want to share you with my thoughts on the vintages and on the prices.

Bin 23 2018 Pinot Noir
Blog followers will know my palate leans heavily to Tasmanian and cool climate styles such as Central Otago Two Degrees pinot.
Colour on Bin 23 was light and bright. The nose was layered fragrant overtones of soft strawberry, ripe raspberry but over the top of this hints of prunes. On the palate cherries and strawberries. Quite juicy with hint of vanilla sweetness up front but overall finished very dry. 88/100. $42.00. Better value around. Avoid. Drink 2019 – 2023. 14.5%.

Bin 28 2017 Kalimna Shiraz
Blend of Barossa, McLaren Vale and Padthaway fruit. Deep dark ruby colour. The nose showed fruitcake, cassis and vanilla American oak. The palate has  generous blackberry fruit and peeper. But I found it very tannic and certainly finished extremely dry. 89/100. $42.00. Too expensive. They reckon drink 2020 – 2030. 14.5%.

Bin 150 2017 Marananga Shiraz 
Colour deep and dark. Nose spicy and dark cherries. Palate becomes a full-flavoured, concentrated full bodied powerful red, loved the  chocolate richness and acidity. Well balanced. 93/100. $94.00. Ummm up there on price and only for Penfold  aficionados. They say drink 2020 – 2032. Each way bet here and I would not look at it for 5 years. 14.5%.

Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2017
I was told that there is no Bin 707 released this year. It was made but relegated. Could it pop up somewhere in the future?
Bin 407 is a blend of Padthaway, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and Wrattonbully fruit. Wow what a job to blend this lot. Colour is deep in the primary spectrum. But I found the nose stalky and a little green with just slight hints of vanilla and blackberries. Although it was firm and chewy it finished very dry on the back and sour. The fruit has a lot of work to do.  89/100. $94.00. They say drink now  – 2030. I don’t think so and it needs a lot of time to come together. 14.5%

 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2017
A blend of fruit from McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Padthaway and Wrattonbully,   This ‘Baby Grange’ was matured for 12 months in  previous-vintage Grange casks. As you would expect a very deep red appearance. On the nose     liquorice with hints of mint and vanilla oak. A little tannic with dark complex fruit and finishes long in length. Beautifully balanced. 94/100. $94.00. Notice the last 3 wines are deceptively marketed just under $100.00! Drinking window 2021 – 2030. Probably right. 14.5%.

St Henri Shiraz 2016
Deep, dark colour. Nose almost closed but found liquorice and spice. Rich on the palate with lots of dark chocolate and new oak and finishes with power. Chewy too. This is a ripper but needs time to come together. Excellent long-term ageing potential if you live long enough. 96/100. $105.00. Value. Drink 2022 – 2040. 14.5%.

 RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017
A deep, dark, brooding red in colour, Pronounced coffee and chocolate and soft pepper fills the nostrils. Wow what do we have here! This continues through to the palate mixed with black cherry, spice and herbs. This is all about Barossa. Its a fruit explosion. Brilliant. 97/100. $160.00. Ummm if only I could afford it! Drink 2024 – 2040. 14.5%.

Grange 2015
Fruit is from Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley and Magill. Dark rich red to the rim. Nose of liquorice. chocolate, and oak. On the palate it is tough to summerise though. Long combination of fruit and distinctive American oak. I reckon coconut, blackberry dominate amongst the pronounced tannins.  Where this will go is anyones guess but I note its being given 98 – 100 points all over the place. Who would know? Amazingly the brochure Penfold’s gave me said a drinking window of 2020 – 2050! This is way off the mark – at least 10 years to come together and I will be dead by 2050. $715.00. The Treasury marketing steamroller has worked its magic with the scribes. Personally give me 94/100. 14.5%.

In Summary.
This release is for Penfold drinkers with deep pockets who want to continue their cellar sequence. Only the RWT is the wine I would rush out to purchase and drink in my lifetime. In fact I could get five bottles of RWT for one bottle of Grange. Did you notice that all eight wines are 14.5%? And what about the prices? Your decision!

Posted in Features, New Releases, Wine tastings | Leave a comment

55 NZ Sauvignon Blancs assessed

New Zealand oaked Sauvignon Blanc

I want to say from the outset I am not a Sauvignon Blanc drinker – too  much freshly cut green grass and asparagus for me but I do know many of you and your partners do not mind this style.

So 53 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (using any level of barrel fermentation or maturation) submitted their latest release for assessment by three MW’s. I have turned to them for tasting notes.

Out of the 53 wines submitted only 3 were classified as outstanding and 18 were highly recommended. A tough result so you will get a good heads up on the best that NZ can offer.

Marlborough is the spiritual home of New Zealand Sauvignon, representing 89% of the country’s plantings, and its dominance was reflected in this tasting, accounting for three-quarters of entries.

There were some sublime examples: Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko, Greywacke’s Wild Sauvignon and Pā’s Oke. All were different providing interplay of the relationship between Sauvignon Blanc and oak.

When you put Sauvignon Blanc in oak you are compromising the high aromatics. Getting it right is a certainly a challenge but when you do get it right it’s very nice. The problem is that the mass produced commercial styles that land here seem to have educated the Aussie consumers palate in the wrong direction and because of that have the same style.

The use of new oak currently plays a minor role in the most successful oak-influenced Sauvignon Blanc styles. Older barrels are usually chosen for their contribution to texture rather than flavour. Barrel fermentation followed by maturation tends to produce a more harmonious expression.

There were just three wines that took a leaf out of the Bordeaux (and Margaret River) book, blending Semillon with the Sauvignon Blanc: Te Mata’s Cape Crest, Seresin’s Marama and Hans Herzog’s Sur Lie which included a small splash of Semillon.

You may recall that Margaret River tried all different percentages of a Semillon/Sauvignon blend and some makers are still struggling to get the combination right.

People in my view want clean Sauvignon Blanc, but if it’s got oak and complexity they are lost. You really need to have it with food, which is not what New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is necessarily known for.

These styles are not New Zealand’s bread and butter, but there is a diverse array of aromatics and textures for you to consider.

Top New Zealand oaked Sauvignon Blancs from the panel tasting:

Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2018


Has notes of blackcurrant, nectarine and green capsicum which come together harmoniously in this light-bodied, crisp and vivacious Sauvignon Blanc.

This has evolved beautifully into an elegant, buttery nose with notes of lemon and citrus peel, while restrained acidity fuels a lovely, lingering finish.

There is a good overall balance here and it has held up very well in bottle, with a perfectly-pitched oak influence that has not swamped the fruit.

Drinking Window 2019 – 2023. 96/100. $49.95

Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Greywacke, Wild Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2016

Greywacke (pronounced ‘Greywacky’) is the Marlborough label of Kevin Judd, one of the region’s pioneer winemakers after having directed the first 25 vintages at Cloudy Bay as their founding winemaker.

This was another Sauvignon in the tasting to have  a creamy palate, which fills out with tangerine, vanilla and spice.

Beautiful style. It’s balanced by appley acidity and good intensity.$28.00


Te Pa, Oke Sauvignon Blanc

Te Pa, Oke, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2017

One MW said: hugely aromatic – reminiscent of ice cream cornets, nougat and vanilla. The beautifully textured and rounded palate offers plenty of concentration.

Another: flinty on the nose, before flowing beautifully on the palate, some stone fruit and dried fruit in the background. Stunning.  And: creamy, rich on the nose,  the palate boasts a satisfying depth of gently grassy fruit.

Drinking Window 2019 – 2022. 93/100. $32.00


Blind River Sauvignon Blanc Awatere Valley


Classic gooseberry aromas welcome a vibrant yet rounded palate, enlivened by a flush of fresh acidity and well-judged oak.

Still very youthful.

Perhaps a bit over priced.


Drinking Window 2019 – 2021. 92/100. $58.00

Mt Difficulty, Sauvignon Blanc, Bannockburn, 2018


Admirably pure and precise.

A delightful interplay between its freshness of fruit and finely-poised oak-derived characters.

But again you are paying top dollar for this.

Great example from Central Otago though.


Drinking Window 2019 – 2021. 92/100. $60.00

Craggy Range, Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough, 2018 


Bright and perky.

Offers notes of passionfruit, lime and gooseberry wreathed in fine, elegant acidity.

Flavoursome, but not over the top.

Good value.


Drinking Window 2019 – 2021. 91/100. $25.00

Te Mata, Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc, Hawke’s Bay, 2018

New Zealand Sauvignon is identifiable even against the most tropical of Loire Sauvignons, even though this wine is from Hawke’s Bay rather than Marlborough.


It’s actually the intensity that stands it apart.

It has sweet notes of apricot, fresh mango and a hint of banana. Some oak influence lending woodiness to the juicy palate, with plenty of warmth and acidity.

It clearly needs more time to integrate.


Drinking Window 2019 – 2023. 91/100. $22.00


Seresin Estate, Mārama, Marlborough,

Still gradually evolving. Has overtones of baked apple and dried citrus flavours, with oak-derived elements on the still firm finish.

Serious stuff, with more to come.



Drinking Window 2019 – 2023. 91/100. $26.00


Ata Rangi, Raranga, Martinborough, Wairarapa, 2017


Easy to appreciate, bright and forward, with subtle oak, zesty acidity and a touch of spritz. Will evolve well.

Drinking Window 2019 – 2022. 90/100. $25.00

If you think New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc can only be fashioned in one style it’s time to taste the country’s leading variety in its increasingly varied interpretations. The fruity yet green style for which the country has become world famous is still a mainstay, but winemakers are now seeking to make Sauvignon Blanc that is less reliant on primary fruit aromas and more interesting texturally.

Others to consider in rating order

2018 Russian Jack Sauvignon Blanc $22.00

2018 Rapture Springs Bull Paddock $22.00

2018 Mahi Wines Marlborough $23.00

2018 Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc $23.00

2018 Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc $25.00

2018 Lawsons Dry Hills Reserve Sauvignon Blanc $25.00

2018 Te Whare Ra Wines Sauvignon Blanc $26

2018 Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc $28

2018 Whitehaven Awatere Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc $28.00

2018 Dog Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc $29.00

2018 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc $30

2018 Saint Clair Family Estate Wairau Reserve  Sauvignon Blanc $34

2018 Rapaura Springs Rohe Blind River Sauvignon Blanc $40.00

2018 Pyramid Valley Sauvignon Blanc $45.00

2018 Fairhall Downs Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc $24.00

2018 Framingham Limited Edition F-Series $25.00

2018 Blank Canvas Sauvignon Blanc $26.00

2018 Churton Sauvignon Blanc $27.00

2018 Villa Maria Reserve Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc $27.00

Increasingly sophisticated Sauvignon Blanc continues to emerge. If you thought you knew New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and have previously dismissed it for being overly fruity, perhaps it’s time to think again and try some of the alternative styles that Kiwi winemakers are now dishing up. Check out the wines above which are in rating order. Google to find where you can buy.

NZ Sauvignon Blanc: The Facts

1975 First Sauvignon Blanc planted in Marlborough

1979 First Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc produced by Montana

2002 Sauvignon Blanc becomes New Zealand’s most planted variety

2018 Sauvignon Blanc covers 23,102ha, representing 60% of New Zealand’s vineyard area and 86% of exports

(Source: NZ Winegrowers Annual Report 2018)

 Know your  Sav Blanc vintages

2018 Hottest summer on record, leading to early ripening. Coastal regions affected by ex-tropical cylones in February, delaying harvest and elevating botrytis pressure. Ripe Sauvignon.

2017 Difficult season with a cool start and poor summer. Wet, warm and cloudy autumn created botrytis pressure. Early picked crops were the most successful.

2016 Record crop. Warm, often humid. Harvest period was dry and sunny. Excellent whites and highly attractive reds.

2015 Dry and warm. Small, low yielding crop after early frost and cool flowering. Ripe, perfumed and fully flavoured wines.

2014 Record early vintage. Dry and warm summer with little disease pressure. Excellent wines across the board.

2013 Touted as the vintage of a lifetime with a warm, incredibly dry summer and autumn. Ripe, concentrated wines across the North and South Islands.

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