Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Tale of Two New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs

Way back when, in July, we sampled two different New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. The first was a sample sent to us, the Nine Walks Sauvignon Blanc ($10.99); the second was the Decibel 2009 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($16), poured at the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference. Each have unique names, the first named for the "9 Great Walks of New Zealand"; the second inspired by owner Daniel Brennan’s prior work with musical artists. That’s where the similarities end. The Nine Walks was made from grapes sourced from Marlborough: the Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley sub-regions to be precise. Malborough, located on the northeastern corner of New Zealand's South Island, is the region that put New Zealand wines in consumer’s vocabulary. It produces about 60% of that country's SB and for some, this region produces the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. On the other hand, the Decibel was made from grapes sourced from the Mai Mai Creek vineyards in the Brookfields region of Hawkes Bay. Hawkes Bay, located on the North Island, is no slouch itself, being New Zealands second largest wine region and the oldest grape growing area in the country..

Now Sauvignon Blanc often buds late but ripens early, which means the grape thrives in cooler climates with plenty of sunshine. So which region is preferable? In Malborough, “the long narrow geography of the South Island ensures that no vineyard is more than 80 miles (130 km) from the coast. The cool, maritime climate of the area allows for a long and steady growing season in which the grapes can ripen and develop a natural balance of acids and sugars. - wiki” Perfect. Hawkes Bay has some of New Zealands's highest sunshine hours, with long, hot summers and cool winters The warmer maritime climate in Hawke’s Bay allows for a more supple, fruit driven Sauvignon Blanc.

The results? We were very impressed with the Decibel Sauvignon Blanc. It possessed more of a new World character than the Nine Walks – more fruit forward – and finished with a louder bang – in terms of acidity. As I recall, the wine exhibited a creamy texture in the mouthfeel – very different from most New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs we’ve tasted. The Nine Walks had a smaller flavor profile, a little grassy and citrus. Both are excellent values and when Decibel becomes available in DC, we will scoop it up. Even with summer over, clean Sauvignon Blancs are still appreciated.

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