Sunday, January 28, 2007

New World Sauvignon Blanc Tasting

After my post on the Peter Michael L' Apres Midi, my sister asked whether I liked New Zealand sauvignon blancs. Good question; I've tried a number of them, essentially doing the round robin at an NZ tasting held by High Times, down in the Newport Beach area about 2 years ago with my friend Jeff, his wife and my wife. After about a dozen wines, maybe less, they all started to meld together into a giant field of alfalfa next to the green pepper patch. A handful were terrible plonk and should have been poured out on the spot. Of course I bought a ridiculous number of bottles that barely hit the "OK" meter, spur of the moment stuff egged on by my wife, taken advantage of while under the influence of morning booze. Fortunately, these were mostly bargains below $20, often less that $15 a bottle so not that costly an indulgence. Over time I enjoyed the wines well enough, passing them off as serious to the local guzzler crowd, who cocked one eyebrow and nodded shallowly, unconvinced. At any rate I still have a few here and there, on their last legs of life, so I dusted one off, literally, to see how it was, ahhh, maturing.

I have this "connection" in London, kind of a grey market thing, they buy the wines direct from the producer and then sell to consuming customers, skipping retailers. Theoretically, you miss one link in the distribution chain and avoid someone's mark up. Buying wines from the UK, where the pound has worked the dollar into shreds of late, can be tricky, then finding a shipper even more troublesome. Easier to go to the local store and pay $10 more a bottle than to deal with bioterrorism restrictions on imported wines, clearing customs, lost container cars, etc. Long story short, my UK connection sourced some wines from South Africa and, after doing a quick search hereabouts, it appeared that I couldn't get the juice in the US so, with the price being right, I picked up 6 bottle of Stellenbosch sauvignon blanc and 6 bottles of a meritage red blend. Both turned out to be good bargains and very good wines, esp. the red.

The Wines: From New Zealand, I chose the Seresin 2004 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, at 13.0% alcohol. Located on the northeast portion of the south island, Marlborough is perhaps the best known NZ area, producing quality SB, pinot and riesling, among others. Accordingly to notes on the bottle, the grapes for this wine were hand harvested, whole cluster pressed and aged in 3% old French barriques (I guess the other 97% was in stainless steel). The South African wine is a Vergelegen 2003 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Stelllenbosch Region, with 13.5% alcohol. Located in the Somerset West area of South Africa, near False Bay, this is a gorgeous winery and wine making property, at least from the website, as I haven't ever visited any part of Africa. Actually, red varietals dominate the plantings at its various vineyard sites. This particular wine sat on its skins for 18 hours at 8 degrees C (46 F) then was fermented without lees contact, according to the wine maker. Under the heading of "too much information" I really haven't spent much brain capacity on learning about South Africa's wines and probably won't, as the Rhone and that ever persnickety Burgundy have priority.

SeresinTasting Notes: Light straw, alfalfa/barnyard and green pepper on the nose (not pleasant), sharp, grassy, tart lime and grapefruit, one dimensional midpalate, long viscous finish with green apples. A bit mellower after a few minutes in the glass and tastes a bit less weedy when colder. Well made but not exciting.

Vergelegen Tasting Notes: Golden yellow, grapefruit and straw on the nose, tart, lemon, asparagus notes, supple mid-palate, sharp, rather edgy mineral finish. Well crafted with a little bit of zing to it.

And the winner is . . . .

Vergelegen: Quaffable, Seresin: Good. So it goes . . .

Cheers, Barrld

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