The other day, I was at Costco, and I came across a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for $7.49. OMG. The brand: Kirkland! Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite Sauvignon Blanc. So, I’m going to devote this article to the wonders of this wine from this region of New Zealand. Thanks to Winetraveler, Wine Searcher and Club Enologique for their help with this article.
What Makes Marlborough Ideal for Growing Sauvignon Blanc
Since the 1970s, the Marlborough region at the top of New Zealand’s South Island has become synonymous with one single grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc. Following its huge rise in popularity, over 79 percent of Marlborough’s vineyard land is now devoted to Sauvignon Blanc.
Marlborough has cool winds and refreshing nights that allow Sauvignon Blanc to retain its crisp, refreshing acidity. It also has extended sunlight hours in the summer months (December, January, February in the Southern Hemisphere) to enable proper ripening.
What Does Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc Taste Like?
When I was in New Zealand some 20 years ago, I fell in love with their Sauvignon Blanc. I jokingly (although not really) told people that, in the beginning, I had to stand against a wall to drink it, so that I didn’t get knocked over. As I got more familiar with it, I happily left the wall.
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has mouthwatering acidity, delightful grassy aromas and wonderful citrus notes of lemon, lime and grapefruit, plus grass.
But there are many more colorful descriptions, including Wine Searcher’s, which says that “The wine is noted for its relative lack of subtlety, its intense flavors of green pepper and gooseberry, and a character that has been famously described as ‘cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush’.” I think the cat’s pee comes from the wine’s grassiness. But who knows?
Three evolving styles of This Wine
Club Enologique highlighted what they consider to be the three evolving styles of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc:
- The New Classic – They say this is the one we know and love, but that the flavor profile is “quite different from 20-plus years ago. Cut grass, canned asparagus and pea flavours have given way to ripe tropicals, citrus and stone fruits and sweet herbs like basil and thyme. The signature pungency remains, but with more mineral lines and satin texture. In short, the classic has gone from lean and green to a fuller, lusher style.
- Oaked and Ageworthy – They say this is the wine for Chardonnay lovers. “It’s typically hand-picked, whole-bunch pressed, wild fermented and matured for a year or so in mostly older barrels and large-format oak vessels. Currently on the rise, the wood treatment began in the early 1990s with Tony Bish’s Sauvage, followed shortly after by Cloudy Bay’s long-standing benchmark, Te Koko.”
- Experimental Sauvignon Blanc – This is where people use alternative vessels like clay amphora and concrete eggs. These wines tend to show more minerality. Another experimental take is done by Erica Crawford of Loveblock who has been pioneering the use of green tea, rooibos and honeybush as an alternative to sulphur. Her wine is called Tee Sauvignon Blanc.
I’m excited to try the Kirkland Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc tonight. If I love it, I’m going to go back to Costco tomorrow to buy a bunch more bottles. Cheers!